Belfast Telegraph

Business leaders welcome DUP ministerial reshuffle

By Jamie Stinson

Northern Ireland business leaders have welcomed new appointments to the Executive - with business getting a "strong voice" in the Department for Finance and Personnel (DFP) after Arlene Foster was moved to the ministerial post.

As part of First Minister Peter Robinson's DUP reshuffle she has left her Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) post to become Finance Minister.

Simon Hamilton has moved from the position to take up the role of Health Minister after Jim Wells resigned. Jonathan Bell will now be the new DETI Minister.

The FSB NI Policy Chair, Wilfred Mitchell said, the long serving Enterprise Minister's move to become the Finance Minister is a boost for the business community.

"Arlene Foster has been a powerful advocate for Northern Ireland business and has been fully committed to the driving the economy forward," he said.

"She has won widespread acclaim for her pro-business attitude and her determination to grow the economy, so her move to the Department of Finance and Personnel, just as a review of non-domestic rates gets under way, gives a great opportunity for her to continue putting the private sector economy to the fore."

Mr Mitchell welcomed the appointment of the Strangford MLA to DETI.

"Jonathan Bell has always been keen to engage with the FSB in his previous role as junior minister, so we wish him well in the key role he now takes up, as the department starts preparations to merge with the Department of Employment and Learning to create a powerhouse Department of the Economy next year," he said.

Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber, said Mr Bell must focus on growing exports in his new role.

"Minister Foster was very strong in DETI and we encourage Minister Bell to continue to ensure that we have a pro-business, pro-enterprise agenda. A focus on growing export is essential," Ms McGregor said.

"DFP Minister Foster is well briefed on the business sectors priorities for the NI budget in particular the need to focus on corporation tax as well as investment in skills and infrastructure."

Nigel Smyth, director of the CBI Northern Ireland, said Mr Bell has had a hard act to follow replacing the "well regarded" Ms Foster.

"The challenge for Jonathan will be to get up to speed quickly and meet business people," he said.

Belfast Telegraph