NI’s biggest industry bodies rule out direct rule

Northern Ireland’s three biggest industry bodies have called on local parties to “redouble” their efforts to restart locally devolved government.

Glyn Roberts

The joint statement was released Thursday by Hospitality Ulster, Retail NI and Manufacturing NI which combined represent the employers of tens of thousands of workers.

The employers groups expressed concern over the possible return of Direct Rule, handing powers back to Westminster.

The statement was released after what was described as an “excellent” meeting between the groups and new Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Smith.

Calling for a return of the NI Assembly, which has been suspended since January, the chief executives of the three organisations, Colin Neill, Glyn Roberts and Stephen Kelly said in a joint statement: “Our respective members are deeply frustrated at the continual deadlock at Stormont and are concerned that Direct Rule is a likely prospect.

“While Devolution was never perfect, it was considerably better having locally elected and accountable Ministers in place.”

Colin Neill – Picture by Brian Thompson/Presseye

“Growing our retail, hospitality and manufacturing sectors is essential for the future of Northern Ireland and its economy.”

Retail, hospitality and manufacturing represent the largest industry sectors in Northern Ireland, employing tens of thousands of workers with a turnover of billions to the local economy.

Referring to the meeting with the Labour shadow minister, the statement added: “We had an excellent meeting with the Shadow Secretary of State, addressing issues such as Brexit, VAT and City Deals for Belfast and Derry.

Owen Smith

“It is important that the Labour Party continues to hold the Government to account and also sets out its alternative policy platform for the Northern Ireland economy.”

After the meeting, Owen Smith also urged local parties to come together and resolve their differences in order to keep the devolved assembly from dissolution.

“Businesses in Northern Ireland are

Stephen Kelly

clear that it wants to see the Executive up and running ASAP,” he said. “They are right that locally based and accountable politicians are best to take decisions about economic development.

“The parties and two Governments must now redouble their efforts to bring about restoration of the devolved institutions to give a voice to Northern Ireland’s Business community and its citizens during the Brexit negotiations and beyond.”

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