NI enterprise minister responds to welfare criticism

Minister calls for government and business to work together

NI enterprise minister Jonathan Bell

NI enterprise minister Jonathan Bell

 

Northern Ireland’s enterprise minister has responded directly to growing criticism from the North’s business community over the ongoing welfare crisis and budget rows by asking them to “work in partnership” with local political leaders.

Appealing to more than 100 senior business leaders at a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) briefing in Belfast , Jonathan Bell said it was a time for government and business to work together in order to enable the local economy to “grow, prosper and achieve its full potential”.

The minister said: “Despite the current challenging economic environment, we are seeing positive signs across our key sectors. A culture of cooperation between government and business will be vital as we look to build a thriving economy and boost growth.”

But CBI Northern Ireland chairman, Colin Walsh, said no politician in the North should be under any illusion about how frustrated the business community was with the current political situation.

“We do not want to see ongoing political instability and indecisiveness. We all know this undermines confidence in investment decisions that could be taken by either existing employers, or new potential investors, considering an investment here that would bring jobs.

“The Stormont House Agreement needs to be implemented in full. The deal reached by the parties last December was a very significant achievement. Our politicians need to get back to the table to reconcile on a proper budget – and quickly - that bridges the gaps between the parties that subsequently emerged,” Mr Walsh added.

The CBI chairman, who is managing director of Belfast-based venture capital fund manager, Crescent Capital, said the business community had a straight forward message to political leaders; “Get on with it”.

“Unless we find a resolution, and soon, I fear that the very foundations of the platform of peace and prosperity that all of us worked so hard over the last two decades to achieve, are under threat,” Mr Walsh said.