21 January 2020 Thought Leadership
So, our politicians have managed to finally put their differences to one side and agree to back a deal which sees them end three years of stalemate. Well done to everyone involved. Stable government is essential if we want to attract investment.
Putting the effect of the UK’s General Election and Boris’ new majority to one side, let’s start with a massive thank you to our underpaid, overworked nurses. After all, if it hadn’t been for their very effective strike action, we might not have reached this stage.
There is a renewed air of optimism whilst the people await results. As many of the politicians have said themselves, this is probably the last time the people will allow local politicians a chance at devolved government. Fingers crossed that the renewed effort delivers results.
Northern Ireland is a different place than it was three years ago, and tangible long-term results can only be achieved if the new Executive find a better way of working. This doesn’t just mean new ways of working with each other but also how they will work with all of those who have kept the lights on during the last three years. It’s time for real partnership inside and outside Parliament Buildings.
There is a very long list of “others” who need to be part of the partnership to get Northern Ireland back to business.
Along with our nurses, we should also be thanking the host of people who stepped into the void to provide some semblance of leadership while the political classes were on their gap years.
As a businessperson, the most obvious for me came from the business community. The likes of the CBI, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Institute of Directors, Trade NI and many others have had to act as the sole link between Northern Ireland business and Westminster, airing fears and opportunities, voicing all of our Brexit concerns and helping shape policy. Our politicians should have been shouldering much of that burden.
Individual bosses like Beannchor’s Bill Wolsey and Elvenna Graham have also not shied away from putting their heads above the parapet for the greater good, continually calling for a return to the assembly and an end to the intransigence.
Leaders in other areas of the public sector have also stepped up to the plate over the last few years to get things done. Council chief executives such as Suzanne Wylie at Belfast City Council set aside the stalemate at Stormont and got on with reinvigorating our cities and regions under the new council structure. Along with Invest Northern Ireland, they’ve helped deliver inward investment for the region, attracting investors from across the world and wooing some of the biggest and most exciting technology to these shores. Meanwhile, the civil service felt the enormous pressure of the absence of Ministers and worked tirelessly to keep some level of decision making and progress whilst having their hands tied behind their backs.
These are just some of the entities who have kept the home fires burning and the Northern Ireland economy on an upward trajectory since 2017.
What we must now ensure is that these stalwarts aren’t swept aside as the incoming Executive resumes its proper role. They have fully established themselves as worthy stand-ins for a government. The focus now must be on building true and wide partnership to focus on social and economic progress.
They are much more than "stand in"leaders and now need to take a seat if not at the table then very close to it; certainly, closer than the arm’s length away they were kept in the last incarnation of the Executive. They have proven they know what they’re talking about when it comes to what is needed in Northern Ireland and their counsel should be sought at all levels of government to make sure the Executive delivers not just for their own political wings but for everyone in Northern Ireland.
If our new Executive is savvy enough to harness this collective will and intellect then Northern Ireland really does have a very bright future, Brexit or no Brexit. Collaboration and partnership is the way forward, partnership with each other up at Stormont but also true collaboration with the civil service, our local councils, government agencies, universities and colleges, business representative bodies, public sector membership organisations and society at large.
To once again paraphrase Nina Simone who opened this missive, it really is a new day.
Katie Doran, Partner at Lanyon