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View from the Foyle: Time to focus minds for last quarter of 2021

By Paul Clancy, Chief Executive of the Londonderry Chamber.

As summer tails off and we look towards the final few months of the year, minds naturally turn to the future. With our elected representatives back at Stormont for the final stretch before next year’s Assembly election and some crucial legislation that is yet to be progressed, it’s likely to be a busy few months for us all.

Political controversy rumbles on over the NI Protocol, with Northern Ireland’s largest party recently threatening to bring down the local institutions if it isn’t removed in the next few months. What must be reiterated and made clear, however, is that an absent Executive benefits absolutely nobody. We’ve only relatively recently returned from a three-year hiatus which saw our waiting lists rise, our economy suffer, and all but essential public services grind to a halt.

Political stability is the most fundamental factor for economic growth, prosperity, and investment. Without it, nothing else can fall into place. It’s vital that our elected representatives work out challenges or difficulties constructively and our devolved government cannot and must not be used as a political pawn. Political decision making must remain local and reactive to our needs – a fallen Assembly may not rise again.

The Chamber has spoken regularly during the spring and summer about our optimism for the future, especially here in the North West. Our positivity remains unaffected. Our businesses have had a strong summer as tourists and visitors returned and our shops, bars, restaurants, and hotels reopened. The £100 High Street Voucher Scheme is an exciting and substantial initiative which will really boost our city and town centres and help breathe life back into our high streets. We hope that people will use their vouchers in the city centre, supporting local and independent businesses which have had it especially tough over the past 18 months. And while we are pleased with the reopening of the economy to this point, it’s now crucial that the Executive brings us into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland and publishes a roadmap out of all remaining restrictions which will help all our businesses operate with greater ease and freedom.

From a Chamber perspective, the final quarter of 2021 is gearing up to be a very busy period. Our flagship event of the year, kindly sponsored by Find Insurance, the President’s Annual Dinner takes place in the Everglades Hotel on Friday 8 October and we’re excited to welcome over 200 of our colleagues, friends, and members to celebrate Dawn McLaughlin’s year in office. The pandemic has been incredibly tough for business owners and leaders of all kinds, and this will be the first opportunity for many of us to get back together again and recognise the fantastic business community we have here in the North West.

We’ve worked hard over the summer for our members, continuing with our regular series of webinars, workshops, and information sessions. We have met with elected representatives from all the major parties, discussing our issues and the challenges facing local businesses, and offering our solutions. Thankfully, and to their credit, we’ve found all parties to be in listening mode, especially as we come out the other side of the pandemic. This is the energy and the attitude that will fix our issues and address Northern Ireland’s challenges and we hope this spirit maintains as we approach the winter.