Seal the deal over Haass: Business leaders and Irish President in call to Northern Ireland parties
Business leaders and the Irish President have added to the growing pressure on politicians to resolve the most divisive problems still afflicting Northern Ireland.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Northern Ireland and Irish Head of State Michael D Higgins yesterday urged Stormont's main parties to thrash out an agreement after the Haass talks collapsed over the New Year.
They join governments, churches, trade unions, student bodies and ordinary citizens who have called on politicians to seal a deal on parades, flags and dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.
CBI Northern Ireland chairman Colin Walsh called on political leaders to put the future of Northern Ireland's economy and its people to the fore.
"Progress has been achieved and that has been recognised, but there is still a need to resolve outstanding differences and find solutions to address the issues discussed under the Haass talks," he said. "The issues have not gone away, and resolution is required."
Mr Walsh said finding a solution to the issues would help build confidence in the economy and add momentum to the recovery.
"A successful agreement in finding a way forward will also help bridge the divisions within our community, help build trust and respect, and improve relationships," he said.
"It will enable all of us to collectively focus on the key issues we need to address in order to create better paid jobs and more of them, reduce unemployment and create a fairer society.
"The business community is keen to see our political leaders focus on building a better future and creating more opportunities and jobs for our young people. In that vein, we strongly urge our political leaders to make further progress today and over the coming weeks on these issues."
President Higgins echoed the sentiments in a speech in Dublin yesterday. He applauded progress but added that more needed to be done to tackle sources of sectarian division. "I hope that the coming year will also see further progress towards a deepening and acceptance of reconciliation on our island," he said.
"Through the talks process chaired by Dr Haass and Professor O'Sulllivan, a significant advancement has been made in recent times on some of the contentious issues that face society in Northern Ireland.
"I applaud these painstaking efforts. I welcome this achievement and hope that the political leaders in Northern Ireland will together find it possible to make further progress on these issues in the coming weeks and months."
The CBI is one of the most powerful lobby groups in the UK, representing more than 240,000 firms. In Northern Ireland, it claims to represent one third of the private sector workforce and more than 60% of the largest employers.
The CBI says it works to promote business interests by lobbying and creating intelligence through analysis of government.