Belfast Telegraph

Hotelier Wolsey aims a radio broadside at bickering politicians

Frustration: Bill Wolsey
Frustration: Bill Wolsey
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Entrepreneur Bill Wolsey has hit out at the inaction of political parties here in an interview with BBC Radio 4.

Mr Wolsey, whose company Beannchor owns a string of hotels, bars and restaurants, told morning news programme Today that the province was facing a "double-whammy" from Brexit and the lack of an Executive.

"The fact that we don't have a government and haven't had for quite some considerable time has led to all sorts of problems," he said.

"We have the longest hospital waiting lists in the whole of the UK and failure to invest in all sorts of areas, it's a sort of double-whammy."

He accused the DUP and Sinn Fein of putting party before people in not going back into government.

"The two parties are always thinking of themselves rather than people," he said.

"You regularly hear people here say of our two parties one couldn't organise a drink in a brewery and the other hopes the brewery will go bust. It's truly depressing."

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But he was still investing in Northern Ireland and in the Republic - which he said was emulating Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Mr Rees-Mogg's firm Somerset Capital Management has opened two funds to invest in the Republic since the vote to leave the EU in 2016.

Beannchor Group owns assets including the five-star Merchant Hotel in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, as well as the Bullitt Hotel, Dirty Onion bar and The National. The group is planning to open a new hotel, The Haslem, and co-working space in Lisburn.

Mr Wolsey said those plans were "really fulfilling obligations that have been longstanding".

He added: "So, like most businesses here are waiting to see what happens (with Brexit), I - in fact, like Jacob Rees Mogg - have decided to invest in Dublin to sort of hedge our bets."

Beannchor Group is planning to open a sister hotel of Belfast's Bullitt in Dublin.

And he said the uncertainty surrounding Brexit was damaging. Developments in the House of Commons this week just added to that, he said. "It's truly frustrating. We haven't a clue what's happening here. In Northern Ireland, this can have very very serious implications."

But he welcomed a proposal from the UK Government that tariffs could be lifted on goods moving from the Republic to Northern Ireland to help ensure an open border. "Anything that helps freer trade between north and south on this island will be welcomed, yes," Mr Wolsey added.

Belfast Telegraph