President’s New Year Message
The New Year begins with good news. Progress is being made on Derry’s key roads to Belfast (the A6) and to Dublin (the A5). We thank the politicians for, at last, moving the schemes forward. The Chamber of Commerce looks forward to the day when businesses and the people of Derry have fast transport connections to both of this island’s capital cities. Those links are essential to improving this city’s prosperity.
While Northern Ireland has had its difficulties in 2015, the recent political agreements and the approval of a balanced budget suggests that we are in for better times ahead. We probably cannot hope to match the economic strides that were taken in the Republic in the last year, which achieved the highest growth rate of anywhere in the Eurozone. But we can aspire to improve our trading links with the South, to increase our own wealth. A more politically and socially stable Northern Ireland can be a foundation for strengthening our trading relationships with both the Republic and with Great Britain.
This is an important theme for 2016, with a referendum looming on whether we should remain within the European Union. As a city whose own boundary is the border with another country, this affects us profoundly. Our businesses will be strongly engaged in the debate, arguing against ‘Brexit’ that would not only disrupt commerce, but also daily lives if border controls are re-introduced. It would be ironic if the year that will see greater sporting links between North and South, with both football teams playing in the European Championships, also sees us moving further apart politically.
We have other, equally important, votes ahead of us. There will be a general election in the South and Assembly elections in the North. The latter will lead to a new Programme for Government – which we desperately hope will deliver further progress for the North West. We need it more than anywhere else in Northern Ireland.
By committing ourselves to partnership, co-operation and engagement, we can all move forward to the benefit of everybody. At the heart of this is the need for genuine mutual respect for each others’ traditions. Our society’s commitment to this will be tested by the centenary commemorations of both the Easter Rising and the battle of the Somme. Northern Ireland is traditionally not very good with commemorations, so we hope that we can all come together with pride, respect and honour as these two events changed the lives and history of our region.
We all know today’s problems our city is dealing with in terms of unemployment and poverty: those challenges can best be dealt with by a common approach and a mutual commitment to tackle their causes.
For the last several years, the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce has itself grown bigger and stronger – attracting more members and providing better services. Our hard working team are pledged to continue in our drive and to be both the largest and best local chamber of commerce in Northern Ireland. Our Chamber continues to be bigger and better – so, too, we hope will our local economy and its businesses.
Happy New Year.
Gavin Killeen, President