Speaking in the Europa Hotel, Mr Donaldson, said: “At this election we have a five-point plan to build a better future for Northern Ireland, within the Union by fixing our National Health Service, growing our economy, helping working families, working to see the removal of the Irish Sea Border and keeping our schools world-class.
“When our economy is thriving, Northern Ireland thrives. I have no doubt that Northern Ireland’s businesses are on the right path to recover, rebuild and rebound back stronger than ever. In the next Assembly term, we want to support 20,000 new jobs. We have ambitious targets to grow the Northern Ireland economy in the next five years, across a whole range of sectors, from technology to tourism, construction and retail.”
NI Chamber’s vice-president, Gillian McAuley also spoke, stressing that the incoming Executive should focus on areas of strategic importance including promoting Northern Ireland internationally, skilling up for a green and digital future and speeding up planning decisions.
She explained: “To achieve any of this successfully, we need to see all of our political representatives around the Executive table, focusing on creating the conditions for a flourishing private sector. At NI Chamber, we believe that Northern Ireland is a unique place and that our focus should be on what makes us a uniquely brilliant place to work, live and do business. As a region, we enjoy unrivalled access to both the EU and UK markets, creating opportunities for exports, FDI and international collaboration. We have a youthful, highly skilled workforce with high levels of wellbeing in a cost competitive location, which is recovering rapidly from the pandemic. By working collaboratively, we have a tangible opportunity to lead in the innovation and operation of digital and green technologies as we aim for net zero 2050 – or earlier.
“As we gather this morning, Northern Ireland has a window of opportunity to excel in a number of spaces. The next set of Ministers and MLAs must get to work quickly, put party politics aside and deliver the certainty and stability that businesses, their employees and everyone in Northern Ireland deserves.”
Klair Neenan, managing director, SSE Airtricity, added: “The recent passing of Northern Irelands’ Climate Bill by the Assembly will be critical in driving investment in low carbon infrastructure and green growth. The Bill sets a target of 80% renewable electricity by 2030, something which shows just how pivotal the energy sector will be in reaching our decarbonisation objectives.
“The new Energy Strategy, published at the end of 2021 by the Department for the Economy highlights the need to drastically improve the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses. The Strategy sets a target of 25% energy savings by 2030, equating to 50,000 retrofits a year. SSE Airtricity wants to be at the forefront of delivering this change in Northern Ireland, offering a ‘One Stop Shop’ solution for customers in undertaking retrofit projects to make their homes warmer, more environmentally friendly and less costly to run. The prize for doing all of this will be a sustainable energy system, which reduces costs for consumers and our exposure to global fossil fuel prices, and ultimately increases the attractiveness of Northern Ireland to international investment.”
The 5 Leaders; 5 Days series continues this week and next, with upcoming events featuring Colum Eastwood, SDLP, Doug Beattie, UUP, Naomi Long, Alliance and Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein.
To register for a place in the audience please visit the NI Chamber website.