The President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) has called for the return of an NI Executive – with politicians “focusing on what they can agree on – rather than on what divides them.”
Addressing almost 500 guests from business and politics at the NI Chamber Annual President’s Lunch at Belfast City Hall, NI Chamber President Gillian McAuley said: “Businesses are at the heart of social progress, innovation, decarbonisation and supporting thriving nations. When we talk to our members and the various political representatives, there is a great deal of commonality in terms of the issues that need to be addressed. It is therefore vital we have an Executive up and running, focusing on what they can agree on, rather than on what divides them – and businesses will respond.
“Right now, almost two months after the Assembly election, we should be in the optimistic early days of a new administration, discussing a Programme for Government; a multi-year budget that prioritises the economy whilst transforming health and education, and reaching an agreement on the NI Protocol – ironing out its problems and maximising its potential. Instead politics here is once again in abeyance. It is extremely frustrating and to the detriment of all the people who live here.”
Outlining the priorities for her term as President, she continued: “NI Chamber and our members have identified three pillars for growth on which an NI Executive and businesses could collaborate with immediate effect in order to build a better future for the region. These are: unlocking Northern Ireland’s potential in the UK, Europe and around the world to deliver international and regional growth; skilling up for a green, digital and inclusive economy and securing a clean and green future for Northern Ireland.”
Attendees at the Annual Lunch also heard from award-winning actor, director and writer, Adrian Dunbar during a Q&A session hosted by the BBC’s Tara Mills.
The NI Chamber Annual President’s lunch was sponsored by Communications Partner BT, along with supporting sponsors Cleaver Fulton Rankin, Fujitsu, GMcG Chartered Accountants and Dell Technology.
Speaking at the event, Paul Murnaghan, Director for BT’s Enterprise business in Northern Ireland, said: “As we look to the future, BT remains as committed to supporting local businesses and the public sector. Our ongoing digital skills programme and our new digital marketing tools continue to help businesses here to get better positioned for recovery and growth following the pandemic.
“As one of Northern Ireland’s largest investors and employers, we will continue to play a pivotal role in the economic support and recovery of our economy here. We’re investing locally in people, innovation and our networks and our multi-million-pound refurbishment of Riverside Tower will be complete at the end of this year. I’m also pleased to say that we’re continuing to develop and deliver 5G led innovations with our partners and customers.”