The latest political crisis will damage Northern Ireland’s international reputation by the day, a business leader has warned.
Paul Murnaghan from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Friday’s events were a fresh blow to business and investor confidence.
The DUP’s failure to nominate a new Speaker leaves Stormont in limbo — just over a week after voters went to the polls.
Mr Murnaghan, the chamber’s president, said: “At a time when our elected representatives should be getting straight to work to tackle a myriad of very significant challenges, we remain in limbo.
“The uncomfortable truth is, while this continues, the reputational damage to Northern Ireland as a place to invest and work grows daily.
“For local businesses, little can be done to mitigate against the litany of challenges including soaring costs and skills shortages without a stable, functioning Executive and legislature.
“We call on all political representatives to stop allowing division to hold back progress and form a stable, fully-functioning Assembly and Executive without delay.”
Invest NI, which works with potential investors here, was unable to comment, it said.
But the DUP’s refusal to elect a Speaker comes just two months after Economy Minister and DUP MLA Gordon Lyons visited existing and potential investors in the US over St Patrick’s Day as part of Invest NI’s US trade and investment programme.
At the time he hailed the event as a success, helping the department “build relationships” and “highlight our strengths as an attractive place to invest, visit, study and relocate to”.
However, business leaders say they are less confident without the support of a fully functioning Executive.
Kerry Curran, who recently took up the role of director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: “We are keen to see the Northern Ireland Executive up and running soon.
“These are challenging times for the retail industry and for consumers and a more coherent approach to the industry which helps it to recover is needed.
“This would include the development of a NI retail strategy, a more competitive non-domestic rates system, and shopworkers protection legislation to give NI’s retail workers the same protections as their colleagues in GB.”
Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland director, said: “Politicians everywhere should be focused on helping the most vulnerable in society amid the worst cost of living crisis in decades.
“With firms already reeling from the rising cost of doing business, the last thing they want is further uncertainty in trading arrangements amid global supply chain challenges.
“All sides should be reducing rhetoric and seeking lasting solutions to both power-sharing in Northern Ireland and smoothing GB-NI trade flows.”