Politicians urged at the double to get back to work

Belfast Chamber president Alana Coyle with Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Matthew Howse, partner at Eversheds Sutherland Belfast, which sponsored the lunch
Belfast Chamber president Alana Coyle with Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Matthew Howse, partner at Eversheds Sutherland Belfast, which sponsored the lunch

POLITICIANS among the 450 guests in the banqueting room at the Belfast Chamber annual dinner were given a double “get back to work” salvo from the event's two main speakers, including from Tánaiste/Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin.

Both he and Chamber president Alana Coyle insisted that a restored Executive is essential for economic success and is the “missing ingredient” for attracting international investment.

Mr Martin told guests - who included a number of prominent DUP MLAs - “It is incontrovertible that the people of Northern Ireland are best served by their elected representatives returning to the Assembly, forming an Executive and operating fully the North South Ministerial Council, and this should happen without delay.”

He added: “Belfast has made enormous strides in the last 25 years. You can see it in the fabric of the city. It has made a mark on the global stage in industries from fintech and cyber security to film and television production. There’s no limit to what you can achieve.

“It is hugely welcome that President Biden will visit next week, and the appointment of Joe Kennedy III as the US special economic envoy is another concrete sign of how we can translate goodwill into deeper economic connections.

“The question for me is how do we unlock that opportunity? How do we set the stage for innovation and inclusive growth?

“For the last number of years we've been held back from being able to pursue that agenda, by the need to address and find a sustainable solution for the outworkings of Brexit for Northern Ireland.

“But I believe we are now at the opening of a new chapter in the story of this place with the Windsor Framework, which is an opportunity to re-energise the British-Irish relationship and is also an opportunity to open up a new chapter in EU-UK relations at a time of pressing global concerns.

“Most importantly, however, it is an opportunity for Northern Ireland, which needs stability and certainty. It will allow businesses here to continue to access the EU Single Market and protects its place in the UK internal market.”

In her address Ms Coyle said recent political events and the upcoming Presidential visit have again thrust the region into the international spotlight, highlighting its talented people working in innovative companies, its world-leading research flowing from the city’s two universities, and in the words of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, it being“the world’s most exciting economic zone” with access to both the UK and EU single market.

“All of the elements to grab the attention of an international investor are in place – bar one,” the president said.

“Investors see the opportunity, but they watch and, indeed, likely scratch their heads when they hear that one important ingredient is missing – a government making decisions and generating the sort of stability that is a basic building block of any investible city or region.

“As we sit on the cusp of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, we know all too well from real life experience that peace and political stability are essential for our economic success. Prior to 1998, a US FDI was as rare in Belfast as a cruise ship or an open top sightseeing bus.

“It would be wrong to paint an apocalyptic picture that without the return of government all of those investors will up sticks or tourists will never again visit our city.

“But let us be real. How do we easily explain the ongoing, indefinite absence of an administration to a potential investor without it damaging our sales pitch?

“Business understands the need to take time to do your due diligence and consider your options. But we also know that you can’t take forever and you need to act. Delay is damaging. Uncertainty has a cost. Opportunities are lost. Decisions are required.”