THE business community is increasingly exasperated at the threat to employment and economic growth of the ongoing flag protests it was claimed today.
Both the employers’ organisation the CBI and the independent retail group NIIRTA warned of the long term consequences of continued trouble in Belfast and the threat of the issue spreading further around the province.
“The violence and disruptive actions of those involved in the street protests is having a detrimental impact on local businesses, as well as damaging prospective tourism and investment for the year ahead,” said CBI Northern Ireland director Nigel Smyth.
“There is now a very real risk of job losses as the very livelihood of the business owners and staff in the communities affected is threatened. We are already aware of investors who have lost interest in Northern Ireland because of these disruptions.”
With the World Fire & Police Games and the G8 Summit due to take place as well as Londonderry’s role as UK City of Culture , he said the eyes of the world were currently on the province.
“Positive action is needed from all quarters and serious discussion is required between political parties and those at community level to resolve all on-going issues, and put an end to the street disturbances.”
NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “Once again we make a plea for the protests and all rioting to end. Many of the areas in East Belfast are crying out for new jobs and private sector investment which is not going to happen while on-going rioting and violence continue.”
“The bottom line in all of this is that political stability and greater progress on the Shared Future agenda are essential for sustained economic development”
The CBI comments came as Colin Walsh was named as the new vice-chairman, due to take over from the current chairman Ian Coulter next January.
Mr Walsh, chairman of Andor Technology and CEO of venture capital firm Crescent Capital, said he was delighted to prepare for the role.
“Our economic success will be determined by trade and investment,” he said.
“We need to nurture the private sector, remove the barriers to investment, and help build a more confident and internationally focused economy.”