North urged to embrace ‘transformative benefits’ of all-island economy

‘Floundering’ economy in North needs ‘clear vision’ to unlock growth, business leader says

Northern Ireland needs to embrace the "transformative benefits" of the all-island economy in order to kick-start economic growth again, one of the North's top business leaders has urged.

Angela McGowan, Northern Ireland director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), told business chiefs and economists in Belfast on Tuesday that the North's economy is currently floundering and a "clear vision" is needed to unlock growth "across the island of Ireland and between the British-Irish isles".

Ms McGowan said existing co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic on key areas such as energy, healthcare and infrastructure should not just be viewed as a matter of “convenience” for both parts of the island.

“North-South partnership can deliver higher growth, less deprivation, more people and communities included and sharing in this island’s prosperity.


“Partnership with government is essential, that means restoring power-sharing institutions, but so is capitalising on vital east-west trade links and making the best use of our all-island economy,” she added.

According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency the Republic was the North's top export market in 2018, worth an estimated £3.2 billion (€3.7 billion).

All-time high

But exports are not just moving in one direction on the island, according to the cross-Border body InterTradeIreland, which suggests that trade has hit an all-time high.

The Dublin Chamber estimates that for more than half (51 per cent) of Irish exporters Northern Ireland is the key destination for more than half of their exports, while Northern Ireland also accounts for more than 10 per cent of total Irish exports to the UK.

Ms McGowan said businesses recognise how vital cross-Border trade is to the North and the Republic, which is why securing a Brexit deal remains one of their top concerns.

But she said Brexit is just one item on a “lengthy” shopping list of issues that businesses in the North want addressed.

“It’s time for a clear vision for the local economy, one that focuses on economic fundamentals to keep Northern Ireland competitive and unlocks growth across the island of Ireland and between the British-Irish isles,” Ms McGowan added.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business