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Theresa Villiers Needs to Do a Mo Mowlam

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Northern Ireland is in making the headlines again. So you know what that means: bad news.

On Wednesday a swift kick was delivered to the divided province when the latest jobs data revealed an increase in youth unemployment up to a scary and abhorrent 23.5%. Much more elevated than the UK's average of 19.3% and approaching the sort of territory we hear of from Spain, Italy and Greece.

On Thursday, bent over and reeling from the previous day's heavy blow, an uppercut was delivered. One of Northern Ireland's largest companies, FG Wilson, announced it was cutting up to 760 jobs. Making for a total of 920 job cuts by the Caterpillar subsidiary in 2012; and, there's even talk of more to follow.

Both developments have dealt a massive hit to the struggling economy and to the broader civic sentiment of the volatile and long troubled region.

The unemployment indices and job cuts are obviously a sign that the little province is not decoupled from the euro zone and the headwinds of international trade. But there's a more sinister reason for the latest wave of bad news: the Northern Ireland economy is behind the times and fatally out of balance.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the windy outcrop of Britain is a propped up and hapless supplicant that relies on massive fiscal transfers from Whitehall, offering little to the world of modern digitalised and globalised trade.

To reverse this Northern Ireland needs to internally devaluate. That means it needs to become more productive, more efficient, more innovative, more competitive, more outward looking, more skilled, more specialised. That itself requires massive inward investment in infrastructure, education, skills and professional up skilling. It also requires the devolution of corporation tax; because with that will follow the empowerment of the devolved legislature as well as the inflow of foreign businesses and capital.

However the sclerotic state of Northern Ireland's economy doesn't seem to perturb the region's political class greatly, nor does it even feature in the thoughts of those in London. The politicians in Northern Ireland do talk a lot about flags, parades and that sort of nonsense.

But the ongoing youth unemployment and jobs crisis is to Northern Ireland in 2012, what the IRA and ceasefires were to the Northern Ireland of 1994.

And in big, bold red letters that means one thing: Northern Ireland needs sustained, targeted and committed political intervention in order to bring about the sort of agreements and structural changes that will make the economy a business friendly environment.

Northern Ireland needs the sort of diplomacy and politicking of former Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, who was central to bringing the peace agreement to Northern Ireland in 1998. Now this time round we need the current Secretary of State to bring about a business agreement.

Yes that's right, in order to give Northern Ireland's next generation a meaningful chance and any hope of gaining material prosperity they need a Secretary of State who has the long term welfare of Northern Ireland and it people at the core of their very person.

That means the latest Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, needs to do a Mo Mowlam and act with the conviction and purpose required to get David Cameron's cabinet concerned with the future of Northern Ireland.