The President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) has stressed the case for a restored, fully functioning and sustainability funded Executive to help businesses fulfill their truest potential.
Addressing an audience of more than 900 business and political leaders at the 2023 President’s Banquet in ICC Belfast, Cathal Geoghegan said:
“Tackling Northern Ireland’s fiscal challenges is the region’s greatest opportunity to ensure stability through public sector and societal transformation for decades to come.
“The most recent budget set by the Secretary of State was uncomfortable reading but without discussion and answers about how Northern Ireland is funded from Westminster, it is a challenge we will face on repeat.
“At NI Chamber, we have long argued that a restored Executive must not only be capable of making tough decisions, but it must also be sustainably funded, recognising the issue of need.”
Speaking about the need for restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive, Mr. Geoghegan said:
“It’s frustrating that for yet another year, at this time, indeed on this stage, we must ask ‘when do we get our government back?’
He continued: “We are fast approaching 650 days without an Executive – that’s a milestone no one in this room wants to see. Because for all of us, that’s vital time lost for decisions about spending and overdue reforms on health, climate change, planning and so much more.
“As we’ve repeatedly stressed, a fully-functioning, stable Executive is our most urgent priority. But we must be clear, we want an Executive that lasts, that takes tough decisions and delivers on its priorities.”
The black-tie event was attended by a host of political and civic leaders. Speaking directly to the representatives of the five main political parties in the room, Cathal proposed a partnership approach to the in-tray of issues awaiting new Ministers:
“Business understands the scale of the challenge ahead of you.
“We want to work in partnership with a new Executive, helping you to move beyond defining problems, to designing solutions. The membership of NI Chamber, the leadership represented here tonight, is an unrivalled resource and it’s ready to start co-designing and co-delivering on workable, innovative new ideas, right now.”
The Chamber President heaped praise on the businesspeople in the room for the resilience they’ve demonstrated, singling out some of the region’s most innovative firms for their outstanding global success, saying:
“Whatever the challenges, I know that our members will remain confident and resilient. Our companies are agile and ambitious and quick to adapt to changing circumstances. They want the growth of Northern Ireland to continue. They want our global impact to expand.
“But be under no doubt we need a restored and renewed Executive with a clear ambition for boosting economic growth if our businesses are really going to realise their true potential.”
The 2023 President’s Banquet was delivered in partnership with NI Chamber’s Communications Partner, BT, as well as supporting sponsors ABL, Barclays, Cathedral Eye Clinic and Tughans, in addition to drinks reception sponsor, Vanrath.
Speaking about the event, Paul Murnaghan, Regional Director for BT Business in Northern Ireland said:
“As one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers and as a successful global company, at BT we share the Chamber’s ambition, drive and commitment to support business renewal and growth for local companies in what continues to be a challenging business environment.
“Northern Ireland may be small in size but it continues to make a big impact on the global stage. It has never been more important that leading local businesses continue to come together to network at events like this, in order to collaborate and lead the way in innovation, forward thinking solutions and retaining talent here. This will help to ensure that we drive investment in a time of political and economic uncertainty in order to continue to rebuild and grow businesses and the local economy.”
Guests at the event also heard from Ireland Captain Johnny Sexton, who made his first appearance of this kind since returning from the Rugby World Cup in France. He was interviewed live on stage by broadcaster, Holly Hamilton.