A man of his word
When serving on the committee probing the NAMA-Cerberus scandal at Stormont, I sometimes felt like Diogenes of Greek fable fame who would carry a lamp in daylight in a desperate bid to find an honest man.
And admittedly, I had my work cut out for me as finding an honest man, or, indeed, a man of his word, in the intersection of money and politics isn’t as easy as you might wish. All the more reason why we should raise three cheers on a hill when a man of his word who straddles both those worlds crosses our path.
One such man is Tom DiNapoli, Comptroller of New York State.
Last week, he delivered on a promise made a year and a bit earlier to invest in our peace-building efforts.
As Comptroller of New York State, Tom has his plate full.
He controls a $164bn pension pot for state workers and has the onerous responsibility of investing that money wisely so that those hardworking men and women of New York’s public services enjoy a comfortable retirement.
Despite his weighty duties at home, for 20-plus years Tom DiNapoli has also kept a weather eye on the Irish peace process and remains a stout ally of efforts to fight injustice — especially in the workplace — and to foster reconciliation.
More than anyone else in the US, he gets the need to cement the peace with jobs.
That’s why last week, he announced that he would invest £5m in a start-up fund being pioneered by all-island equity firm Kernel Capital. That money will now be turned round and invested in exciting early-stage companies across the North which are on a growth trajectory.
Comptroller DiNapoli has put his money where his mouth is when it comes to supporting the peace process before. In 2014, he invested £10m in Crescent Capital, another pioneering equity fund in Belfast.
You won’t be surprised to hear that Comptroller DiNapoli recorded the highest vote of any candidate (including Governor Cuomo) in the New York statewide elections of November 2014.
Following that election, Comptroller DiNapoli took time out, on my invitation, to visit Belfast and Derry, with his chief aide Pat Doherty, to see how he could make a difference.
After that visit, which included an address to the Aisling Awards, he promised to invest if the opportunity presented was compelling. He was good to his word.
And here’s the magic dust: by investing the pension funds of police officers and firefighters, postal workers and civil servants, in our economy, Comptroller DiNapoli is not only giving a capital injection to our start-ups, he’s also placing a huge beacon above our economy and encouraging others to invest here.
Where New York State — one of the biggest pension funds in the world goes — other investment funds follow.
So now it’s up to us to take that endorsement and market the hell out of it.Comptroller DiNapoli has been a peerless ambassador for the work of building the hard won peace here with jobs and investment. His latest investment in the cream of our entrepreneurial talent will underpin the new Belfast we are creating. We are indebted once again to his visionary and exemplary leadership and look forward confidently to the returns this investment will bring to the public workers of New York State and the peace builders of the north of Ireland.
A man of his word, indeed.