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Naming Names & Playing Games

The misquoted version of the line that Oliver Hardy apparently never said fits the so-called NAMA scandal rather nicely.


This week we had the long anticipated appearance of one Jamie Bryson, not the most eloquent of speakers but a man who had the viewing figures for the Assembly's live TV feed through the roof.


Bryson can say what he likes under the privilege of the Stormont committee room and on his blog. For our part, even a fundamental understanding of the laws of defamation means that we'll not be venturing an opinion.


What a piece of drama it was....what a lot of names he pulled out of his hat. His evidence quickly became a talking point in the media, on TV and radio and in bars and restaurants around Northern Ireland. And it will be for some time to come.


Suffice to say that there are more questions than answers as things stand. Not least of those is everyone's favourite question....where does he get his information?


One observation, though. Has Northern Ireland, its economy and its business community gained much from the presence of Cerberus.....whatever the intricacies of how they were chosen to snap up NAMA's loans at what everyone agrees was a knock down price?


The motives of those supporting a sale of loans from NAMA to a third party was easy enough to understand. A lot of people were prepared to do anything for a softer landing for developers and others whose loans were in NAMA.


Will Government ever have to take rap for any of this?


Unlikely. As the ever sharp Eamonn Mallie pointed out in his own blog a while back, they've got some form when it comes to poor decision making.


The Education & Skills Authority....the Maze Stadium feasibility studies....the emergency services training college at Cookstown. Need we go on...and on?


But we still miss them.....don't we?





Speak Up......


It was good to see our call last week on the business organisations here to speak up on the political impasse being least in one part of NI.


The Derry/Londonderry Chamber of Commerce came out at the start of this week with a fairly hard-hitting statement urging the Executive to get back to business. President Gerry Kindlon said that the local economy was suffering and added that it was clear that investment into Northern Ireland is slowing down.


The political crisis is costing us jobs. And trying to persuade investors to come here during this level of political instability is extremely put it mildly,” his statement went on.


Well said. It's about time at least one business body has had the 'cojones' not to worry about whether they might offend the sensibilities of our local politicians.


Others, though, are maintaining their less than useful silences. If Derry's Chamber can speak up, why can't the Chamber that represents the whole of Northern Ireland. The CBI's Colin Walsh did call for action on the political front earler today at his organisations's 50th birthday lunch. And what about the ever diplomatic IoD? Let's hear from you.


There are even some organisations who seem to think nothing has changed. Take NIIRTA, the independent retail trade association. They're still tweeting pictures of Peter Robinson as though the Great Leader was still working his magic for the good of the economy locally.


Come on, guys, get with the programme.



Is It The Derry Air?


..Staying in Derry, what's happening at Ilex, the city's regeneration company and the body responsible for the sterling work on the Ebrington site?


CEO Mel Higgins has resigned to head to new job at Northern Regional College where he'll link up with the highly capable Professor Terri Scott. He's been in the role for just 18 months. His predecessor, Aideen McGinley, lasted a couple of years while the first CEO Richard Reinhardt managed just 11 months.


Remedies, anyone?



China On Your Mind


The expanding NI ex-pat community in China might well prefer to forget what's going on back home, but if they'd like to maintain the channels of communication, then here's a new group that might be of interest.


It's the Friends of Northern Ireland in China (FNIC) and it was launched at an event in the British Consul General's residence in Shanghai last week....aimed at promote NI business, culture, sport and tourism to the people of China.


Amongst those who attended the launch were Tim Losty, Director of the NI Bureau in China, and Michael Garvey, Invest NI's Asia Pacific director.


For info, the man to contact is Paul McCarthy –




A Vision For The Future.....


On the positive front, Belfast City Council's launch of its city centre regeneration and investment strategy is worth welcoming.


Under Suzanne Wylie's leadership, the Council looks to be a a bit more upwardly mobile than it used to be.


Under the new plans, it aims to transform the city by creating more jobs, increasing the population, attracting new retail offerings, and further developing the burgeoning tourism industry. It will also support innovation and learning, develop city centre green areas for cyclists and walkers, connect outlying areas to the centre and enhance shared spaces.


The launch event took place at the Belfast Waterfront which is itself is undergoing a £30 million facelift to include conference and exhibition facilities.


It is just one of a number of major development projects worth £400 million in which the council is currently involved and contributes to the £1 billion of current and planned investment already in place across the city.


All very positive. We're delighted to see that local government is working well at a local level....if not on the Hill.