Northern Ireland's private sector will suffer “huge collateral damage” from swingeing cutbacks in Government spending, a senior trade unionist has warned.
Peter Bunting of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said companies in the province earn £3bn a year from the public sector.
Mr Bunting was commenting on a Belfast Telegraph report highlighting warnings on the impact of looming cutbacks on Northern Ireland.
Prominent economists agreed that the province will suffer disproportionately because of its economy's current heavy reliance on public expenditure.
US-based Professor David Blanchflower said: “I believe that this Government's misguided economic policies are going to be disastrous for the UK economy in general and will hit Northern Ireland especially hard.”
Mr Bunting said: “The Belfast Telegraph is to be commended for encouraging this debate. The economy of Northern Ireland is
facing its greatest test since the Troubles and the voters of Northern Ireland need to be aware that there is a meaningful debate about our future..”
The leading trade unionist added: “The reality is that the private sector is too small here to carry the burden of massive cutbacks in public spending.”
Ulster Unionist MLA David McNarry, however, said it was “unhelpful” and “disingenuous” of Professor Blanchflower to suggest that “starkly different options” are available to the Cameron Government.