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Chamber of Commerce president urges NI Executive to ‘focus on what they can agree on, rather than on what divides them’, saying businesses will respond

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Gillian McAuley, president of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Gillian McAuley, president of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Gillian McAuley

Gillian McAuley

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Gillian McAuley, president of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

A business boss has called on the Executive to “focus on what they can agree on, rather than what divides them”.

Gillian McAuley, president of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told business leaders at the chamber’s Annual President’s Lunch that the region should be optimistic in the early days of a new administration and sorting out problems like the NI Protocol and maximising on it, but instead we are yet again in limbo.

She was addressing a crowd of 500, including actor Adrian Dunbar, who was in attendance for a Q&A session, at Belfast City Hall earlier.

Ms McAuley, who is also group HR director at Devenish Nutrition, said: “Right now, almost two months after the Assembly election, we should be in the optimistic early days of a new administration, discussing a programme for government, a multi-year budget that prioritises the economy whilst transforming health and education, and reaching an agreement on the NI Protocol, ironing out its problems and maximising its potential. Instead, politics here is once again in abeyance. It is extremely frustrating and to the detriment of all the people who live here.”

She said businesses are at the heart of Northern Ireland’s social progress, innovation, decarbonisation and “supporting thriving nations” and all have a “commonality” in terms of what needs fixed here.

She added: “It is therefore vital we have an Executive up and running, focusing on what they can agree on, rather than on what divides them — and businesses will respond.”

Outlining her priorities as the new NI Chamber of Commerce president, she said there would be “three pillars for growth” which the Executive could collaborate on.

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These are “unlocking Northern Ireland’s potential in the UK, Europe and around the world to deliver international and regional growth; skilling up for a green, digital and inclusive economy; and securing a clean and green future for Northern Ireland”.

BBC’s Tara Mills hosted a Q&A session with Line Of Duty actor Dunbar after lunch.

Paul Murnaghan, director for BT’s enterprise business, which was one of the event’s sponsors, said his team would play a role in supporting local businesses by ramping up communications, including its digital skills programme and new digital marketing tools.

He said: “As one of Northern Ireland’s largest investors and employers, we will continue to play a pivotal role in the economic support and recovery of our economy here.

“We’re investing locally in people, innovation and our networks and our multimillion-pound refurbishment of Riverside Tower will be complete at the end of this year.

“I’m also pleased to say that we’re continuing to develop and deliver 5G-led innovations with our partners and customers.”


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