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Good times around the corner, past the rioting

Foreign direct investment is the slightly clumsy phrase which has been bandied about as the saviour of the Northern Ireland economy.

Well, actually, saviour might be a little rich but it is certainly key to helping mount a recovery from the current doldrums which we find ourselves in.

For those trying to sell the benefits of setting up business in Northern Ireland to overseas investors the last few years have been tough, particularly in light of the global recession and a mismatched corporation tax level. But hopes have been growing that we can take advantage of the head start which the US and other regions have when it comes to recovery while the once unheard of discussions on lowering corporation tax here look like they may bear fruit.

So, let's say you've been charged with selling NI PLC and you've managed to make it into the head office of a US multinational looking to set up a European base. Northern Ireland is one of say three regions which fits the bill and the big chief behind the desk is giving you every one of the "buy" signals which you learned about on your sales course.

"This is in the bag," you think as your mind starts pulling together a press release which will reveal the fantastic news to the great unwashed Northern Ireland business press.

Then, from the flat screen television, you and your host catch a glimpse of rolling news and rioting on the streets of Belfast.

"Ah that's only a scuffle," you weakly suggest, as the headlines reveal that 700 people were involved in rioting which saw police bombarded and a press photographer shot in the leg.

"It could happen anywhere ... "

By now, the deal for inward investment which was yours only minutes ago is slipping away at a rate of knots as the other two locations suddenly become more popular. Defeat is quickly snatched from the jaws of victory.

This may be fiction but the activity of the last few nights in the Short Strand area of Belfast does nothing but harm the reputation of Northern Ireland as a good place to invest. It's easy to scoff at investors tempted by more peaceful locations but given an otherwise level playing field, you can see why they'd look elsewhere.

It's damaging first and foremost for the sake of those whose lives it impacts and secondly for the impact to the economy.

Our companies have to work hard enough to turn over a pound or two without the added difficulties which tensions of this scale throw up.

Ironically, it was wider prosperity which helped peace take hold and there's probably a case to suggest the current dip back into the dark days may be something to do with our current economic woes.

Let's just hope it's a flash in the pan because if we can get through these difficult social times then all the signs suggest the good economic times are just around the corner.