Bombardier crisis must be tackled
It is impossible to overestimate the impact on the local economy if fears over employment prospects at the giant Bombardier company in east Belfast become reality. It is Northern Ireland's largest manufacturing business, employing 5,500 people plus many more in its supply chain.
However, its inability to realise sales targets for its CSeries of passenger jets - the wings of which are made in Belfast - and the failure of talks with Airbus about setting up a joint venture have set alarm bells ringing.
The parent Canada-based company is reported to be seeking fresh investment in its home country, and there are concerns that the project, which is already £1.2bn over budget and three years overdue, might even be scrapped.
Given that context, it is evident that concern over the Northern Ireland operation is not idle speculation. It is a company deeply embedded in the local economy, utilising a large supply chain and closely engaged with universities in research into advanced materials for the aviation industry.
The CSeries project has seen a £520m investment in Northern Ireland, with £75m of public money also being offered. Its success is therefore critical. The company has shed some 800 jobs in the past year, which itself was a body blow. Any further large-scale redundancies would be disastrous.
Given the seriousness of the situation, not only to those who work here but to the whole economy of the region, it is imperative that the politicians at Stormont, particularly Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell, address this potential crisis immediately.
While not trying to underplay the problems that led to the current political stalemate at Stormont and the DUP playing a 'now you see them, now you don't' game with its ministers, politicians of all hues cannot abdicate their responsibilities on overseeing the challenges facing the country at large, not just their own parties.
It is concerning that talk of direct rule continues to be bandied about. Devolution was very hard-won and should not be lost without the utmost effort to preserve it.
At this time, the public are looking at Executive ministers to see if they can rise to the economic challenges facing the province. Bombardier's future must be the priority in their in-trays as it could be jeopardised in a moment by executives far from these shores.