Category Archives: News

North/South Collaborative Opportunities in EU FP7

l-r, Farha Brahmi (Invest NI), Robin Newton MLA (NIABT Chair), Glyn Roberts (NIABT vice-Chair), Aidan Gough (InterTradeIreland), Joanne Coyle (Invest NI), Simon Grattan (InterTradeIreland)

In November 2011, Aidan Gough and Simon Grattan from InterTradeIreland presented an overview of North/South collaborative opportunities in EU Framework Programme 7. They were joined on a Q & A Panel by Farha Brahmi, Robert Bunn, Joanne Coyle and Lisa O’Reilly, all from Invest NI.

Making Connections And Contacts: NIABT Members Visit Brussels

The Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust recently brought both MLAs and local company representatives for their annual working visit to Brussels and the important EU institutions.

The visit lasted for three days and was designed to help local business leaders find out more about the opportunities for investment and the best way to work with the EU.

The packed agenda began with a welcome and introduction from Caroline Nash, the Managing Director of the Leuven institute for Ireland in Europe -an old friend to the Trust and a regular stop for any NIABT visit. Next on the agenda was a discussion on the way that the EU institutions work and decision making processes -something that the local businesses found helpful as they increasingly look to improve their connections with the EU.

The second day of the intensive programme began with a talk from the Northern Ireland Executive Office’s team on how the Executive’s Office can help businesses and on some of the issues that they are currently dealing with.

An important part of the day was devoted to discussions around funding opportunities and investment strategies that local companies may be able to take advantage of. The talks by Farha Brahmi, EU R&D Liaison Officer and Damian Nicell, Business Development Director Europe both provoked a vigorous discussion about the best way for local companies to increase their presence in Europe.

A talk given by Antony Manchester Councillor for Economics, Finance and Taxation; & Sanu de Lima – First Secretary (Taxation), from the UK Permanent Representation to the EU on the Eurozone crisis and financial tax proposals gave the NIABT members an inside look at some of the very real issues that are concerning all EU Member States.

David Harmon, Member of Cabinet for Commissioner for Research and Innovation and Catriona Ward from Enterprise Ireland rounded off the day with an informative briefing on research and development and the Irish involvement in the main European research programme, Framework 7-a topic that has already featured in the NIABT’s breakfast briefings in Parliament Buildings.

The final day of the programme featured talks by Dawn Howard from the British Agriculture Bureau and Sean McGuire from the CBI on how Northern Ireland business can lobby more effectively. Tim Render from the UK Permanent Representation to the EU then spoke about regional aid and CAP reform–a topic of great interest to those NIABT members involved in agri-business.

The final piece of business was a meeting with Northern Ireland MEPs to network and talk over some of the presentations that the NIABT members had received.

After this intensive programme, the Trust was on its way back to Northern Ireland to digest all the information they received and put in practice some of the suggestions.

For more information on the NIABT Brussels Programme and how you can get involved – please contact Ivor Gibson at

City of Culture Engagement Reception

On 18th October, NIABT Chair Robin Newton MLA opened a Corporate and Community Engagement Reception that the NIABT co-hosted with Culture Company 2013.

Robin Newton MLA (NIABT Chair), Junior Minister Martina Anderson MLA, James Devlin (NIABT Board) and John Rooney (NIABT Board) with representatives from Derry~Londonderry City of Culture 2013

Dinner with the ASEAN Ambassadors

On the 17th October, members of the NIABT met with a delegation of Ambassadors from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN Ambassadors). The group were visiting to establish links with the Northern Ireland Assembly, and were also keen to meet with local business representatives to establish links.

Prof James Haughey (NIABT), John Rooney (NIABT Board), Robin Newton MLA (NIABT Chair), Glyn Roberts (NIABT Vice-Chair) and Gráinne Walsh (NIABT Board) with the ASEAN delegation

Northern Bank Briefing to Business Trust Signals Hope for Recovery

Angela McGowan, Chief Economist with the Northern Bank was the guest speaker at the monthly Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust (NIABT) breakfast briefing on 11th October.

Focusing on the current economic crisis, Angela provided a recovery update at global, national and local levels. She noted that economic recovery has been hampered by a number of factors including the escalation of the Euro debt crisis and the current political turmoil in the US.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom, Angela stressed that Northern Ireland has its own unique selling points such as advanced technology which can allow for remote working, particularly useful for growing the Business Services market. Other opportunities such as Northern Ireland’s expertise in agriculture and its history of innovation and entrepreneurship could also serve to attract foreign investment.

