Belfast Telegraph

In Pictures: Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce President's Banquet

2011 will be the year that sees a turnaround in the Northern Ireland economy said Francis Martin, President of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce at the annual President’s Banquet in Belfast City Hall last night.

Speaking to some of the chamber’s one thousand members, Francis Martin stressed that while the private sector in Northern Ireland had the ability to lead the rebalancing of the Northern Ireland economy, it could only do so with significant support from government in Belfast and London.

“2011 has to be the year which marks the turnaround for the Northern Ireland economy. The uncertainty over the Northern Ireland budget, the state of the Republic’s economy, and the Conservative/Liberal coalition means this is a very difficult time for business. It is clear that our over-reliance on the public sector is no longer sustainable and the onus is on us, businesses of all sizes, to take up the challenge to grow the private sector, rebalance the economy, and create much needed jobs.

“To make this happen we must work with our partners in government, in Belfast and in London, to provide incentives for existing businesses to grow and new businesses to come to Northern Ireland. By reducing corporation tax we can ensure that Northern Ireland becomes a serious player in attracting foreign direct investment. By providing a range of local incentives we can give support for indigenous business to grow and expand.” said Francis.

“It is vital that the Treasury publishes its paper on the Special Economic Zone for Northern Ireland economy as soon as possible, and vital that our own Executive agrees its budget as soon as possible. These measures can reduce some of the current uncertainty and bring some stability to the business environment.” he added.

Over 400 people from right across Northern Ireland attended the sell-out banquet, which was held at Belfast City Hall. Former Head of Government Communications Alastair Campbell and easyJet CEO Carolyn McCall were the keynote speakers at the event.

Speaking before the event Alastair Campbell said: “I am looking forward to meeting with business leaders in Northern Ireland. The economy here probably faces even greater challenges than other regions and it remains to be seen if the crisis in the Republic of Ireland has a cross-border impact. But having been here through some very difficult political times I know that when politicians in Northern Ireland work together they can achieve great things. It is vital that the business community too works in partnership with the NI Executive to secure real and sustained economic growth.”

easyJet CEO Carolyn McCall said: “I’m delighted to be in Belfast and I’m equally pleased that my first public speaking engagement since becoming easyJet’s Chief Executive is at the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce President’s Banquet. easyJet has been in Belfast for 12 years and we’re proud to be the biggest airline in Northern Ireland.

“We are fully committed to operating from Belfast and will continue to provide the people of Northern Ireland with a combination of low fares and friendly service; flying people to the most convenient airports at the most convenient time. In this challenging economic environment, tourism and inward business investment are vital elements of the economy and we look forward to working with the Chamber of Commerce and the wider business community to bring more visitors to Belfast and Northern Ireland,” she added.

Belfast Telegraph