Stormont will be able to push a deal on corporation tax over the line in order to avoid the devastating waste of a long campaign, Northern Ireland business leaders have said. A host of company bosses and business groups met yesterday to discuss how they would benefit from the business tax powers being devolved to Stormont.
One of those speaking, Novosco boss Patrick McAliskey, said he was confident Northern Ireland's bickering parties could come to an agreement on their long-standing budgetary issues to ensure the tax powers are devolved.
In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne revealed the business tax would be devolved to the Executive, with the caveat of a successful outcome of party talks at Stormont.
Mr McAliskey, managing director of Belfast cloud-computing firm Novosco, said a reduction in corporation tax could lead to expansion and growth, putting Northern Ireland "on a level playing field with the Republic".
"I believe it is very important that we keep up the momentum," he said. "For every pound we don't pay in corporation tax, we can use for new staff, and investment."
The majority of firms want Northern Ireland to have the ability to set its own tax rate - bringing it in line with the 12.5% rate in the Republic.
McAliskey said despite concerns over the business tax's potential collapse amid ongoing party talks, Stormont "will be able to take it over the line".
"It's not a silver bullet, but it's one of many things we can do to speed up the private sector.
"It would be hugely negative if, after all these years, it didn't go ahead - but I believe it will," he added.
Speakers at yesterday's event also included Kevin Stephens of pharmaceutical firm Almac and Mark Thompson of law firm A&L Goodbody.
Ann McGregor, chief executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce - which hosted the event - said a decrease in corporation tax would lead to a jobs boost, higher profits and increased investment.
Ms McGregor said: "It is recognised that changing the rate will not in itself transform the Northern Ireland economy in the short term.
"It will however create an opportunity for private sector growth, more employment and in the longer term, a more balanced economy in Northern Ireland."
A number of potential job creation figures have already been floated, if corporation tax was to be given the green light.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster had previously said the lower rate could create as many as 50,000 new positions in the long term.
Yesterday Mrs Foster said reducing the tax would lead to a "major rebalancing of the economy".