Annual lunch told NI is ‘open for business’

Chamber SM Farm
GROUP: At the President's Annual Lunch, held at Belfast City Hall, were NI Chamber President Ellvena Graham; BBC broadcaster and media guru Andrew Neil, BT Managing Director Colm O'Neill and NI Chamber Chief Executive Ann McGregor. PICTURE: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

Despite a political process “gripped by paralysis”, Northern Ireland is still very much open for business – that was the message delivered by NI Chamber President Ellvena Graham as she addressed over 400 people from business and politics at Belfast City Hall.

Ms Graham was speaking at the NI Chamber President’s Annual Lunch, supported by NI Chamber’s Communications Partner BT and supporting sponsors Cleaver Fulton Rankin and Dell EMC.

She said: “Since the Executive collapsed a year and a half ago we’ve been stuck in a no-man’s land somewhere between devolution and direct rule with the Civil Service shouldering all the responsibility. Now even that arrangement is up in the air.

“Just look at some of the projects that could be left in limbo – the North-South Interconnector, the upgrade of the A5, Belfast power station and the £150m ultra-fast broadband project for example. Each of these is of vital importance to the business community and to Northern Ireland as a whole.

“We need to see more energy and more willingness being injected into the efforts to restore devolution. We need political stability and we need it today just as much as we ever did. We need our political representatives to be focused on the future, not the past. We need them to be our standard-bearers, particularly in this crucial period as we move closer towards Brexit.”

Ms Graham continued: “However we must also get the message out that whilst our political process may be gripped by paralysis, the rest of Northern Ireland is not – we’re very much open for business.

“In the past year I’ve experienced the fantastic diversity, innovation and enthusiasm that NI Chamber members represent, in every corner of the country – all of them doing great things.

“And there is significant export success – export is growing. It’s our strong belief that the export market is the key to growth for Northern Ireland firms. And many of them are showing the way.

“Selling beyond the home market is about to get a lot more complicated, whatever way the Brexit negotiations pan out. However we have examples of companies who are ready, willing and able to face the challenge. And there are many more like them.”

Guests at the sold-out lunch also heard from renowned BBC broadcaster and media guru Andrew Neil, who provided a keynote address on the power of the media.

The Daily Politics and This Week presenter is one of the most familiar figures in television and the Press having been the UK Editor of The Economist, Editor of The Sunday Times, Executive Chairman of Sky TV and Executive Editor of Fox TV News USA.


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