Reacting to the news that a deal has been tabled by the Secretary of State and Tánaiste to restore devolution, Trade NI (the alliance of Retail NI, Manufacturing NI and Hospitality Ulster) in a joint statement commented: “We welcome the draft deal published by the British and Irish Governments in the final round of talks to restore devolution. We strongly encourage all the main parties of Northern Ireland to sign the deal today and get the Assembly back up and running.”
“As our three organisations represent the majority of the businesses that make up private sector jobs in Northern Ireland, we are cautiously hopeful that the deal and a return of the Assembly will see the development of policies and legislation at devolved level and the kick start that our economy desperately needs. The clear prioritisation of the Northern Ireland economy highlights the many challenges that businesses have faced over the past three years and our message to the parties is that we support you in your endeavours to secure this deal.”
“While this is a good start, improvements are still needed to drive the economy forward and support the growth of business across Northern Ireland. As stated in our Vision 2030 document, Northern Ireland’s potential is significant but reform and growth is needed to create the modern economy we are capable of and deserve.”
Kirsty McManus, National Director, Institute of Directors Northern Ireland (IoD NI) said: “The ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal is to be welcomed, filled with ambition that, if fulfilled, can deliver real improvements for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.
“We would therefore urge all parties to get behind the deal to enable the speedy restoration of the Executive.
“Commitments from the British and Irish governments for some crucial pieces of infrastructure such as the York Street Interchange, upgrades to the A5 and A6 road and Northern Ireland’s wastewater network are particularly pleasing.
“The expansion of university provision at the Magee Campus in Derry meanwhile will go some way to rebalancing the regional economy.
“Plans for multi-year budgets and increased civic engagement will also improve overall governance.
“From a business perspective however, we would have liked to have seen more around a new skills agenda, which urgently require focus alongside a renewed look at the Apprenticeship Levy which is not included in this deal.
“On behalf of our members, we will also monitor closely commitments to bring forward legislation that will allow unfettered access to the Great Britain market for local business following Brexit.”
Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director, said: “Northern Irish businesses are breathing a collective sigh of relief. As the UK moves closer to leaving the EU, the need for a strong voice from Northern Ireland has never been more important. It’s time to reaffirm Northern Ireland’s reputation as a great place to do business.
“After 3 years of under-investment and political stalemate, this bold and ambitious deal is what Northern Ireland needs to get back onto its feet. Commitments made by the UK and Irish governments on infrastructure and an independent fiscal council are very much welcomed.
“CBI Northern Ireland will continue to work with policymakers and bring evidence to the table, so that together we can deliver ambitious solutions to the economic and environmental challenges that we face.”
Northern Ireland Local Government Association Chief Executive Derek McCallan said: “I am very pleased that the British and Irish governments have tabled a draft deal on restoring the NI Executive. I hope that an agreement can be reached quickly to get the Stormont institutions back up and running immediately. For three years, our eleven local councils have been the only functioning form of democratically elected government in Northern Ireland. Local government has been a vital democratic anchor during this period and ensured the provision of crucial public services for local citizens.
“It’s time to bridge the democratic deficit and unlock the potential of local government in Northern Ireland by investing in our local councils. An Executive commitment to a Devolution Bill and greater financial powers and resources will drive a transformation in Northern Ireland’s democratic governance and help create a more sustainable democracy, environment and economy for Northern Ireland.”
In a joint statement urging politicians to accept the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal, NI Chamber President John Healy, Vice-President Ian Henry and Chief Executive Ann McGregor, said: “After three years of paralysis, we now have a workable deal that will allow an Executive to start addressing the problems within our health service and education system. They will also be able to take action to grow our economy and support the community and voluntary sector.
“We therefore encourage the five main political parties to progress it urgently. Business, health and education cannot wait any longer – failure is not an option.
“Now is the time for our politicians to show mature leadership and help navigate a path to the future by accepting this deal.”
