Business

All-island co-operation on the agenda as Tánaiste hosts northern business delegation in Dublin

L-R: Trade NI's Colin Neill (Hospitality Ulster), Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI) and Glyn Roberts (Retail NI), engage NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris at Westminster in May.
L-R: Trade NI's Colin Neill (Hospitality Ulster), Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI) and Glyn Roberts (Retail NI), engage NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris at Westminster in May. L-R: Trade NI's Colin Neill (Hospitality Ulster), Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI) and Glyn Roberts (Retail NI), engage NI Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris at Westminster in May.

TÁNAISTE Micheál Martin will host a northern business delegation in Dublin on Thursday in an event expected to focus on greater co-operation and driving the all-island economy.

Trade NI will present its ‘Prosperity Dividend’ prospectus at a special reception in Iveagh House.

The alliance, made up of three of the north’s largest trade bodies – Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing NI, and Retail NI – have described the document as a blueprint for economic growth and prosperity over the coming 10 years.

Trade NI originally launched the paper in London at the end of May, when dozens of businesses and political figures attended what was described as north's largest ever trade mission to Westminster.

It highlights how the 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement has created an environment of peace, prosperity, and greater stability, in which northern industries, businesses, and high streets have thrived.

Describing the trade mission to Dublin as “an historic day”, the alliance’s three leaders, Stephen Kelly, Glyn Roberts and Colin Neill, said while the north has “vast untapped potential”, work remains to ensure the prosperity promised by the Good Friday Agreement becomes a reality in the coming years.

“We must make progress on ensuring political stability at Stormont; fixing our planning system to facilitate speedier construction of major capital infrastructure and economic projects; investing in our educational institutions to ensure our workforce of the future has the right skills and competencies; capitalising on our dual market access; benefiting from the all-island potential; and reforming our public sector to remove our dependence on it.”

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Trade NI’s report also focuses on growing investment in the north’s private sector in order to reduce the dependence on the public sector.

Speaking at the London event in May, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, said the Windsor Framework “marks a new era” for the north.

The event in Westminster was followed by a gathering at the Irish Embassy in London, where the focus turned to cross-border links.

The Dublin reception comes just weeks after the Irish Government announced it will fund student nursing and midwifery places at northern universities, and provide €44.5m (£38m) for a new teaching and student-services building at Ulster University’s Magee campus in Derry.

The funding is largely connected to the Irish Government’s commitments under the New Decade, New Approach deal, and the Shared Island Fund, which has allocated around €56m for cross-border investments.

Dublin has also been urged to commit more funding to upgrade the A5 road to a dual carriageway.

'Transformed'

Speaking ahead of the event, Micheál Martin, said: “In the years since the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland has been transformed into a leading place to live, to visit, and to do business. The business community has been central to bringing about this transformation, driving economic growth and creating jobs for communities across Northern Ireland.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin will host a delegation of Northern Ireland businesses in Dublin on Thursday. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Tánaiste Micheál Martin will host a delegation of Northern Ireland businesses in Dublin on Thursday. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire Tánaiste Micheál Martin will host a delegation of Northern Ireland businesses in Dublin on Thursday. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

“This report is an important contribution to our understanding of the economy in Northern Ireland, setting out an ambitious economic vision for the years ahead.  It sets out what needs to be done if Northern Ireland is to maximise the economic dividend of the peace, as well the unique opportunity provided by dual access to both the UK market and the EU’s single market for goods. 

“I welcome the spotlight it contains on the important and growing North South dimensions of trade and business on this island, and how the report challenges us about what we can do together to secure a better and more prosperous future for Northern Ireland.” 

Trade NI’s report, entitled ‘A Region Transformed and Creating Prosperity For All: The Prosperity Dividend’, has been authored by BDO NI’s managing partner, Brian Murphy.

“There is a real belief within the business community that NI can become an economic powerhouse, where business, innovation, and creativity flourish,” he said.

“Also, given our unique position as a bridge between the EU and GB, it is critical that we look to the opportunities this affords us to grow our economy in a spirit of co-operation across the island.

“The significant Irish Government support for initiatives such as the Shared Island Fund is also so important in helping us achieve our potential in Northern Ireland.

“Working together with all our partners will be a key part in helping us transform the economy for the benefit of everyone.”