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Executive return must be immediate priority post-election, Chamber President tells business leaders

President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce Aidan O’Kane has told political and business leaders that an immediate Executive return following May’s election must be prioritised by the incoming Assembly.

Mr O’Kane was speaking at the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce’s Annual President’s Lunch which took place at the City Hotel, Derry this afternoon. Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney TD delivered a video message, with Fine Gael’s Seanad Northern Ireland Spokesperson, Senator Emer Currie, also addressing attendees which included over 200 business leaders, politicians and invited guests from across the North West.

Sponsored by Alchemy Technology Services, the event was hosted by broadcaster Claire McCollum and was led by the theme “Sharing Success in the North West”, a celebration of the strong links the city region has across the UK and Ireland.

Aidan O’Kane has said that an absent Executive will deliver nothing for the North West, leading to the loss of outstanding commitments like the expansion of Magee to 10,000 students. The Chamber President has called on Stormont parties to work together to rebuild our economy post-Covid and help businesses thrive, not just survive

Londonderry Chamber of Commerce President, Aidan O’Kane, said:

“Today’s Lunch has taken place at a very significant time for the North West. After two tumultuous years, traders here are finally putting the pandemic behind them, now focusing not on surviving, but thriving and playing their part in the growth of our regional economy.”

“It was excellent to hear from Minister Coveney and Senator Currie, who both have shown strong commitment to the stability of political institutions here. Now, with another political crisis upon us, the collaborative spirit which guided the New Decade, New Approach Agreement are needed more than ever. Outstanding commitments like the expansion of Magee to 10,000 students, increased and improved rail provision, and the full roll-out of City Deal projects simply cannot be lost due to an empty Stormont.”

“The Assembly election is just weeks away, and an immediate and swift Assembly return must be the only priority of parties here. With Covid-19 restrictions now in the rear-view mirror, it is crucial that recovery and rebuild of our economy and hard-hit businesses becomes the focus of the incoming Executive and Assembly. The next mandate and new Programme for Government must turbo-charge our economy and help businesses reach and exceed their pre-pandemic growth.”

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD, said:

“The North West is a unique cross-border city region, transformed from conflict to peace, to growing prosperity. The creativity, resilience and hard work of the business leaders of the North West has played an integral part in that change. The Derry Chamber plays a key role, including through the strong relationship with the Letterkenny Chamber, and the North West operates to a significant degree as a single cross-border economy.”

“North-South cooperation is a key part of the Good Friday Agreement and unlocking the potential of the all-island economy is a key benefit. Increased economic growth on this island benefits us all, threatens nobody, and is a dividend from the peace process we should all share. Therefore, protecting and growing the all-island economy is a major priority for our government and we will continue to support the development of the North West City Region as an integral component of this.”

Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson for Northern Ireland, Senator Emer Currie, said:

“I was thrilled to speak at today’s President’s Lunch, a fantastic celebration of the thriving business community here in Derry. The North West has close links to towns and cities across our island, and it is essential that business and political leaders work in tandem to promote its economic prosperity. Companies here want to make Brexit work, take advantage of the Protocol, and most of all, have an Executive working for them. The cycles of instability that have characterised Stormont simply cannot continue.”

John Harkin, Founder and CEO of Alchemy Technology Services, said:

“Each year the President’s Lunch offers our business community the chance to come together and celebrate the hard work and entrepreneurship that drives the local economy. I was delighted to speak at today’s event, and I look forward to further collaboration with the Chamber in aid of its mission statement to help businesses succeed in a successful North West.”