The Executive Office has pledged to continue working with local businesses in crucial areas such as dual market access, skills and the need for affordable childcare.

Speaking to almost 400 guests at the Belfast Chamber Annual President’s Lunch, which took place at ICC Belfast, First Minister Michelle O’Neill and deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly spoke about the importance of getting a Programme for Government agreed and of Government and businesses working collaboratively.

With business representatives from across a wide range of sectors in attendance, the lunch, hosted by Chamber President Gavin Annon and sponsored by Davidson McDonnell, is the latest in a series of engaging and insightful events on the Belfast Chamber calendar.

First Minister Michelle O’Neill said:

“I want to thank Belfast Chamber and everyone you represent for the positive contribution you are making to our economy.

“The benefits you bring to the lives of our workers and families is clear and as First Minister, I offer the full support of the Executive as you seek to develop your businesses.

“This island is a very unique place with a world class business sector, and it is important we continue to thrive and innovate.

“We will continue to work with you across all areas where we can have most impact, including: dual market access, skills, and addressing the need for affordable childcare and decarbonisation.”

Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said:

“Northern Ireland is a great place to work and invest and I am determined to work in partnership with everyone to ensure our business sector can continue to flourish.

“The wide range of companies and sectors represented at this event is evidence of our internationally focussed, highly productive and competitive economy.

“These businesses are responsible for helping to move people around the city, exporting to global markets, serving clients from across the world and preparing our young people for the future. We are committed to working with them to maximise our potential to ensure Belfast and NI thrives now and into the future.”

Gavin Annon, President of Belfast Chamber, said:

“As the voice for business in the city, Belfast Chamber is continually seeking ways to enhance our members’ experience and champion our city. It was fantastic to hear directly from the First and deputy First Ministers about issues pertinent to our members, such as public procurement and regeneration.

“Those in attendance at our President’s Lunch will have returned to their offices, shops or businesses with significant food for thought from the messages delivered, and we will continue to provide platforms like these for leading business minds to hear, share and engage.

“The need for transformation in the Northern Ireland economy has been well documented for some time, and there is no doubt that the return of the Northern Ireland Assembly earlier this year will help make that a reality. The business community is part of the solution and Belfast Chamber is keen to be part of that.”

Wednesday’s President’s Lunch followed last week’s Connectivity Conference, hosted by Belfast Chamber, at which a panel of expert speakers highlighted how Belfast must match innovation with implementation to future-proof sustainable connectivity and multi-modal transport throughout Northern Ireland.