If Northern Ireland’s economy was a business it would be bankrupt, the head of one of Northern Ireland’s most influential trade bodies has said, adding that to transform its fortunes it must make the most of it advantage of its dual access to the market following Brexit. .
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Paul Murnaghan told the organization’s annual dinner that the region was well below its economic weight but was “held by the dead hand of political division – seeing eternal obstacles, not opportunities”.
“To put it bluntly, if this place was a business, we would more than likely be out of business,” he said.
However, Northern Ireland has a chance to transform if it can make the most of the access to Britain and the European Union granted to it under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“I am an optimist and especially tonight I would like to try to focus on optimism and opportunity,” he said. “Throughout the process we have been guided by our members, 70% of whom believe that Northern Ireland’s unique status presents opportunities for the region.
“I truly believe we are in the starting blocks for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Northern Ireland. Our economy has so many of the ingredients needed for economic success.
“We have exceptional talent, creativity and innovation. We are developing in sectors with high growth potential.
Mr Murnaghan said there are also opportunities in the workforce, particularly the high levels of long-term economic inactivity which have been the Achilles heel of Northern Ireland’s economy for years .
“Rather than seeing this as a problem, could we reimagine this as an opportunity?” he asked, adding that a less segregated education system would also help.
“Today, only 7% of our students benefit from an integrated education. The Independent Education Review is a real chance to ensure that every young person can benefit from a high-quality education, and above all, with reconciliation at its heart.
He said collaboration was the key to future success.
“Northern Ireland has enormous potential. Of course, the old problems remain but it is time for us to shake off the shackles of the past and we must move forward together. We need to see our businesses, our political leaders, our communities, all working together and focusing on what unites us, in the best interests of Northern Ireland.