Lack of economic focus 'disheartening' says new Chamber president

Incoming NI Chamber president Paul Murnaghan (second left) with vice-president Gillian McAuley, past president Ian Henry and chief executive Ann McGregor. Picture: Matt Mackey/PressEye
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE incoming president of NI Chamber of Commerce insists re-establishing Northern Ireland as an attractive place for investors and tourists “requires positive, not negative, messages worldwide”.

And he slammed a lack of focus on the economy by elected representatives as “very disheartening”.

Paul Murnaghan also believes the region must look to “all opportunities” - including dual market access, new trade deals with key markets such as Canada and Australia, the UK levelling up and all-island funding.

Mr Murnaghan, who is head of BT in Northern Ireland, has been chosen to succeed Ian Henry as president of the business organisation, which supports more than 1,000 members across the north.

He joined BT in 2004, becoming regional director of BT Enterprise NI in January 2017. Previously he held a number of positions in the IT industry.

In his inaugural address he said: “Businesses here are resilient and are doing all they can to get back to normal, to bounce back, but it is getting tougher to move forward - and the lack of focus on the economy by our elected representatives is very disheartening.

“At this time their priority should be to deliver a safe and managed economic recovery, one that focusses on re-establishing Northern Ireland as an attractive place for inward investors and tourists once again, one that invests in connectivity and shares positive, not negative, messages worldwide. One that works collegiately to transform our health care and education systems.”

He added: “We need to see our political leaders and our communities working together in the best interests of Northern Ireland. A spirit of compromise and cooperation saw us through some of the worst weeks of the pandemic last year. We need that again if we are to truly recover.”

The NI Chamber virtual annual meeting also saw Gillian McAuley, group HR director of Devenish Nutrition, elected as vice-president.

Welcoming both into their new roles, Chamber chief executive Ann McGregor said: “Paul and Gillian bring a breadth of experience which will become a great asset to the organisation.”

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