The President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber), John Healy, has made an impassioned call for mature and visionary political leadership, citing it as essential for securing the prosperity of communities and the fortunes of business.
Speaking at NI Chamber’s sold-out Annual President’s Banquet in ICC Belfast, which was attended by over 900 people, the Allstate NI Managing Director said:
“For the past two and a half years since the Brexit vote, we’ve seen every possible permutation. We’ve been on the brink, we’ve been on a knife edge. There’ve been lights going on and off at the end of tunnels – and still Northern Ireland waits anxiously for the outcome.
“But we’re already feeling the effects. The results of our latest Quarterly Economic Survey with BDO show a continuing dip in business confidence, and a belief that we are entering a recession. This should be a concern for all of us – business leaders, employers, politicians and anyone with a vested interest in the Northern Ireland economy.”
Without such political leadership, Mr Healy said that long-standing issues around innovation, education and skills remain unresolved. He commented:
“When will we see the re-establishment of a Northern Ireland Executive that will help us address these and many other problems– an Executive that’s open, that listens, is committed and competent? We’ve been a rudderless ship for too long. This is a critical juncture for Northern Ireland – a time when we need mature leadership – leaders with vision – leaders who won’t drag us back into the past but will help us navigate the path to the future.”
In contrast though, he had much praise for the talent and vision shown by Northern Ireland’s workforce, who are committed to living and prospering here, despite the current climate:
“Almost 900 international companies have invested here, providing exciting job opportunities. And I, for one, can say with my hand on my heart that among the people of Northern Ireland are some of the most dedicated, passionate and accomplished colleagues that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.
“We’re also bringing talented staff from beyond these shores. They’re coming here and putting down roots – investing their lives and careers in our country’s future.”
He had praise too for the employers making the region a great place to work:
“This evening we’re celebrating local companies creating environments where employees feel understood, appreciated and rewarded. These ‘Champions of Culture Change’ are leading the way in their people strategies – trialling innovative, inclusive new ways of working, with people at the very centre, which results in more resilient businesses.”
Paul Murnaghan, NI Regional Director BT Enterprise added:
“BT is delighted to once again support the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce’s President’s Banquet. The event is a great opportunity to celebrate successes and speak about the opportunities and challenges facing businesses and the NI economy.
“This is a very exciting time for BT. We have big ambitions for the next decade: to do more for our customers and more for this country, bringing all the benefits of technological change to everyone. In Northern Ireland we’re at the forefront of that change, being the first to launch 5G with EE in Belfast. 5G heralds a new wave of digital disruption. It will change everything for businesses as the first truly converged technology making things once thought impossible, possible.
“In recent months we’ve taken some time to think through the role BT can play in this future. The scale and scope of what BT does puts us in a unique position to help. So, with our people, network and technology, we are on a mission to underpin the digital future of NI to help make it an even better place to live, work and for our children to grow up in.”
Joining Mr Healy on stage at the sold-out Banquet was acclaimed documentary film-maker, Louis Theroux. Continuing the people and culture theme, Louis provided an extraordinary insight into his experience of knowing and understanding an incredible range of human behaviours.
The President’s Banquet was sponsored by NI Chamber’s Communications Partner BT, along with supporting sponsors Tughans, Civica, Tourism NI and Grafton Recruitment.