Newry Chamber, which represents over 300 businesses across the Greater Newry Area, has called on political parties to return to Stormont to create a functioning government.
Julie Gibbons, President of Newry Chamber said:
“We have been consistent in our message with all NI political parties, GB and EU government officials and a range of stakeholders we have met with this year that the business community deserve and desperately need stability.
We need mature politics where all parties work collectively to come up with creative solutions to problems. This is exactly what the business community does on a daily basis. For every challenge, there is an opportunity. The business community simply want more certainty to ensure this region fulfils its undoubted potential.
Our members have shown tremendous resilience during the Covid pandemic. Just when we thought that the economy was starting to recover, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, energy inflation and staff shortages are presenting fresh challenges.
Therefore the last thing we need is a lack of a functioning Executive with political parties refusing to return to Stormont over the protocol. Our members have adapted to the protocol and many have benefitted from its existence. We know that some aspects of protocol related goods checks are not currently happening due to grace periods being extended, but we firmly believe that these are practical operational matters to be resolved so the best way to resolve outstanding issues and create long-term solutions is by getting around the table.
The business community in our region see the potential of NI having dual access to the GB and EU markets as a positive competitive differentiator which goes some way to make up for decades of trading in such a difficult environment during the Troubles. Already our members are reporting that cross-border trade has grown significantly over the last two years as we are ideally placed in a strategic location on the Eastern Economic Corridor between Belfast and Dublin.
Our internationally focused companies across many sectors have pivoted, adapted and flourished due to our innate levels of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism.
This year, we celebrate 20 years of City Status being attained, and currently Newry is at a momentous crossroads on the back of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council securing significant funding from the Belfast City Deal to progress the Newry City Centre Regeneration Programme as well as the announcement pre-Christmas by the Department of Finance pledging funding for a City Centre Park.
The next ten years could be a real decade of opportunity with Newry and the surrounding area receiving investment, long overdue, seeing life being breathed into projects like the Southern Relief Road, Albert Basin Park, Narrow Water Bridge and Mourne Gateway projects all of which will bring much needed increased visitor numbers.
In line with the global trend businesses in this area are also suffering from a skills recruitment and retention crisis which is a potential growth inhibitor.
As a Chamber, we are working hard with school principals in an education and skills cluster group to think of ways to counter this, but the lack of a progressive NI government is affecting young peoples’ willingness to stay and pursue their careers within the NI economy. It is challenging but it is essential to keep our talent local and to fuel the growth and innovation that we are so capable of, therefore young people, the Generation Z population of NI and frankly, businesses, want and need an environment of mature politics and political stability.
The business community in this area have become used to pushing on regardless of what is happening at a macro-level surrounding it. There is so much potential opportunity, imagine what this entire region could achieve if we were all aligned in our strategic priorities.
Newry Chamber as the leading voice for business in the Greater Newry Area is here to help and assist in any way we can.”