Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland needs working Executive, Arlene Foster tells business leaders

By Cate McCurry

Former First Minister Arlene Foster has told local business people that Northern Ireland needs a working Executive "that lasts".

Speaking at an event for business owners in Co Antrim, the DUP leader said it was in the "best interests" of Northern Ireland to have a functioning Assembly restored.

As talks continue to establish a power-sharing executive before a new November 6 deadline, Mrs Foster said she was "disappointed" that her party and Sinn Fein are still not able to form a government.

Addressing the event in Ballyclare yesterday, she said: "A mere 18 months ago Martin McGuinness and I were issuing statements that the 2016-2021 term was about getting down to business.

"It was to be the term of greatest delivery by an Executive - on health, education and jobs.

"It is time to get back to that vision and commitment. Northern Ireland needs to see that stability restored. Northern Ireland needs a working Executive that lasts.

"With all that has occurred since the May 2016 election, it is easy to focus on the trials and tribulations of both Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole.

"However, as you will know from your businesses, everyday challenges must never prevent you from reaching your goals and fulfilling your long-term strategy.

"For all that is changed, the fundamentals of what the DUP wants to achieve and what Northern Ireland needs to achieve have not changed.

"It is in the best interests of Northern Ireland and the Union to have a functioning Assembly in addition to the influence we have in Parliament."

In her address to a number of business owners and stakeholders, Mrs Foster spoke of how her party has a huge responsibility through its deal with the Conservative Party.

"Our agreement to support them is based on what is best for Northern Ireland," she said.

"In that agreement, we placed the needs of the Northern Ireland economy front and centre in our determination to build and invest for the future.

"We delivered for the entire community.

"Significantly, this autumn the UK budget will require the support of the DUP to secure passage through Parliament."

Her speech comes days after Secretary of State James Brokenshire set another date for the talks deadline.

Addressing the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster on Wednesday, he said the prospects for a deal "do not look positive at this time".

The latest date for establishing an Executive in order for a budget to be set was the week beginning November 6, he said.

On exiting the EU, Mrs Foster said that Northern Ireland must become more "forward thinking and outward looking".

She added: "While we are entering uncharted waters in terms of Brexit, there has never been a better time to set out our stall on the world stage.

"Northern Ireland has a proven track record when it comes to attracting inward investment.

"Now I believe it is time to move to the next level and that includes putting a renewed focus on expanding our exports.

"By concentrating on developing new trade opportunities, we are building on solid foundations.

"As part of the wider UK market, Northern Ireland firms need to be at the fore in exploiting new internal opportunities.

"With the opportunities of a sensible Brexit, new global relationships, national and regional industrial strategies and the potential of devolution of corporation tax, we can do much more."

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.