Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Stormont stalemate hampering business

Editor's Viewpoint

It is clear that the business community has had enough of the political paralysis gripping us. Ellvena Graham, the president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, speaks for many today when she calls on politicians to inject more willingness and energy into efforts to restore devolution.

She is correct in saying that Northern Ireland has been in a no man's land between devolution and direct rule for the past year-and-a-half. That is a ruinous situation at a time when business needs all the support it can get, given the challenges facing firms.

Crucial policy decisions are in limbo because there are no ministers in office to sign them off; the province has no consensus on Brexit; foreign inward investment fell by more than half last year, and a leading figure in the agri-food industry, John McCann of Willowbrook Foods, fears the sector is in grave peril.

Yet, to the great credit of business, many firms are still prospering in the face of all the negative factors. As Ms Graham points out, exports will become more important after Brexit and many firms are already showing the way, paradoxically including Mr McCann's, which has achieved growth of around 18% every year for the past decade. The problems piling up on the absentee ministers' desks are well-known and cover practically every spectrum of life here, affecting ordinary people as well as the business community.

But it is the business community that will grow the economy, one which is too heavily dependent on the public sector, and Ms Graham deserves credit for speaking out so bluntly.

However, it seems there is an air of almost total resignation about the political stalemate. In recent days we have seen rallies at Belfast City Hall regarding abortion and same-sex marriage legislation. These are important issues, but there are other, more compelling ones at this time, yet there is no mass protest calling on politicians to compromise and get back to work.

People in other parts of the UK and globally must shake their heads in wonder that the province can continue to be rudderless for so long. Civil servants have been standing in for the politicians, but that is unsustainable and there are grave doubts if they can legally take major policy decisions.

More people need to join with Ms Graham and business leaders who have had the courage to speak out and insist the politicians do their job.

Belfast Telegraph

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