This event was attended by over 40 parliamentary and business members, many of whom took the opportunity to ask pertinent questions in relation to the local economy and what the future holds for local business in Northern Ireland.

(l-r) Mike Nesbitt MLA, Angela McGowan, Robin Newton MLA (NIABT Chair), Joanne Stuart (Board of Trustees)

To find out more about October’s breakfast briefing, why not listen to our audio boo’s with guest speaker Angela McGowan Chief Economist with the Northern Bank, Robin Newton, Chairperson of the NIABT and Joanne Stuart, Director of Attrus Ltd and NIABT Board Member.

NIABT Focuses on North West Regeneration

(l-r) David McClarty MLA, Alan Armstrong (Development Manager, ILEX), James Devlin (BT NI), Sandra Overend MLA at the Peace Bridge in Derry~Londonderry

At the end of September we headed to the North West to take part in a busy schedule of visits and briefings.  The two day programme included a seminar on public procurement, a briefing from Ilex on its current and future plans for the urban regeneration of Derry ~ Londonderry and a visit to the new Regeneration Bridge and the former military site at Ebrington.

Thursday 29 September and first stop is Magee College, where Deirdre Heenan from the University of Ulster and Sinead McLaughlin from the local Chamber of Commerce hosted a Seminar on public procurement in the public sector. This informative event brought together a number of key professionals in public procurement and included a presentation from John Gibson, Head of Procurement at the NI Assembly on some of the current procurement challenges for businesses. Norah Anne Barron, Managing Director of PI Communications shared her experiences of public procurement, while Darren Richardson from Core Consultants delivered a presentation on procurement in Derry City Council.

(l-r) Darren Richardson (Derry City Council), Sinead McLaughlin (Londonderry Chamber of Commerce), Prof Deirdre Heenan (University of Ulster), John Gibson (NI Assembly Head of Procurement), Norah Anne Barron (PI Communications)

Day two of the visit and we arrive at Ilex the urban regeneration company, where Chief Executive, Aideen McGinley gave an interesting presentation on local Regeneration Projects and the company’s plans for further regeneration throughout the City.

A visit to the Peace Bridge gave us the opportunity to see regeneration in action. The impressive structure, which redefines the local cityscape provides both pedestrian and cycle access from the Cityside to the redeveloped Ebrington Site. The former military site at Ebrington, when completed will provide a mix of housing, commercial and retail space.

At Ebrington – we caught up with Andrew Potter, Business Development Manager with City of Culture. Andrew delivered an overview on the work of the organisation and some of the exciting plans in store in the run up to 2013.

(l-r) Alan Armstrong (ILEX), James Devlin (BT NI), Peter Spratt (Anderson Spratt Group), Louise Simpson (NIABT), Pamela Carson (NIABT), Richard Hogg (Precision Gear Company)
(l-r) Alan Armstrong (ILEX), Peter Spratt (Anderson Spratt Group), James Devlin (BT NI), Nicola Bothwell (NB Chartered Marketing), Richard Hogg (Precision Gear Company), Chris Love (Love PR), Sandra Overend MLA, Aidan Langan (Enterprise Equity Fund), Eva Grosman (Culture Company 2013), Ivor Gibson, David McClarty MLA

North West Regeneration Projects In The Spotlight For Business Trust

Press Release

Business and political leaders from the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust (NIABT) visited the North West today where they took part in a whistle stop tour of a number of high profile regeneration sites, including the Peace Bridge and the former military site at Ebrington.

The visit, hosted by Ilex the Urban Regeneration Company, was organised to give NIABT members a flavour of the regeneration work currently taking place and on the company’s future plans to restore and redevelop the city.

Speaking after the visit, NIABT Trustee and MLA for East Londonderry, David McClarty said: “We were delighted to have been given the opportunity to see, at first hand, the huge amount of regeneration work that has taken place in the city over such a short space of time. The Peace Bridge and the site at Ebrington stand out as symbols of a new found confidence in the future of the city both economically and in terms of fostering closer community relations.

“The NIABT is an important forum where business and political leaders can come together to discuss the challenges we face and the opportunities for future growth and cooperation”.

“During our briefing from Ilex today, we learned more about future projects and look forward to seeing how the organisation will continue to support innovation and regeneration in the city”.


Notes to Editors:

About the NIABT

The NIABT was established in 2002. An independent and self-financing educational charity, its focus is to foster development and promote Northern Ireland. The Trust brings together Assembly Members and the business sector to further its aims.

