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Northern Ireland

Question of Irish Border 'Litmus Test for a sucessful Brexit' IoD Director General says

13 Feb 2017
Stephen Martin, James Brokenshire, Ian Sheppard, Catriona Gibson, Dale Guest at the IoD NI Annual Dinner

IoD’s newly appointed Belfast-born Director General Stephen Martin addresses IoD NI’s Annual Dinner

Getting the question of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic right will be the “litmus test of a successful Brexit”, the newly appointed Director General of the Institute of Directors (IoD) has said. Belfast-born Stephen Martin was addressing more than 200 delegates at the IoD Northern Ireland Annual Dinner, sponsored by Bank of Ireland and Arthur Cox. 

Delegates at the event, a highlight of the corporate social calendar, were also addressed by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire.

Mr Martin, who took up the post of Director General last week, said he had joined the organisation at an “interesting time”.

“In just the last few weeks, we have seen the UK Government compelled by the Supreme Court to seek the approval of the Westminster Parliament before beginning Brexit proceedings, while in Northern Ireland, the resignation of the Deputy First Minister has triggered new Assembly elections, now just weeks away.

“You do not need me to tell you that political uncertainty has been dialled up a notch for businesses here in Northern Ireland.”

He said he chose to deliver his first speech as Director General in Northern Ireland because local firms were “in many ways, on the front line in negotiations over the UK’s exit from the EU".

A recent IoD survey, conducted with its sister organisation in Dublin, found 10 per cent of IoD members in Northern Ireland and a quarter of IoD Ireland members had employees that commute across the border.

Mr Martin added:

“Both the UK and Irish governments have stated they do not want a ‘hard’ border put in place – and we welcome that commitment – but we know this will just be one issue among many in broader Brexit negotiations with the EU.

“Getting the question of Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic right will be the litmus test for a successful Brexit.”

In his speech, IoD Northern Ireland Chairman Ian Sheppard, described the recent dissolution of the Northern Ireland Assembly as “simply not good enough”.

He said: 

“This is no time for Northern Ireland to be losing its institutions of government – while the Prime Minister and her team are strapping on the pads to go into bat on what are potentially the most important negotiations for over 40 years and which could set the economic course ahead for decades, sadly we in Northern Ireland are still in the pavilion sticking election posters on the notice board.

“However, when the dust has settled and all is said and done, we are going to need words of grace, a time of healing, and leaders who have a vision to lift themselves above the parochial, can stretch themselves beyond their own constituency and make compromises to restore fully-functioning institutions. The next few months will be a real test of our political maturity.”

Dale Guest, Director Corporate Banking Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland added:

“Like Bank of Ireland, the IoD has a strong and ambitious track record in creating great leaders that have grown businesses and made Northern Ireland a great place to do business in. 

“We are proud to sponsor the IoD and look forward to continuing that longstanding close partnership and support into the future.”

“Arthur Cox is proud to support the IoD in its work to develop better business leaders and improve the local economy across a wide range of key sectors. 

“We provide strategic counsel to many leading businesses across Northern Ireland, from family enterprises to large corporates, for whom the IoD Annual Dinner is always a highlight on the business calendar.

“We are especially delighted to continue our long-standing sponsorship of the event as this year it marks the start of Belfast-born Stephen Martin’s tenure as the IoD’s new Director General.”

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Northern Ireland

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