Fri 16th Jun 2017
NI Chamber President: MPs have obligation to secure a deal that is for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland
NI Chamber President Ellvena Graham at the NI Chamber President’s Lunch
Northern Ireland’s MPs have an obligation to secure a deal at Westminster that is for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland – placing a focus on the economy and creating jobs.
That was the message delivered by NI Chamber President Ellvena Graham as she addressed over 400 people from business and government at the President’s Annual Lunch at Belfast City Hall earlier today (16 June 2017).
Ms Graham was making her first speech as NI Chamber President at the event, which was supported by NI Chamber’s Communications Partner BT and supporting sponsor Cleaver Fulton Rankin.
Away from politics, the lunch featured a sporting theme with guest speakers Michael O’Neill (Northern Ireland Football Manager); Mickey Harte (Gaelic Football Manger) and Les Kiss (Director of Rugby at Ulster Rugby) who shared their successful leadership stories with the audience.
Speaking at the event, Ms Graham said: “However the political cards fall, our MPs must be to secure a deal that is for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland – one that is inclusive and eases the economic uncertainty that we’ve been enduring for so long. We must focus on the economy and job creation.”
She continued: “The current focus is on Westminster but the local picture must not be neglected. We cannot be left in limbo. Our political parties must come to an agreement that will allow Government to start again. It really is time to put the Northern Ireland economy first – a strong economy will benefit everyone.”
Ms Graham also pointed to a number of measures that NI Chamber has long advocated as vital for growth. These included an investment in skills and people to support the long term unemployed return to work, increased investment in infrastructure and additional fiscal powers to boost the economy including the abolishment of Air Passenger Duty in Northern Ireland and City Deals for Belfast and Derry/Londonderry.
In terms of Brexit, Ms Graham highlighted that Northern Ireland remains the only region to not have a Brexit Plan. She said: “The EU has a plan. London has a plan. So do Scotland and Wales. Where is our plan? We need the Northern Ireland Executive to reform, to agree a final Programme for Government, an economic strategy, and to establish a single Northern Ireland action plan on Brexit which will address key business concerns. It would also be great for inward investment if the long awaited reduction in Corporation Tax could be finalised.”
Also speaking at the event was Lord Mayor of Belfast Nuala McAllister. She said: “As the newly elected Lord Mayor of this city, my primary theme is “Global Belfast” and at the heart of that is the desire to make sure that Belfast is a welcome and open city to businesses, visitors and citizens alike.
“Belfast is indeed ready to do business. We believe we are equipped to be a serious international player, and our performance in recent years demonstrates this.
“The Belfast Agenda sets out our vision for the quality of life we want to see in a future Belfast in 2035. By 2035 we want to see 70,000 more people living in the city and 50,000 more jobs. And we want to see real progress in reducing the inequalities in health, achieving consistently higher life expectancy across all parts of the city,” said the Lord Mayor.
“Belfast truly is a vibrant and thriving city and is the economic driver for the region. Belfast City Council has driven forward more than £400 million in major developments in the two years since planning powers were transferred from central to local government.
“To continue in achieving our targets, we need to ensure there is strategic partnership and collaboration, and we see NI Chamber as a key partner in helping us achieve these targets and communicating with the private sector,” she added.