Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Conference 'a unique opportunity'

Arlene Foster has hailed the importance of next month's investment conference in Belfast.

A major investment conference for Northern Ireland will begin on October 10, it was revealed.

The two-day trade fair at the Titanic Belfast visitors' and meeting centre on the city's revitalised Lagan riverfront will be aimed at 150 potential and current investors.

Prime Minister David Cameron has backed the initiative, which follows a troubled summer of sectarian violence linked to loyal order parades and protests.

Stormont enterprise minister Arlene Foster said: "Hosting an investment conference this October will provide a unique opportunity to build upon the legacy of G8 and show some of the most senior decision makers from international firms what a dynamic, modern business environment Northern Ireland is.

"By showcasing that we have the skills and infrastructure which can exceed the demands of companies on a global scale, we can demonstrate that Northern Ireland is a strategic investment location of choice for international investors in key growth sectors."

This year's G8 summit of world leaders was held in Lough Erne golf resort, Co Fermanagh.

But positive talks on boosting transparency about the ownership of international companies, coupled with a conference free from the usual anti-capitalist trouble associated with gatherings of the world's richest nations, were not reflected on the streets of Belfast as confrontation turned violent.

Ardoyne has been at the centre of annual riots linked to a loyal order parade through the contested area and associated republican protests.

Masonry, scaffolding poles and even swords were used to attack police during this summer's stand offs.

The trouble has spilled over into the city centre, with serious rioting on Royal Avenue, a major commercial thoroughfare. Flag protests were held earlier in the year at the City Hall, threatening to create a no-go area for shoppers.

Business organisation the CBI estimated the flag protests cost the retail industry up to £15 million in lost trade. It is unclear how many potential tourists and investors were deterred by scenes of violence.

First Minister Peter Robinson has been in the US recently with his Sinn Fein powersharing partner Martin McGuinness drumming up interest from businesses.

Danske Bank and British Airways are joint sponsors of the Northern Ireland Investment Conference.

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