Northern Ireland

Stormont return needed to see full benefit of investment trip – Farry

US special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs Joe Kennedy III with US trade delegation members (Claudia Savage/PA)
US special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs Joe Kennedy III with US trade delegation members (Claudia Savage/PA) US special envoy to Northern Ireland for economic affairs Joe Kennedy III with US trade delegation members (Claudia Savage/PA)

Northern Ireland will not be able to fully capitalise on the benefits of a US trade visit to the region until it has a functioning Assembly, Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry has said.

Mr Farry said that political stability will always be a consideration for some business leaders looking to invest.

The high-powered delegation of US business leaders, led by special envoy Joe Kennedy, was in Northern Ireland for several days this week.

The delegation included New York state comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli, president and chief financial officer of the Coca-Cola Company John Murphy, chief executive of Alteryx Mark Anderson and Marcie Frost, chief executive of CalPERS.

Northern Ireland Assembly talks
Northern Ireland Assembly talks The Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry said some businesses would always make decisions based on political stability (Liam McBurney/PA)

The visit had been announced by US President Joe Biden when he visited Belfast earlier this year.

However, it took place against the backdrop of the ongoing Stormont stalemate, with the DUP locked in negotiations with the UK Government over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Mr Farry told the BBC’s The Nolan Show: “Some businesses will make decisions around Northern Ireland based on the pure economic fundamentals, for others the issue around political stability and access to ministers will be a consideration.

“Often we are in competition with other parts of the world for these investments and we have to recognise we will score down on certain aspects until we sort out our political situation.”

The North Down MP said the lack of an executive meant Northern Ireland ministers were not able to sell the region around the world.

He said: “Political stability is an issue for many but also having surety that politicians are in charge and can take the decisions around the skills pipeline.

“It is far from ideal because we have a unique opportunity, it is not every part of the world which gets a high-powered US delegation put together.

“While we can take it so far for some businesses we can’t get it over the line until we have an Assembly and an executive in place.

“It was not a wasted opportunity but it was an opportunity we couldn’t fully capitalise on.”

Northern Ireland Investment Summit 2023
Northern Ireland Investment Summit 2023 UUP leader Doug Beattie said he believed there was confusion among investors over the political situation in NI (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he believed there was confusion among the investors over the political logjam in Northern Ireland.

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “I think when you speak to investors they understand how politics can be complicated, they understand how Northern Ireland politics is even more complicated, but they also looked and saw political leaders here in Northern Ireland walking together, talking together.

“I think there was a degree of confusion, we can do all this, we can say all this, why can’t we just get back into government.

“We were all saying the same thing, the economy is important, and yet we can’t get ourselves into a room to govern.

“I think there is confusion with investors when they look at us.”