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CBI: Northern Ireland economy to lose £1bn if executive not restored

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry. Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Northern Irish economy stands to lose almost £1bn by the end of 2019 if its power-sharing executive is not restored, according to a new analysis by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Northern Ireland has been without an executive for well over two years due to a political stalemate between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin.

Details of the analysis, announced in a Thursday speech by CBI chief Carolyn Fairbairn, come in the middle of talks on restoring power-sharing that involve five of Northern Ireland’s main political parties.

“The political impasse has left Northern Ireland without a functioning government for more than 860 days — the longest ever peacetime government deadlock,” Fairbairn said.

The total loss to the economic output of Northern Ireland if the talks do not result in a restoration of the executive by the end of the year could be approximately £940m, she warned.

“I have just one message to those involved in power-sharing talks here in Belfast: Why not adopt the business approach? You bear a historic responsibility,” Fairbairn said, noting that, for successful companies, “stalemate simply is not an option.”

The business community in Northern Ireland is “crying out” for compromise, she said.

A five-week negotiation process to restore power-sharing, the first since February 2018, was formally opened by the British and Irish governments earlier this month.

READ MORE: Talks on restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland begin

The launch of the negotiations came in the wake of the murder of journalist Lyra McKee, who was shot by dissident republicans in Londonderry in April.

UK prime minister Theresa May and her Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar urged Northern Ireland’s political leaders to heed the “unmistakable message” heard at her funeral.

Delivering a eulogy at the funeral, Catholic priest Martin Magill was given a standing ovation when he asked why it took the death of the 29-year-old McKee to get politicians to come together.

The collapse of power-sharing in January 2017 followed a scandal involving a failed renewable energy incentive scheme known as the Renewable Heat Incentive.

But talks have not progressed for a number of reasons, including Sinn Féin’s objections to both the DUP’s use of a parliamentary mechanism to prevent the introduction of same-sex marriage and its position on the Irish language.

Both parties also fundamentally disagree about Brexit, with the DUP staunchly in favour of the UK’s departure from the EU and Sinn Féin opposed.

READ MORE: CBI chief says no-deal Brexit could put Irish economy on ice —permanently

Fairbairn spoke Thursday at the CBI’s annual Northern Ireland dinner. Speaking in Dublin earlier, she warned that a no-deal Brexit could permanently hamper the island of Ireland’s economy.