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Business chiefs plead for parties to break Stormont impasse or face job losses

By John Mulgrew

Business groups and universities representing hundreds of thousands of workers in Northern Ireland have made a final appeal to Stormont to restore a working government - or face job cuts and lost investment.

Groups including those representing large industry, small businesses and the voluntary sectors are calling on MLAs to find a way forward to form a stable power-sharing government - 19 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

>>Read the full letter below<<

The CBI's regional director Angela McGowan warned investment and jobs are at risk as a result of the stalemate.

And Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said the situation was "a joke".

MLAs are locked in an impasse over a lack of agreement on issues including dealing with the past and an Irish language act.

They are being given another deadline of Friday to reach an agreement. But there remains fears of another snap election or a return to direct rule.

In the letter to MLAs, which also includes groups such as the NI Chamber, Hospitality Ulster, the Construction Employers' Federation and the Freight Transport Association, it says "devolved government is the only option for maintaining our precious peace and allowing the people of Northern Ireland to shape their own destiny".

The business groups signing the letter include:

Confederation of British Industry NI (CBI)

NI Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA)

Ulster Farmers Union

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce

Institute of Directors (IoD) NI

Federation of Small Business (FSB) NI

Queen’s University Belfast

Ulster University

Construction Employers Federation (CEF) NI

NI Retail Consortium

Retail NI

Freight Transport Association (FTA)

Hospitality Ulster

NI Food & Drink Association (NIFDA)

Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade

Quarry Products Association NI (QPANI)

Manufacturing NI

Women in Business

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce

The letter in full

During the month of April, 19 years ago, people across Northern Ireland were presented with an amazing agreement which would deliver a path for peace and prosperity in the years ahead. That Agreement won overwhelming support in a referendum one month later.  The business community and civic society are united in our gratitude to the UK and Irish governments of that time and of course international support from President Bill Clinton and Senator George Mitchell. Similarly, we recognise that Northern Ireland is indebted to many people from right across society who have transformed communities by putting themselves forward as peacemakers, compromisers and economy builders during the past two decades. Lives have been transformed and a generation of young people have benefited enormously.

Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government that emerged from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement has brought peace to our streets, put an end to sectarian killings and allowed economic growth to ensue. Devolved government has also delivered to Northern Ireland autonomy over our local public services and has dramatically improved our international reputation for investors and tourists alike. But, as President Clinton has recently reminded us, there is much more to be done. Indeed as the UK re-negotiates its relationship with Europe, a united voice from Northern Ireland politicians is urgently needed to protect our unique interests.

Today, business bodies (representing employers, investors and entrepreneurs), the Community and Voluntary Sector (representing organisations which transform lives through voluntary work and community groups) and many other members of civic society such as universities and membership organisations make a final plea to local political leaders, and the two governments, at this critical juncture. 

Devolved government is the only option for maintaining our precious peace and allowing the people of Northern Ireland to shape their own destiny; a local Executive must be formed for the sake of Northern Ireland’s future.

Business and civic society are today directly asking local politicians to find a way forward for creating a power-sharing government that works for all the people of Northern Ireland. Our future can only be a shared one. It is only through local government that we can guarantee peace, attract investment and deliver job creation and social progress for this small region. We remind local politicians that they have a duty to their electorate to pursue the best way forward for everyone residing in this region. 

Today the voice of business and civic society join together with one message. Together our organisations represent hundreds of thousands of people across all religions, backgrounds and sectors. We unequivocally state that the best way forward for everyone in Northern Ireland is through a local power-sharing government which is built upon a desire to maintain our peace process, demonstrate respect to all communities and deliver compromise where needed.   

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