Business leaders say no to direct rule

Pictured after the meeting at the Europa Hotel are: Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI; Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster; Owen Smith, shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland and Glyn Roberts, Retail NI. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye
Gareth McKeown

THREE of the north's leading business organisations have said direct rule must be avoided and re-iterated calls for our local politicians to reach an agreement.

Hospitality Ulster, Retail NI and Manufacturing NI hosted a joint meeting with new shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Owen Smith yesterday, at which they outlined their concerns about the economy and the ongoing political impasse.

In a statement the chief executives of the three organisations, Colin Neill (Hospitality Ulster),Glyn Roberts (Retail NI) and Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI) said:

“The three sectors that we represent are the largest in Northern Ireland employ tens of thousands of workers with a turnover of billions to the local economy. Growing our retail, hospitality and manufacturing sectors is essential for the future of Northern Ireland and its economy.

“We had an excellent meeting with the Shadow Secretary of State, addressing issues such as Brexit, VAT and City Deals for Belfast and Derry. It is important that the Labour Party continues to hold the government to account and also sets out its alternative policy platform for the Northern Ireland economy”

“Our respective members are deeply frustrated at the continual deadlock at Stormont and are concerned that Direct Rule is a likely prospect. While Devolution was never perfect, it was considerably better having locally elected and accountable Ministers in place."

Speaking after the meeting Owen Smith added:

"Businesses in Northern Ireland are clear that it wants to see the Executive up and running as soon as possible. They are right that locally based and accountable politicians are best to take decisions about economic development."

"The parties and two governments must now redouble their efforts to bring about restoration of the devolved institutions to give a voice to Northern Ireland's business community and its citizens during the Brexit negotiations and beyond."

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