Belfast Telegraph

We're optimistic for the future of manufacturing in Northern Ireland, says new CBI chief

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland can still compete strongly in manufacturing, despite suffering big job losses in the sector, one top industry boss has said.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbain was speaking after aerospace giant Bombardier revealed it's cutting more than 1,000 jobs in Belfast.

"It is clearly a very sad day that Bombardier has announced job losses in Belfast, and our sympathies go out to all the people affected by this," she said.

Ms Fairbairn, who joined the business group in November, was speaking during a visit to Northern Ireland.

"In terms of Northern Ireland manufacturing, there are still really bright spots in terms of the manufacturing sector here... (there is) strong growth in the medium and smaller-sized sectors.

"We would feel optimistic about the ability of Northern Ireland to continue to compete strongly in manufacturing."

Ms Fairbairn said while there remained a "productivity gap" between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, it had enjoyed a "good recovery form the crash".

"It's shown some bright spots in terms of its growth in fintech, creative industry and agri-business.

"In terms of lagging behind the rest of the UK, there is still a productivity gap, but there is every opportunity to try and close it."

Ms Fairbairn joined the CBI in November, after taking over from John Cridland.

During her long and varied career, she has worked as an economist, in journalism, and is a former director of strategy at both the BBC and ITV.

And she said the benefits of cutting corporation tax here, dropping the rate to 12.5% by 2018, are "potentially really significant".

"It could bring significant benefits to Northern Ireland, and part of the Northern Irish brand, that you stand for being a really low tax economy."

And asked about a Brexit, she said the majority of members continued to support the UK remaining part of a "reformed Europe".

"We await the Prime Minister's final negotiation on Thursday. The position of the CBI and our members is we have consulted extensively over the last two years and the majority of our members have said they want to stay in a reformed Europe.

"That's not all our members, we have some who would prefer to leave, but that is a minority."

Her comments about Northern Ireland's manufacturing industry come after Bombardier's shock news that it's cutting 1,080 jobs over the next two years.

That job cut follows several other big job losses here over the last few months, including Michelin cutting 860 posts.

Belfast Telegraph