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Head of Manufacturing NI tells of receiving death threats over protocol

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Stephen Kelly, Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI.

Stephen Kelly, Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI.

Stephen Kelly, Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI.

Stephen Kelly, the Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI has said he has received death threats because of views on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking to RTE Radio, Mr Kelly said that businesses in Northern Ireland had stepped in where politicians had chosen to “exit the stage” over Brexit issues.

Back in 2017, he said the business community had engaged with the UK government and the EU in the absence of local political leadership.

"The problem is that’s not a comfortable place for business. Business and politics doesn’t necessarily mix particularly well,” he said.

"And there’s been a pattern from that period of name-calling, sinister telephone calls, peoples’ collars being ruffled up and grabbed.

“And just this week is another attempt at that.”

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He said the business community was primarily concerned with paying employee wages.

This was being disrupted, he said, by those who were mixing in issues of political identity.

Asked about what kind of threats he had received, he said: “In the past certainly, we’ve had calls from MPs and others basically saying ‘you need to watch yourself, you need to be careful what you’re doing, what you’re saying.’

"It’s just a pattern of people trying to kind of bully you into being quiet or being silent or being complicit in some of the decisions and choices that they’re making.”

He said it would be a failure of civic society in Northern Ireland if issues to do with the protocol could not be discussed without threats or intimidation.

Mr Kelly said the physical location of Northern Ireland, sharing a border with the EU, meant that having a working deal for trade in place was essential.

He added that it also represented “a unique opportunity” for businesses, but that he was worried the EU and UK government were no longer listening to each other.

"The only way that will resolve this is discussion, the only way that will resolve this is actually finding agreement...and an agreement that actually works for businesses and consumers in the north.

"If we can get that, the huge economic benefit that we’re already beginning to realise – particularly in terms of our manufacturers and goods exporters – can actually build that prosperity that we need to cement the peace.”


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