Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: MLAs given wake-up call on our economy

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, did not put it quite so bluntly at the organisation's dinner in Belfast last night when she warned that Northern Ireland would lose £940m in economic output by the end of this year if devolved government is not restored, but there was no mistaking that is what she meant
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, did not put it quite so bluntly at the organisation's dinner in Belfast last night when she warned that Northern Ireland would lose £940m in economic output by the end of this year if devolved government is not restored, but there was no mistaking that is what she meant

One of Bill Clinton's successful US presidential campaigns owed much to his slogan: 'It's the economy, stupid'. Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, did not put it quite so bluntly at the organisation's dinner in Belfast last night when she warned that Northern Ireland would lose £940m in economic output by the end of this year if devolved government is not restored, but there was no mistaking that is what she meant.

We all know the red lines that divide the two main parties, but none of them are really about the economy. They are aspirational or constitutional, but whether they would make any real difference to our daily lives is a moot point.

This newspaper has consistently highlighted how vital services such as the health service, infrastructure and education are withering on the vine because there is no minister at the helm of any department to make decisions on priorities and investment.

The situation has been exacerbated by the ludicrous Brexit debates at Westminster, which have paralysed national government, and the reluctance of Secretary of State Karen Bradley to take meaningful decisions on anything, preferring to simply kick contentious issues further down the road or back to politicians who have no desire to deal with them.

No doubt Ms Fairbairn's assessment - based, it appears, on very solid evidence - will be dismissed by critics among the political class here who remain wedded to their Union or united Ireland aspirations at the expense of almost everything else.

But they should show the maturity to realise that Northern Ireland, no matter how Brexit pans out, will suffer more than any other part of the UK, and that it is their job to mitigate those effects.

These are very challenging times for the UK as a whole, never mind Northern Ireland, and while the DUP used its influence with the current Tory Government to get a £1bn windfall, it will be whittled away unless devolution is restored. Instead of being a much-needed bonus to the province, it will, at best, merely sustain the status quo.

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The parties cannot be unaware that the population at large, irrespective of political allegiance, wants devolution restored and the services of government delivered to them in as healthy a state as possible.

History will not be kind to our politicians if they continue to let the economy become a laughing stock.

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