Last month, I visited Northern Ireland to address a meeting of our members in the glorious surroundings of Stormont.
The last few years have been both challenging and frustrating due to the lack of a functioning Executive, never mind the uncertainty of Brexit and the future of the trade border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
It’s disheartening that a building such as Stormont is currently being underused. Political uncertainty in the Assembly has not only led to discomfort across Northern Ireland, but has also led to a blockage in both the planning and development pipelines, causing frustration across all sectors as projects stall, fall behind schedule, and in some cases, fail completely.
There are huge opportunities for infrastructure in the area and major investments for road, rail, and health projects are needed across the country. However, with the political climate being uncertain, budgets are not being created, key planning decisions are not being made, and projects are not being built.
As our Northern Ireland Chair, Stuart MacKenzie said on the evening, “Last year the Secretary of State empowered Senior Civil Servants to make key decisions relating to finance and planning. Whilst this is most welcome, and significant projects are now moving, I think we’ll all agree that this is only a sticking plaster to alleviate our present difficulties.”
That said, the attitude of the attendees at our annual dinner was positive. Although our members are frustrated, they can see that there is a brighter horizon thanks to investors and developers both inside and outside of Northern Ireland.
The City Quays Initiative being rolled out by the Belfast Harbour Commission is a further demonstration of significant inward investment, as is the work at the old Sirocco Plant and the on-going development of the Titanic Quarter.
It’s clear from talking to members that there is opportunity in Northern Ireland, so we'll continue to make the case loud and clear to the decision makers in Stormont to support it and enable our membership to focus their expertise within Northern Ireland as well as further afield.