Belfast Chamber President Alana Coyle has told an audience of 450 business leaders at the organisation’s President’s Lunch that a restored Executive is essential for NI’s future economic success.


The event – sponsored by global law firm Eversheds Sutherland – was held today in the Crowne Plaza at Shaw’s Bridge and was addressed by the Tánaiste and Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin TD.


Speaking at the Lunch, Belfast Chamber President Alana Coyle said, “Recent political events and the upcoming Presidential visit have once again thrust this tiny corner of the world into the international spotlight.  We have been reminded that we may be small, but we are perfectly positioned. We are located on the edge of Europe, but we are still very much at the centre of things.  And that helps us remember that looking beyond Belfast to markets outside of Northern Ireland will be at the centre of Belfast’s future economic success.


We have talented people working in innovative companies. We have world leading research flowing from our city’s two universities. And we may, as the Prime Minister has said be “the world’s most exciting economic zone” with access to both the UK and EU single market.   All of the elements to grab the attention of an international investor are in place – bar one.  


Investors see the opportunity, but they watch and, indeed, likely scratch their heads when they hear that one important ingredient is missing – a government making decisions and generating the sort of stability that is a basic building block of any investible city or region.  


As we sit on the cusp of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, we know all too well from real life experience that peace and political stability are essential for our economic success.  Prior to 1998, a US FDI was as rare in Belfast as a cruise ship or an open top sightseeing bus.


It would be wrong to paint an apocalyptic picture that without the return of government all of those investors will up sticks or tourists will never again visit our city.  But let us be real.  How do we easily explain the ongoing, indefinite absence of an administration to a potential investor without it damaging our sales pitch?


Belfast Chamber has supported the efforts to find solutions on the Northern Ireland Protocol that represent a durable outcome that both protects consumers and gives businesses the certainty they need.  But we were always realistic enough to appreciate that because Brexit wasn’t a perfect situation, finding a perfect solution to its complex challenges was always unlikely.


In business, we understand the need to take some time to do your due diligence and consider your options.  But we also know that you can’t take forever and that you need to act.  Delay is damaging. Uncertainty has a cost. Opportunities are lost.  Decisions are required.”.    


Matthew Howse, Dispute Resolution and Litigation Partner, Eversheds Sutherland Belfast added:


“Eversheds Sutherland were pleased to support today’s Belfast Chamber President’s Lunch. As the largest and most established international law firm on the island of Ireland, we were encouraged to hear the positive remarks from Tánaiste Micheál Martin as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and how we can work together on all-island basis to harness the full potential of the Northern Irish economy.


“Today’s theme, ‘Global Belfast’ resonates with a global firm like Eversheds Sutherland. We work with local companies to help them grow and trade globally, combining local insight and knowledge with international expertise and resource. As we look to the next 25 years, we will continue to work with local businesses to ensure that Belfast and Northern Ireland remains outward facing and globally minded.”