Bank of England governor Mervyn King has warned local politicians to work together or risk the economic future of Northern Ireland.
He said that co-operation and working together was crucial to helping the province survive the worst of the downturn.
Sir Mervyn was speaking as Belfast businesses continue to count the cost of weeks of unrest and rioting following Belfast City Council’s vote to fly the Union flag from Belfast City Hall only on designated days.
The senior banker told business leaders and politicians at the CBI dinner at Titanic Belfast last night that he had formed a favourable view of local politicians’ ability to work together during a visit in 1999.
They had been willing to suspend “divisive” politics for the good of Northern Ireland, he told the audience, which included some MLAs.
Sir Mervyn said: “They were surprisingly eager to talk with, not at, each other — because they wanted to exchange views about the economic future of Northern Ireland, and to get away, at least for a while, from the divisive nature of daily politics.
“You would have been hard put to identify the affiliation of those politicians from their views on how to promote economic prosperity in Northern Ireland.”
Sir Mervyn, who refused to do any media interviews during his visit, also said the business community had an important role as “the agent of change and reconciliation” in Northern Ireland.
He said there were “significant differences” between the Northern Ireland economy and the rest of the UK but said he would nonetheless focus on the wider UK economy in his speech, his last in a UK region before he steps
down as governor later this year.
And he acknowledged that the downturn was taking a heavier toll here than in other parts of the UK.
“The need to fix the banking system and introduce improvements to the future supply performance of the economy are, I know, felt even more keenly here in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain,” he said as his speech drew to a close.
“And patience is a quality that has been demanded of you all in the province over many years.
“The business community is the key to the prosperity of Northern Ireland.
“I wish all of you success in the challenges ahead.”
Mervyn King is Governor of the Bank of England as well as Chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee and Financial Policy Committee. Born in 1948, Mervyn King studied at King’s College, Cambridge, and Harvard (as a Kennedy Scholar) and taught at Cambridge and Birmingham Universities. From October 1984 he was Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics.