Public Affairs Update – September

28th Sep 2023

  1. A Skilled and Inclusive Workforce

Future Workforce Summit

NI Chamber is pleased to announce that the inaugural Future Workforce Summit will take place on Thursday 26 October in Titanic Belfast.

A new, interactive platform to explore employer-led solutions to the current and future needs of Northern Ireland’s Workforce. Bringing together business leaders, policymakers, and educators, this collaborative, outcomes focused Summit is a forum for sharing new ideas and best practice to recruit, retain and develop world-class people and skills in Northern Ireland.

Speakers include Jayne Brady, Head of the NI Civil Service, Gordon Parkes, Executive Director of People & Culture at NIE Networks, Suzanne Wylie, CEO at the NI Chamber, Marguerite Shannon, Senior Economist at the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre.

Register here


Our Vice-President, Caitroina McCusker (PwC) and Head of Public Affairs, Stuart Anderson co-chaired a recent meeting with US Special Envoy Joseph Kennedy III with a small group of business representatives, childcare providers and employers to discuss concerns and potential solutions to aspects of the childcare challenge. With 350,000 working parents in Northern Ireland, representing a significant 43% of the workforce, the urgent need to expedite the implementation of a comprehensive Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland was emphasised. Recognising the magnitude of this issue, they also advocated for the development of innovative, employer-led solutions (such as the role out of the Workplace Nursery Model) that can provide much-needed support to both parents and employers, ensuring that the workforce remains strong and vibrant while alleviating the burdens associated with childcare.

On 21 September, Phil Murray attended the most recent All-Party Group for Early Years and Childcare. During the meeting it was noted that there was a correspondence from the Department of Education’s Permanent Secretary, Mark Browne who advised that work on the costed options for the new Early Learning and Childcare Strategy is nearing completion and that a letter was sent to the Chancellor calling for the removal of the cap on Tax-Free Childcare and in increase in the amount of support for eligible families.

NI Chamber is also supporting member company, The CARD Group in its partnership with Employers for Childcare with the Northern Ireland Childcare Survey 2023 which is now open. The survey is an opportunity for parents and childcare providers to share their experiences and provide a meaningful evidence base to progress on a new Childcare Strategy, currently underway.

Please click here for the parent survey.

  1. Competitiveness

Windsor Framework

On the 13 September, Stuart Anderson gave oral evidence to the House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol on the implementation of the Windsor Framework.

Stuart had outlined that although progress had been made, there were still areas where further detail was required, the delays were driving inefficiencies in processes, and that some pressing issues such as veterinary medicines remained unresolved.

The transcript for the evidence session is available here.

Investment Summit

NI Chamber welcomed the Investment Summit that took place on 13 September, which showcased some of the most innovative business and unique economic advantages that Northern Ireland has to offer to over 200 investors.

In support of the Investment Conference, NI Chamber President Cathal Geoghegan and NI Chamber CEO, Suzanne Wylie met with key stakeholders, policymakers and investors throughout the summit further highlighting the economic vibrancy of the region and sharing stories from member companies such as Allstate, Aflac, Citi and Spirit, in how they have established toots for the long-term in Northern Ireland.

As part of the NI Business Alliance, we have welcomed the focus on investment, and encouraged investors to focus on the unique investment opportunities and global potential of Northern Ireland. We will continue to work collaboratively with our colleagues to ensure the business voice is heard driving further inward investment to Northern Ireland.

Public Affairs Forum – The Future of Invest NI – What next?

NI Chamber, in partnership with Phoenix Energy, invites you to the next Public Affairs Forum on Thursday 19 October from 9.00am-11.00am in Allstate NI, Belfast.

This exclusive event will provide NI Chamber’s member businesses with a unique opportunity to learn about the future role of Invest Northern Ireland. Representatives from the Department for the Economy and Invest Northern Ireland will provide their latest update, following publication of the Lyons Review earlier this year.

