The Chairman of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society has called on the Northern Ireland Executive to implement “much needed reform” in the health and education sectors and to re-energise the local economy.

Speaking to over 360 guests at the Ulster Society’s Annual Dinner, sponsored by Danske Bank and MCS Group tonight (5th March), Richard Gillan called on the Executive to provide investment in infrastructure and skills; and to adopt a business-friendly strategy.

Richard Gillan said: “This is a testing time for the local economy. Factors such as Brexit and cut-backs in Government spending will be challenging, but our members see the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive as a very positive move.

“Whilst the restoration is most welcome, the last 3 years have left us with a lot of catching-up to do, and the Executive needs to prove itself and show that it can deliver for the wider economy.

“There is a steep learning curve when it comes to managing the public finances. Right now, because of initiatives such as RHI, our members need to be convinced that our politicians can step up to the challenge.

“The New Decade, New Approach document, promising significant investment, is a fantastic start. But it is just a start. Now we need to see the real benefits of having local politicians making local decisions and tackling local priorities.

“Northern Ireland’s health and education systems are in considerable need of reform. We also need investment in skills, investment in infrastructure and an Executive which is willing to back business and help local companies compete on a global stage.

“We need a concerted effort to devise a game-changing, business-friendly strategy to re-energise our economy, boost our competitiveness and put entrepreneurship at the fore.

“The Executive will need to work as a cohesive unit in negotiations with HM Treasury, and be bold enough to introduce the measures and efficiencies that are so desperately needed in the Public Sector.

“What Northern Ireland needs now is strong leadership.”

Also addressing guests at the Ulster Society Annual Dinner were Double Olympic Champion sailor Iain Percy OBE and former Ulster Rugby and Ireland captain, Rory Best OBE.

The Chartered Accountants Ulster Society’s Annual Dinner took place at Titanic Belfast and was attended by 360 members and their business guests.