There is little comparison to be drawn between the political landscapes of Northern Ireland and the United States. The electoral process is also very different. Yet whether we are talking about Belfast or DC, similarities exist in business, especially 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 in Stormont. Much has been written about the historic emergence of Sinn Féin as the largest party and the growth of the Middle Alliance party.
Yet the impact of all of this on society and business remains to be determined.
In response to the Northern Ireland Protocol, a product of Brexit which restricts goods traveling between Northern Ireland and the UK under EU law, the DUP is at an impasse with the UK government which has all the potential to plunge the government into paralysis again.
Beyond political motivations and positions, the business landscape across the region faces another prolonged period of instability and indirection. Northern Ireland has strong commercial ties with the United States, and it is through these ties that I have seen how fragile investments and business strategies can be on both sides of the Atlantic. when periods of uncertainty ensue.
After expanding my corporate events business to US markets in 2019, I have spent time delivering keynote speeches, employee engagement sessions, and business consulting services across the United States.
This was accompanied by events and presentations in front of thousands of people, coupled with small-scale town hall meetings with executives from Apple, Harvard, Adobe and Bank of America. It was during the delivery of this work that the pandemic presented the most significant and cross-cutting threat to stability the world has seen to date.
During this time, I have seen companies enter an initial period of survival mode, just as governments around the world have done on a larger scale.
We said goodbye to in-person conferences and all major foreign and domestic investment projects were frozen as the world tackled the pandemic and labor, health and safety challenges and profitability that it triggered.
While some might argue that we went straight from one crisis to another with the cost of living, many companies have branched out and used the fact that technology is making the world smaller and the opportunities for engagement at much greater distance.
We have enjoyed our own success in this area, offering weekly sessions with US-based clients from our live streaming studio in Holywood, County Down. Many of our clients have also found a way forward, with those based both in their country and in the US getting to a place where future growth strategies have come back into play.
However, if this market teaches you anything, it is that investment opportunities and growth plans are only viable in a stable environment. Strong commercial ties remain between Ireland and the United States, and many investors will be eyeing Ireland to strengthen those ties. Here, companies are calling for a political movement to allow society to function as a whole and new and renewed investments to materialize.
With eyes on both sides of the Atlantic focused on developments on Northern Ireland’s own hill, it is with all the hope of a return to stability and power-sharing that we continue to consult with business leaders both at home and in the United States to help them move forward.
David Meade is a broadcaster and keynote speaker. He has speaking engagements in the United States scheduled for this year as follows: WSP Global, June 2022 (Miami); Global Pharma Group Event, June 2022 (Orlando); New York, August 2022, three-week advisory showcase with technology and financial companies; NECA (Austin, TX) October 2022.