Business

New retail director calls for politicians to end ‘perpetual limbo land’

New NIRC director Neil Johnston has urged the north's politicians to end what he called the ‘perpetual limbo land’ at Stormont. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
New NIRC director Neil Johnston has urged the north's politicians to end what he called the ‘perpetual limbo land’ at Stormont. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

THE new head of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) has called for the north’s politicians to end what he described as a ‘perpetual limbo land’, due to the absence of an Executive and the on-going problems with the NI Protocol.

Neil Johnston has been named as the new director of the retail body.

He succeeds Aodhán Connolly, who was appointed to head the Northern Ireland Executive’s office in Brussels during April 2022.

Mr Johnston has spent more than two decades in public affairs, working for a diverse range of organisations and companies including the RSPB, the BBC, Pfizer pharmaceuticals and latterly Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke.

He has also represented the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

“I am incredibly pleased to take on this key role at the NIRC representing such an economically important and dynamic industry at what is a critical time for the economy in Northern Ireland,” said the new NIRC director.

“We need all our political leaders to move us beyond the seemingly perpetual limbo land that we are currently stuck in and which is holding back important economic decision making.

“We ought to be focusing laser-like on the economy and nurturing its growth instead of seemingly going round in circles.

Neil Johnston.
Neil Johnston.

“I look forward to working with government, Assembly members and stakeholders from across Northern Ireland to highlight the vital role this industry plays and proactively seek solutions to support economic growth.”

Welcoming the appointment, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Helen Dickinson, said: “It is an exceptionally important time in Northern Ireland; in addition to facing the same economic headwinds as the rest of the UK in terms of costs inflation, energy pricing and the overall difficult economic outlook, Northern Ireland continues to be without both a devolved Executive and any resolution to the issues presented by the NI Protocol.

“We very much look forward to supporting Neil and our members in Northern Ireland to address the manifold challenges the industry faces.”

David Lonsdale, head of devolved Nations at the BRC added: “Neil is an excellent addition to the team with his in-depth knowledge of Northern Ireland policy-making and the economic landscape.

“I know Neil is committed to supporting the development of the industry, its significant contribution to the NI economy and its consumers and will work hard for our members’ interests.”