Commenting on the Deal, Simon Hamilton, CEO of Belfast Chamber said: “Belfast Chamber welcomes progress towards the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and encourages the local political parties to reach agreement. For the last 3 years, our members have seen how an absence of decision making has stunted growth and stifled investment. The proposed priorities for the Executive contain some issues which Belfast Chamber has been supportive of for some time. Other policies which could boost our economy are noticeably missing but we look forward to joining with our colleagues across the business community to ensure that the new Executive pursues an agenda that grows jobs and boosts our economy.
FSB NI Policy Chair, Tina McKenzie, has welcomed the agreement published last night by the Secretary of State, Julian Smith and the Tánaiste Simon Coveney, and urged parties to reach agreement so we can begin to address the many issues affecting our economy and society.
Commenting, Tina McKenzie said: “Businesses will welcome the agreement published last night as a step forward towards restoring devolved government, something for which FSB has been calling since the collapse of the institutions three years ago.
“The draft agreement contains some positive commitments to bolster the local economy, on issues like skills, infrastructure and Brexit. However, the return of devolution is by no means a panacea; it just means that at long last we have elected representatives in place to tackle a very difficult task.
“The next Executive must move quickly to deliver on the myriad issues which have been left unaddressed for far too long. While the health service will be high on the agenda, we must not lose sight of the need to bolster our SME economy, which is the absolute bedrock on which the first-class public services to which we all aspire are built.
“Ministers must move swiftly to support our economy at one of the most turbulent times for many decades, starting by lowering the rates burden on small businesses, whilst also moving forward rapidly with key infrastructure projects which have stalled; and ensuring that our schools, colleges, and universities are providing students with the skills they need for the jobs of the future.
“In order to begin to address these issues, the parties must put pragmatism first and get back round the Executive table.”
Colin Neill, Chief Executive, Hospitality said: “We encourage all parties to seize this opportunity and sign up to the deal published late last night to get the Assembly and Executive back as quickly as possible.
“This is the best chance to bring the devolved government back to life. Our message to the party leaders is clear, we support you in your endeavours and encourage you to get the New Decade, New Approach agreement over the line today.”
Following a meeting between business and civic representatives with the five political parties on Thursday evening, Redmond McFadden, President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said: “The Londonderry Chamber as well as other representatives of business, education, health, trade unions and civic organisations, held a meeting with the five main political parties at Stormont last night.
“At that meeting we pressed the urgent need for the parties to agree the draft deal which was published by the British and Irish Governments. Three years without Ministers making local decisions has had an enormous impact on our economy and wider society. A lack of effective and meaningful representation here is curtailing investment in our region, stifling job creation and driving our young people away.
“Society can only prosper when there is political and economic stability. At this crucial time, we want to demonstrate our firm support for the deal and were clear to party representatives that we must get the Executive up and running again.
“We know there is still some heavy lifting to be done but we are here to support the parties and the two Governments and we would strongly encourage people to support politicians in their efforts to get a deal done before another deadline passes.
“Working together, political, business and civic leaders can help ensure that we move forward as a society and leave no one behind.”
Owen Reidy, Assistant General Secretary of ICTU said: “In everyday life we deal with disputes between our unions and employers and reach compromises all the time. Now we need our political parties to do the same. We urgently need compromise and a deal for all the citizens in Northern Ireland. Time is marching on and our society is suffering greatly as a result. We would not only urge the parties to get this deal across the line, but would urge the public to support them in their efforts to restore devolution.”
Ivor Ferguson, UFU said: “Following three years of a political vacuum, and now facing our biggest ever threat in the form of Brexit, farmers and the agri-food sector urgently need an Executive up and running in Northern Ireland. It is imperative that we use this opportunity to show support to our political leaders in securing a deal. The interests of Northern Ireland will be best served by having local Ministers in place, and making decisions that will protect our region and grow our economy for the benefit of everyone who lives here.”