'Don't jeopardise our industry' MLAs urged

Pictured at Stormont are (from left) Niall Irwin (Irwin's Bakery), Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI), Con O’Neill (Harland & Wolff) and Mark Cuskeran (SDC Trailers)
Gary McDonald, Business Editor

STORMONT'S intransigence risks undermining the north's third biggest business sector just as it’s getting back on its feet - and is striking at the heart of one in five families in the north.

And Stephen Kelly, who heads up the Manufacturing NI lobby group, last night urged those at loggerheads to find a way through the current malaise.

The organisation, representing businesses which generate £19 billion-a-year in sale and directly employs 80,000 people in Northern Ireland, was at Parliament Buildings to launch a short list of actions such as securing industrial de-rating, competitive energy costs and investment in skills, infrastructure and an alignment of employment law with Britain.

"Thousands of families in Northern Ireland rely on a manufacturing wage, and after retail and health and social services, it represents the third largest employer sector," Kelly said.

"So manufacturing should be cherished and celebrated, and if we don’t do that, we run the risk of undermining a critical sector just at the time when it’s getting back on its feet.”

He added: “Fundamentally, we need local politicians making local decisions for the local economy.

"A functioning regional administration can create the environment for business to survive and thrive. We believe that parties and MLAs can, and they must find a way. In turn, manufacturers will employ more, export more and contribute more.”

Manufacturing NI says it plans to meet as many MLAs as possible in the coming weeks to ensure they keep the north's future economic growth central to their considerations during this challenging time.

Kelly said: “Given the current uncertainty at Stormont, we will now engage in a series of meetings, bringing local manufacturing companies together with local MLAs from all parties, to impress upon them the opportunities which exist - and the high price of failure to find a way.”

He added: “Our call is for a partnership between government and business. Our politicians need to create the conditions for growth through agreement on the current difficult issues and a stable environment in which business can create wealth and work. We must find a way.

"And what does success look like? It’s about manufacturing achieving the EU target of 20 per cent of the economy. This would provide high quality, sustainable and well paid jobs which in turn would transform communities here.”


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