Sinn Féin deny ever endorsing economy department's 10X strategy

Former economy minister Diane Dodds, who launched the 10X strategy in May 2021 and Conor Murphy (inset), widely tipped to be Stormont's next economy minister.
Former economy minister Diane Dodds, who launched the 10X strategy in May 2021 and Conor Murphy (inset), widely tipped to be Stormont's next economy minister.

SINN Féin has denied ever endorsing the Department for the Economy’s ten-year economic strategy, known as 10X.

The document, which was developed under ex-DUP minister Diane Dodds, was backed by a number of high profile business figures when it was published two years ago.

While the strategy did not require executive approval, it’s understood it was never discussed at the executive table.

The document was launched on May 11 2021, just three days before Edwin Poots was elected leader of the DUP and subsequently removed Diane Dodds from her ministerial post.

But the interim chair of Invest NI, Colm McKenna, has claimed the strategy has the backing of all the north’s political parties, including Sinn Féin, which is widely expected to take the economy portfolio if/when the executive is restored.

The 10X strategy is at the core of the new action plan developed by Invest NI in response to the damning January 2023 report by Sir Michael Lyons, which concluded “profound change and reform” was needed within the arms-length body.

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The strategy is notable for its light-touch treatment of the north’s unique competitive advantage of having access to both the EU and GB markets.

Asked whether the 10X strategy, and therefore Invest NI’s new re-configured strategy, could be subject to change under an incoming Sinn Féin minister, Colm McKenna told The Irish News: “We have met all of the political parties and it is a bit of an open secret that Sinn Féin should have first pick and will pick economy.

“We have met Conor Murphy on a number of occasions along with Caoimhe Archibald. They are bought into 10x.”

But in a statement last night, a spokesperson for Sinn Féin said: “Sinn Féin had no involvement in and never endorsed the 10X document.

“The strategy was published without objectives and without any self-reflection on why the north was the lowest performing economy in these islands.

“It was replete with rhetoric but extremely vague on important detail, for example in relation to how regional balance would be promoted, how skill gaps would be addressed, or how productivity would be increased.

“Key sectors such as the social economy were ignored. 10X made no reference to the need to transform Invest NI, the department's key delivery agency.

“Importantly, the opportunities presented by dual market access and the all-Ireland economy were ignored.”

However, Colm McKenna said he believes the Invest NI strategy is now “set in stone”, adding that 10X is “the only show in town”.

“Any economic policy maker across the world is looking at the sort of things we’re looking at," he said.

“There’s nothing different about innovation, inclusivity and sustainability, they’re all absolutely vital and that’s what it’s built on and no political party is going to change that.”