Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland industry groups slam Stormont stalemate

By John Mulgrew

Three leading Northern Ireland business groups have said they are "deeply frustrated" with the stalemate at Stormont.

Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing NI and Retail NI also stressed it was important to hold central government to account.

The groups met with Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith to outline their concerns for their respective sectors, which employ tens of thousands of people.

It has been nine months since the Assembly was dissolved, following a breakdown in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

In a joint statement, Colin Neill, Stephen Kelly and Glyn Roberts - from the three organisations - said: "The three sectors that we represent are the largest in Northern Ireland and employ tens of thousands of workers with a turnover of billions to the local economy.

"Growing our retail, hospitality and manufacturing sectors is essential for the future of Northern Ireland and for its economy."

The groups discussed a number of concerns with Labour MP Mr Smith, including Brexit, VAT and more.

"It is important that the Labour Party continues to hold the Government to account and also sets out its alternative policy platform for the Northern Ireland economy," they said.

"Our respective members are deeply frustrated at the continual deadlock at Stormont and are concerned that direct rule is a likely prospect.

"While devolution was never perfect, it was (good) having locally elected and accountable ministers in place"

Mr Smith said it was clear local businesses wanted the Executive up and running again.

"They are right that locally based and accountable politicians are the best (people) to take decisions about economic development," he added.

"The parties and two governments must now redouble their efforts to bring about restoration of the devolved institutions to give a voice to Northern Ireland's business community and its citizens during the Brexit negotiations and beyond."

Belfast Telegraph

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