Northern Ireland

Business chief sounds warning over Stormont stalemate

Caroline Fairbairn
Image caption Carolyn Fairbairn pointed to the failure of Northern Ireland to provide a regional industrial strategy

NI's economy risks falling further behind other UK regions if devolved government is not restored, the head of the UK's biggest business lobby group has warned.

The CBI's Carolyn Fairbairn pointed to the failure to implement a new industrial strategy.

"I look at Manchester, or the west Midlands which published an industrial strategy last week," she said.

"NI has so much potential, but needs a working government."

Northern Ireland has been without devolved government since January 2017, when the DUP and Sinn Féin executive collapsed in a row over a botched green energy scheme.

Civil servants have been running public services but must be guided by decisions made by the executive before it collapsed.

An industrial strategy was published in draft form in 2017, but a final version was not approved by the executive.

Similarly, a new tourism strategy cannot be implemented without a Stormont minister in place.

'No choice but to reach consensus'

The Department of Finance recently began a review of commercial property taxes, but any recommendations will need ministerial approval.

Speaking to an audience of business leaders in Belfast, Ms Fairbairn said: "In boardrooms across the country, business leaders know all about differences of opinion and robust debate.

"But for the most successful among them, stalemate simply is not an option. They have no choice but to reach consensus.

"Business is crying out for compromise because the cost of failure now would be so great."

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