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David Meade.

Business Needs Political Stability at Stormont

There is little comparison to be drawn between the political landscapes of Northern Ireland and the United States. The electoral process is vastly different too. Yet whether we’re talking Belfast or D.C, similarities do exist in business, not least in the need for political stability.

Voters in northern Ireland went to the polls last month to determine the 90 representatives who would speak for them at Stormont. Much has been written about the historic emergence of Sinn Féin as the largest party and growth of the middle-ground Alliance Party.

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Yet how this will all impact on society and business is yet to emerge.

In response to the Northern Ireland Protocol, a product of Brexit that restricts goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the UK under EU law, the DUP is in a stand-off with the UK government that has every potential to plunge government into paralysis once again.

Motivations and political positions aside, the business landscape right across the region is facing another prolonged period of instability and indirection. Northern Ireland has strong business links with the United States, and it is along these links that I have seen just how fragile corporate investments and strategies can be on both sides of the Atlantic when periods of uncertainty ensue.

After expanding my corporate events company into American markets in 2019, I spent time delivering keynote speeches, employee engagement sessions, and business consultancy services to corporations across the United States.

With that came events and presentations to audiences of thousands paired with small scale focus sessions with leaders at Apple, Harvard, Adobe and the Bank of America. It was during the delivery of this work that the pandemic presented the biggest and most cross-cutting threat to stability the world has seen to date.

During this time, I watched companies enter an initial period of survival mode just as governments across the world did on a larger scale.

We said goodbye to in-person conferencing and all plans for major foreign and domestic investments went on ice as the world got to grips with the pandemic and the challenges regarding workforce, health and safety, and profitability, that it ignited.

While some could argue that we have floated straight from one crisis into another with the cost of living, many companies did diversify and make use of the fact that technology made the world smaller, and possibilities for remote engagement significantly greater.

We enjoyed our own success in this, delivering weekly sessions with U.S.-based clients from our live broadcasting studio in Holywood, County Down. Many of our clients found a way to move forward also, with those based both at home and in the U.S. getting to a place where future growth strategies came back into play.

If that marketplace teaches you anything, however, it is that investment opportunities and growth plans are only viable in a stable environment. Strong business links remain between Ireland and the U.S., and many investors will be eyeing Ireland for reinforcing those links. Businesses here are crying out for political movement to allow society to function as a whole, and new and renewed investment to materialize.

With eyes on both sides of the Atlantic focused on developments on Northern Ireland’s very own Hill, it is with every hope for the return of stability and power sharing, that we continue consulting with business leaders both at home and in the U.S. in order to help them progress.

David Meade is a broadcaster and keynote speaker. He has U.S. speaking engagements lined up for this year as follows: WSP Global, June 2022 (Miami); Global Pharma Group Event, June 2022 (Orlando); New York, August 2022, three-week consultancy showcase with tech and finance companies; NECA (Austin, Texas) October 2022.