Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland businesses losing faith due to impasse

Editor's Viewpoint

We all know the challenges facing the health service and education due to the lack of a functioning Executive at Stormont, but those public services are not the only sectors facing problems. Business is finding it more and more difficult to operate in a vacuum and the situation can only get worse, according to a respected leader in the sector.

Ellvena Graham, president of the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry, laid out clearly the problems facing those in the private sector.

There is no cohesive voice on Brexit and businesses' views are not being heard; a draft economic strategy drawn up by the last Finance Minister is, like the blueprint for transforming the health service, gathering dust; the lack of a local political administration is sending the wrong message to potential investors.

Plans to cut corporation tax rates - once hailed as a game changer in attracting overseas investors - are on hold, as are transport developments and the potential creation of city economic development schemes.

Ms Graham's comments are a depressing analysis of the effect of the current political stalemate. Most worrying is her suggestion that businesses are losing confidence due to the absence of devolution.

This latest plea to the politicians to sort out their differences comes as DUP leader Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, NI leader of Sinn Fein, both insist they want to get back into government.

Yet both acknowledge that neither party is in the business of compromise on the sticking points, which has left Northern Ireland without a local functioning administration for a year. Quite how they square their rigid and mutually exclusive views on issues like the Irish language, same-sex marriage and abortion reform with finding a way to get back into government does not instil confidence on a breakthrough any time soon.

The DUP appears to be keener, at least marginally, than Sinn Fein on a return to Stormont but both have been resistant to date to all pleas to get back into government.

They have ignored the overwhelming evidence that the health service is crumbling, schools are under enormous pressure with many soon to go into the red and practically every public service is being reduced in effectiveness.

Will they now turn a deaf ear to the voice of business and its compelling case for a restoration of devolution?

Time will tell.

Belfast Telegraph

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