Belfast Telegraph

History will judge political leaders, says Chamber boss John Healy

From left: NI Chamber president John Healy with Pat Spillane, BT’s Paul Murnaghan and Eddie O’Sullivan
From left: NI Chamber president John Healy with Pat Spillane, BT’s Paul Murnaghan and Eddie O’Sullivan
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Northern Ireland's current political leaders will be harshly judged by history if they cannot restore the institutions here, NI Chamber president John Healy has said.

Addressing 500 figures from the worlds of business and politics at Belfast City Hall yesterday, the Allstate boss urged politicians not to "waste time" but to show the "collaborative vision" that saw industries grow following the Good Friday Agreement.

"We should be heartened by the fact that our politicians are apparently talking," he said.

"But after two years without movement of any kind, we shouldn't expect results in a hurry. Nevertheless, they mustn't waste time.

"So much is at stake if they don't want history to look back on this period and say - they promised so much, but delivered so little."

Mr Healy, who succeeded Ellvena Graham as NI Chamber president in January, called for "action on key priorities" - listing the economy, infrastructure, health and education.

"My advice would be: don't give up," he said. "Don't let a difficulty today ruin the vision for tomorrow. We in business and industry will give you all the encouragement you need."

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The comments were made during the influential business organisation's annual lunch in Belfast yesterday afternoon.

The event also heard from former Irish rugby coach Eddie O'Sullivan and Kerry GAA legend Pat Spillane, who faced questions from the BBC sports broadcaster Holly Hamilton.

In a speech reflecting on the positive developments in Belfast and Northern Ireland over the past 21 years, Mr Healy said: "In business and industry we have certainly matured. We've seen terrific growth and investment in many sectors, not least in emerging technologies."

Offering the example of the NI Science Park in Belfast's Titanic Quarter, now known as Catalyst Inc, he said: "Twenty-one years ago that didn't exist. Now it's the home of 200 companies, employing 3,000 people across four locations and generating salaries of more than £115m.

"The Science Park was conceived through funding that derived from the Good Friday Agreement, boosted by UK Government economic initiatives.

"It brought our universities and the business community together in a shared vision of growth and prosperity. And we need more of that collaborative vision today. We need to keep building."

The NI Chamber president described the green light secured for the Belfast Region City Deal in March as "a triumph" for councils, universities, colleges and the business community working together.

"And now that's been followed by a city deal for Derry and Strabane, a major boost to address the long-standing obstacles that have been hindering economic development there," he said.

Mr Healy identified the growth of the cruise ship trade in Belfast as another success, but said Brexit now lingered over it and every other aspect of business life.

Referring to Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt being due to appear before a Northern Ireland hustings event, he said: "The successful candidate must have a new recognition of the challenges Northern Ireland faces.

"And a new understanding of how devastating a 'no-deal' Brexit would be."

Belfast Telegraph