Belfast Telegraph

Political stalemate damaging Northern Ireland economy

Editor's Viewpoint

At the start of another week, people are wondering if the improved mood music at Stormont last week will continue, or whether it will all end - yet again - in an acrimonious blame game.

What is certain is the urgent need to get Stormont back on track. The continued deadlock is bad for our NHS, education and other important issues, and it is also a potential deterrent to inward investment.

Invest Northern Ireland chief executive Alastair Hamilton is currently on a trade and investment mission to New York and Boston — the US is a major export market for Northern Ireland. In the last four years up to March 2017 our exports to America have doubled to £1.7bn, which is a fifth of our total.

People like Mr Hamilton are often the unsung heroes of Northern Ireland, those who are driving the thrust for investment during difficult times.

It is obvious that his job is not made any easier by the continued uncertainty at Stormont, and the same point is well made by local CBI chief executive Angela McGowan.

In the first of a series of articles in the Belfast Telegraph this week, she stresses that our prosperity and economic improvement have been built on a foundation of peace and stability.

A properly-functioning Executive is more than good governance. It forms a solid basis to attract investment and to help businesses flourish.

Until recently our developing peace process was a strong selling point, and there was the appealing narrative of a small country emerging from bitter conflict to a situation of relative peace.

The present situation takes the shine off that picture, but nevertheless we have come a long way in a short space of time. However, this has to be underpinned by a solid economy.

In today’s world the economic realities are hugely important, especially as we await the uncertain outcome of Brexit.

Other major international events pose their own challenges. A new terror is stalking Europe and, further afield, the major powers are striving to head off potential nuclear conflict. The world is changing before our very eyes, and it is time for new thinking.

Our age-old quarrel needs to be settled. We are a small place that needs to improve our image and strengthen our selling points. All of which puts extra pressure on our politicians to return to Stormont and to do the jobs they were elected — and are still paid — to do.

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