We are pleased to confirm that Gordon Lyons MLA (DUP) and Conor Murphy MLA (Sinn Fein) will also be in attendance to provide their views on the Review with NI Chamber members. The former Executive Ministers will also share their perspectives on Invest NI’s role in the future economic landscape of Northern Ireland.

Register here

Quarterly Economic Survey

In the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) report from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) and BDO NI, it was revealed that business confidence in Northern Ireland experienced a notable improvement during the second quarter of 2023.

Encouragingly, trading performance for businesses also showed positive trends, although concerns about inflation and labour costs persistently exert pressure on prices. A substantial 74% of businesses expressed serious apprehension regarding the impact of public sector spending cuts on the Northern Ireland economy, with one in three specifically concerned about the repercussions for their own organizations. Key indicators painted an optimistic picture, as more firms reported increasing export sales, employment growth, confidence in turnover and profits, and investment intentions compared to those reporting declines. Though more than half of respondents reported a slowdown in demand, this figure has eased since Q4 2022.

Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive, NI Chamber, said: “The findings clearly demonstrate the resilience of business through a protracted period of challenges. It is encouraging to see the stabilisation of business confidence in the first half of 2023, with a strong performance across so many indicators relative to other UK regions albeit that there remain significant challenges to growth in both the NI and UK’s economies.

“However, the most alarming aspect of the findings this quarter is the perceived impact of Stormont’s fiscal problems on the economy and individual firms. It serves as a timely reminder that a sustainably funded, functioning Executive is the missing piece in unlocking Northern Ireland’s potential and driving confidence and growth.”

  1. A Sustainable Economy


At the beginning of September, NI Chamber met with all five local parties together on the issue of planning reform. The key message was to ask political representatives to reinject momentum into the debate. As a result we have asked each of the political representatives to write to the Department for Infrastructure asking them to consider appointing special commissioners to the Planning Appeals Commission to deal with the resource issue, to confirm whether the role of the Interim Regional Planning Commission is delivering as intended and to host workshops with businesses (directly) before the end of the year on what progress has been made with the planning improvement programme.


On September 5, our Energy Forum, in collaboration with SONI, highlighted the consumer’s pivotal role in guiding the green energy transition. Peter McClenaghan, Director of Infrastructure and Sustainability at the Consumer Council NI, shared insights into Northern Ireland consumers’ understanding of net-zero goals and the necessary attitude and behaviour changes. Sarah Allan, Director of Capacity Building and Standards at Involve, discussed community involvement in the energy transition, citing SONI’s successful engagement in Mid-Antrim.

A panel discussion, featuring Derek Scully from Energia Group, Ian Marshall from QUB and the previous speakers, delved into business-consumer collaboration, the policy landscape, and government initiatives supporting consumers in the green energy transition.

We are also preparing a draft response to the Utility Regulator and Department of Economy’s Grid Connection Policy Review and will make the following observations:

  • The current partially-deep approach is not fit for purpose and puts Northern Ireland at a competitive disadvantage with neighbouring jurisdictions.
  • At NI Chamber we would wish to see a revised policy framework that meets the following objectives:
    • unlocks ambitious projects at scale that contribute to achieving the targets of the NI Cli-mate Change Act and the associated ambitions in the Energy Strategy;
    • restores Northern Ireland’s place as a competitive jurisdiction for both renewable invest-ment and high growth sectors like advanced manufacturing – on the island of Ireland, as a region of the UK and on the global stage, and
    • drives a sustainable economy for the future by delivering value for the consumer, based on good governance, transparency and equitable fair terms and conditions that strikes the right approach for both demand and generation connections alike

Please Get in Touch

Our Public Affairs team are here to help and support members with government relations and public policy. Please get in touch on any of the issues outlined above or any other matters of concern or interest:

Stuart Anderson, Head of Public Affairs

Phil Murray, Policy and Public Affairs Manager