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Businesses join universities and voluntary sector to warn politicians of threat to jobs

By John Mulgrew

Business groups, universities and the voluntary sector have joined forces in a final appeal to Stormont to restore a working government - or face job cuts.

The deadlock at Stormont was also branded "beyond a joke" by one of the leading business groups in Northern Ireland as a letter was delivered to MLAs warning them that it is "only through local government that we can guarantee peace, attract investment and deliver job creation and social progress."

It was one of 19 organisations representing large industry, small businesses and the voluntary sector, 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.

They included the NI Chamber of Commerce, CBI, Hospitality Ulster, the Construction Employers' Federation, IoD, the Freight Transport Association, as well as Queen's and Ulster Universities, and voluntary sector groups such as NICVA.

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

"It's really important to demonstrate that there is a big voice out there, that we want to shape our own future in Northern Ireland", she said.

"People voted for a shared government and a shared way forward in Northern Ireland, and that's what has to happen - find a compromise or find a way forward, or everyone loses."

"For us, we don't see direct rule as the way forward and think it will hold us back."

Ms McGowan said that she had no doubt CBI members dependent on public contracts "have no way forward of giving assurances to their workforces... that they will be able to keep them on in six months time."

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said the situation is now "beyond a joke".

"No Programme for Government, no Budget, no Brexit plan, and no government. We are facing the biggest economic, constitutional and political change since the Second World War in terms of Brexit.

"I think this is a major wake-up call to all of the politicians. Get your act together and get a government formed, and start moving forward."

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster said jobs are at risk and he is beginning to see "tangible" effects from a lack of government.

"People are trying to run businesses and our members are trying to make a living. The lack of a devolved government is going to stop that.

"We are at the point now where we have no tourism strategy and people are lining up to build hotels. They will be nervous, and that ripples throughout (the industry)."

Seamus Leheny of the Freight Transport Association, said his members were experiencing "a lot of uncertainty".

"If we look at direct rule, there will be an impact on the overall economy, on our members, people moving their own goods", he said.

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