Realising the “untapped potential and inherent benefits of the all-island economy” will be central to supporting economic recovery and growth for Ireland, north and south, according to An Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
The Taoiseach was addressing CEOs via video link at a virtual event last night, attended by Northern Ireland’s Top 100 companies, hosted by corporate law firm A&L Goodbody (ALG) in partnership with Ulster Business magazine. Each year, the ALG event celebrates the achievements and economic impact of the Top 100 companies.
Mr Martin told attendees that the Irish Government will work with the Northern Ireland Executive through the North South Ministerial Council to deal with strategic challenges facing Ireland, north and south, in the years ahead. These include overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic together, tackling climate breakdown and maximising economic opportunity for the people across the island.
The Taoiseach said: “This Government is putting a major focus on Shared Island and building consensus around a shared future.
“We will advance cross-border infrastructure initiatives, including enhanced road and rail connectivity, and seek an all-island approach to long-term planning.
“We will also work to develop research and innovation capability on an all-island basis to provide critical additional scale and capacity that can realise new, sustainable and shared economic priorities.”
Together with ALG partners and representatives from Ulster Business, the Top 100 CEOs also heard from the Taoiseach on Brexit. Whilst acknowledging that progress has been made in Brexit negotiations, he warned that significant gaps remain, including in the areas of fisheries, level playing field provisions and governance.
“Brexit involves change for all of us, but the protocol also brings the advantage to Northern Ireland of guaranteed access to the European Union Single Market. It should work for the businesses and people of Northern Ireland, and for the all-island economy in as smooth a manner as possible,” he said.
“It is vitally important that the Withdrawal Agreement, including the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, is fully implemented and that you in the business sector have clarity and certainty on its operations.”
Michael Neill, head of ALG’s Belfast office, commented: “As an international law firm with offices in Dublin, Belfast, London and the US, we work with a wide range of indigenous and international companies that see this island as one economy. It’s no surprise to us that many of those companies feature in the Ulster Business Top 100.
“Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 and Brexit, Northern Irish businesses continue to adapt and maximise on the opportunities that exist on these islands. It will be those companies who can adapt in a sustainable way that contribute the most to our economy and society.”
According to John Mulgrew, editor of Ulster Business, the resilience of the Top 100 Companies will be critical as businesses embrace the dual challenges of Brexit and Covid-19 in the months ahead.
“There’s no doubt that the last few months have been extremely difficult for business, and the economy in general,” he said. “But this year’s Ulster Business Top 100 Companies list with A&L Goodbody highlights the success stories we have across the sectors here, with profits and turnover up by around 10% year-on-year.
“The next few months and beyond will likely prove difficult for many firms, adjusting to an economy in recovery and the end of the Brexit transition period. However, our biggest firms, our SMEs, our smaller companies and sole traders have shown their strength and resilience before, and that will continue as we face a post-Covid landscape and build back.”