Senior business leaders attended an exclusive CBI lunch briefing with the Northern Ireland First Minister, Arlene Foster MLA, and deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness MLA, this afternoon (02 August) to discuss their vision for the NI economy and how business can help the NI Executive achieve its economic aims.
The event took place at the Europa Hotel Belfast, and included insights from Robin McCormick, General Manager at SONI and Jackie Henry, Senior Partner, Deloitte.
David Gavaghan, CBI Northern Ireland Chair, said: “Never has it been more important for the Executive and the business community in Northern Ireland to engage constructively in regular dialogue. Accordingly, the CBI greatly welcomes today’s meeting with the First Minister & deputy First Minister; developing a clear plan for our economic future is fundamental to attracting global investment and create 50,000 new jobs over the next five years.
“Whatever the future EU negotiations may bring, business leaders were unanimous that there is the need to take immediate action to promote the domestic economy. In particular we must improve our global competitiveness through continuing to invest in education and skills, driving innovation and enterprise, and improving our infrastructure. In relation to the latter, energy is a key element and delivering the second North/South electricity interconnector is a real priority for all our citizens.”
First Minister, Arlene Foster MLA, said: “I thank the CBI for the opportunity to discuss and debate ideas on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Northern Ireland.
“The Executive remains resolutely ambitious about our future. We have already initiated work to consider the implications on how the outcome of the referendum will impact Northern Ireland. We are united in our determination to deliver for all communities and build a better future. This is a time to harness fresh thinking and new ideas. It is a time to tap in to the wealth of innovative thinking that does not shy away from challenge but instead embraces it.
“Northern Ireland offers an excellent business proposition for investors. It is, and it will continue to be, business as usual as we seek to bring more investment, more jobs and more prosperity to Northern Ireland. Creating the kind of economy we aspire to requires effort on all our parts. It isn’t just a job for Government but one for all of us, working in partnership to deliver the best possible results for Northern Ireland.
“The reshaping Economic Strategy to align with the outcomes set out in the new Programme for Government will take account of our changing economy and the CBI will be a key partner in this important element of work. I pay tribute to outgoing Director Nigel Smyth for all the great work he has done with the organisation and welcome Angela McGowan to her new post.”
The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA, said: “I thank retiring CBI Director, Nigel Smyth for his 26 years of service to society in the north of Ireland. I congratulate and look forward to working with the new CBI Director, Angela McGowan who will be taking up post at the start of October at what is a critical juncture in our future.
“Following the result of the referendum businesses, the community and voluntary sector and the education sector are seeking certainty and stability. It is our job as political leaders to work with organisations like the CBI to create the best possible conditions and circumstances for them to continue to operate, challenging as that may be. The First Minister and I may have been on different sides of the Brexit argument prior to the referendum but we are on the same side when it comes to wanting what is best for our economy and society.
“We thank the CBI for their substantive response to the public consultation on the draft Programme for Government and look forward to your views on the full Programme for Government which will be issued for public consultation after it has been agreed by the Executive in September.“