Minister concerned that only one NI firm on award shortlist


THE NORTH’S Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster, has expressed disappointment that, of 18 companies shortlisted for The Irish TimesInterTradeIreland Innovation Awards, only one is from Northern Ireland.

The DUP Minister told the Assembly yesterday that she was going to raise her concerns with InterTradeIreland (ITI), which was one of the North-South bodies established after the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

“I am hugely disappointed that there is only one Northern Ireland company in relation to the 18 companies that have been shortlisted.

“As I understand it, this is not a new phenomenon. When I looked into this matter, there were only two shortlisted last year and only one in 2010,” she said. “So, there is a pattern here, and I have to ask the question: why is this the case?”

She continued: “When I asked about who was judging these awards I learned that, apart from InterTradeIreland staff, all the judges are from the Republic of Ireland. This is something that does cause me grave concern.”

The DUP Assembly member for Strangford, Simon Hamilton, said the awards were ignoring the North. “Is it any wonder that the judging panel has ignored Northern Ireland innovators when you learn from the enterprise Minister that, aside from an ITI official, it is populated entirely with people from the Irish Republic?”

Michael McAleer, editor of The Irish Times Innovationmagazine, said: “Within The Irish TimesInterTradeIreland awards programme, there is a specific award for North-South collaboration. As with every other year, this will be presented during the awards ceremony on Wednesday, February 28th.

“In the other six categories, applicants are judged on innovative application, not on location.”

He added: “It should also be noted that last year’s overall winner, Intune Networks, has its design centre in Belfast, where it employs over 40 people.”