Belfast Telegraph

Restoration of leadership in Northern Ireland's corridors of power is long overdue

Business leaders have called on extra Civil Service powers to lift the 'handbrake' on decision making in NI. From construction to manufacturing and transport, here's what they had to say

By Michelle Weir

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers' Federation: "Decisions need to be prioritised and a clear and accountable way of taking these decisions needs to be established. Our preference is, of course, the establishment of a Northern Ireland Executive."

Brian Irwin, chair of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association: "The continued lack of certainty around decision-making in Northern Ireland is not sustainable and will in all likelihood result in the loss of jobs if it is to continue.

"In the absence of a local Assembly or even efforts to resume talks, our members and the wider business community need certainty to allow some key strategic infrastructure decisions to be made.

"The time is now for some leadership and creative thinking from the Secretary of State to move this issue forward, even if it means introducing some temporary measures like the ones we have suggested today."

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium: "While a sitting Assembly is our preferred option, our industry needs mission critical decisions taken now on issues such as business rates and the Apprenticeship Levy.

"The current stalemate is no longer an option and further stagnation only serves to make it harder to do business in NI."

Glyn Roberts, Retail NI chief executive: "The current political limbo is nothing less than a total disgrace and we need to see new leadership, an end to the blame game and new talks beginning immediately.

"Having no government for so long is making Northern Ireland an international laughing stock and will impact on foreign direct investment. Devolution should always be the first choice for Northern Ireland.

"Failing that we need a plan B with ministers in place making the vital decisions to move our economy forward."

Seamus Leheny, NI policy manager, Freight Transport Association: "A functioning and effective local government is something we as an Industry naturally want. However, because of the current stalemate at Stormont, what we hope will be for a short time period, we would like to see key decision making around infrastructure projects to be made by appropriate senior civil servants. This will ensure projects that have been years in planning, and approvals with allocated funding, can proceed without further delay."

Colin Neill, chief executive, Hospitality Ulster: "Hospitality Ulster value our devolved government structures and the NI Assembly. However, we simply cannot continue with the current situation. Our members feel the real and tangible costs of no government, which leaves us to operate with outdated legislation as our competitors modernise to meet the demands of a fast-changing market. As hard-working, law- abiding, tax paying businesses, our members deserve the basic right to have a working government in place".

Mary Meehan, chief executive of Newry Chamber of Commerce: "The void of political leadership is having a serious impact on the NI economy and it appears that key decisions on critical issues cannot be taken by senior civil servants.

"We need to restore the local executive as a matter of urgency, especially given the unprecedented times we are in with Brexit and the gap in representing Northern Ireland at the negotiating table."

Sinead McLaughlin, chief executive, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce: "In the interest of supporting and developing the economy in Northern Ireland, it is important that the current policy paralysis is overcome.

"The best way to make progress is for politicians to return to their work as our elected legislators. However, in the absence of government, we must find innovative solutions to ensure we do not further damage our economy by preventing major projects from progressing."

Today’s call for action was made by CBI NI, Construction Employers Federation, NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Quarry Products Association NI, Manufacturing NI, Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association, Retail NI, NI Retail Consortium, Newry Chamber of Commerce, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Hospitality Ulster and the Freight Transport Association

Belfast Telegraph

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