Fri 20th Nov 2015
NI Chamber President’s Banquet: Focus must now return to prioritising the economy
Northern Ireland’s recent political settlement is a positive development but the focus must now return to prioritising the economy.
That was the message delivered by the President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) at the annual President’s Banquet which took place at Titanic Belfast earlier this evening.
NI Chamber President Stephen McCully was addressing over 550 members of the local business community which also included the Ministers for Enterprise, Trade and Investment; Social Development and Health, Social Services & Public Safety as well as U.S. Consulate Daniel Lawton and Invest NI Chief Executive Alastair Hamilton.
Mr McCully was also joined by BAFTA award winning actor James Nesbitt who provided the dinner’s keynote speech.
Speaking at the event, Mr McCully welcomed the deal to resolve Northern Ireland’s current political crisis but said it was time to move on the economic agenda.
“Failure this time is not an option – we are already lagging significantly behind our neighbouring economies. But we have so much within our grasp – investors ready to make a commitment to the Province, a business community primed for opportunities to grow and export, and the opportunity to unleash the pent-up potential of our local talent.
“They want to see better political processes in Northern Ireland that facilitate our local politicians in making timely and confident decisions for the good of the local economy and wider society. They want every aspect of Northern Ireland to reach its full potential.”
Mr McCully also pointed to the wealth of young entrepreneurial talent in the Province whose futures depended on a strong economy and said now was the time to nurture elements which will deliver economic regeneration.
He concluded: “The business community understands that this is a formidable challenge for everyone. It also recognises that there are hard political choices that needs to be made to allow such priorities to be properly resourced.”
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell was also a guest speaker at the event. Addressing the audience, the Minister paid reference to recent corporation tax announcement. Mr Bell said:
“The news of a 12.5% rate will be welcomed by all those in industry. As Enterprise Minister my priority is to create a robust economy built on a strong private sector. The ability to set our own reduced Corporation Tax rate is a vital tool enabling me to do this and one with the potential to put Northern Ireland on the list of the most attractive investment locations in Europe. No other economic lever, within our control, gives us this opportunity and the ability to increases our competiveness in such a way. No one can argue with the tens of thousands of new jobs it has the potential to attract and the prospect it offers of increased local economic output and productivity.”
Colm O’Neill, Managing Director at BT Corporate UK & Ireland, the event’s keynote sponsor, said: “Northern Ireland’s future has never looked brighter and the focus now must centre on driving economic growth by supporting our business community and enabling its success. At BT we remain committed to this, through our own direct investment in bringing leading edge communications technology to Northern Ireland, through our joint investment and delivery of government infrastructure projects and through our relationship with the Northern Ireland Chamber, who do vital work to drive sustainability and growth across the entire NI business community”.
The NI Chamber President’s Banquet was supported by BT, A&L Goodbody, First Trust Bank and Power NI.