The Trust’s work is underpinned by a programme of seminars, visits and fellowship placements that brings together MLAs and business representatives. Programmes are non-partisan, non-lobbying, educational and informative. The NIABT is modelled on similar schemes in other legislatures, for example Westminster’s Industry & Parliament Trust.

Media enquiries to:
Sinead Murphy
Deputy Communications Officer
Phone: 028 9052 5938
Mobile: 078 998 64368

Local Businesses Attend Westminster Educational Programme

NIABT Members visit the Irish Embassy in London

Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust have just returned from a memorable educational programme held at Westminster. This is the first year that the NIABT has run such a programme and it attracted a wide range of parliamentary and business members, all interested in learning more about how central government works. Members had a busy and varied schedule on their two day visit.

(l-r) James Brown, Glyn Roberts (NIABT vice-chair), Richard Hogg, David McClarty MLA

Day 1 of the visit and we literally hit the ground running with an informative session on the Legislative and Committee process at Westminster. Alasdair Mackenzie from Parliamentary Outreach set the context by highlighting and differentiating the decision making powers at Westminster and the NI Assembly. He was ably assisted by David Simpson MP and NI Affairs Committee Chairperson Laurence Roberson MP. Laurence provided information from a political perspective, highlighting examples of recent high profile committee reports on Corporation Tax and Airport Tax and answering questions from NIABT Members.

Alan Hunter, Judith Cochrane MLA and Leslie Cree MLA

Next we had a meeting with Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Jim Shannon MP, Minister of State for Northern Ireland Hugo Swire MP and Lord Empey who dropped in to regale NIABT Members with personal anecdotes and insights into their life and work at Westminster.

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Leslie Cree discusses how the NIABT can help local businesses”]

The hectic nature of the first day continued with a briefing from the Confucius Institute for Northern Ireland which is based at the University of Ulster. The China Project Manager talked about the importance the Institute places on fostering closer academic, cultural and economic ties between China and Northern Ireland.

We were later joined by Patrick McIlroy from Invest NI, who delivered a presentation to the group on the role of Invest NI in London and the challenges faced when attempting to secure jobs for Northern Ireland.

Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP with NIABT Members

Late afternoon and we just about catch our breath in time to attend an NI Affairs Select Committee Meeting where discussions centred on the annual loss of revenue to the Treasury as a result of fuel laundering and smuggling in Northern Ireland. For both parliamentary and business members, this provided an excellent opportunity to watch a Westminster Committee in action.

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”David McClarty explains why businesses need to understand how Westminster works”]

After a busy day of meetings and briefings, we had a working dinner hosted by Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA. The hard work continued as we were all keen to discuss a number of business related issues including the importance of ensuring appropriate training for school leavers entering the work force.

During the dinner, Lord Ballyedmond joined Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA at his table and Ian Paisley MP also hosted a table in the members’ Dining Room. Both Lord Ballyedmond and Ian Paisley MP added to the debates taking place by drawing on their vast business and politicla knowledge.

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Bobby McDonagh, the Irish Ambassador in London believes that there is so much potential for trade between the UK and Ireland”]

As Day 2 dawned it was another early start with an information session hosted by the Irish Embassy in London. After an informal discussion we were off again – this time to the Federation of Small Businesses building in London, where Andrew Cave, Head of FSB External Affairs provided an interesting and insightful overview of the work of the FSB in the UK and Northern Ireland. As always NIABT Members were keen to put their own questions forward.

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Andrew Cave believes that it is important for small businesses to understand Westminster”]

The event provided networking opportunities (l-r) David Law & Clive Grudgings

After a working lunch, hosted by Lord Ballyedmond in the House of Lords, during which we were joined by Lord Maginnis, we embarked on the final part of the programme. 

Lord Empey joined us later and all three took part in an interesting discussion with us on the important scrutiny role of the House of Lords. The visit culminated in a tour of the House of Lords with Lord Maginnis, Lord Empey and Lord Ballyedmond providing a unique overview of the history and tradition that exists there.

Briefing on the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA)

On Tuesday 13th September, NAMA delivered a briefing to members of the NI Assembly and Business Trust in Parliament Buildings. There was a large turnout from the Northern Ireland Business community, all of whom were eager to hear more and ask questions on this very pertinent subject.

Ronnie Hanna delivers a presentation on NAMA to members of the NIABT
Chris Lyttle opens the NAMA Breakfast Briefing
(l-r) Jonathan Milligan (NAMA), Chris Lyttle MLA, Ronnie Hanna (NAMA), Danny Kinahan MLA, Frank Cushnahan (NAMA)

Briefing on the Corporation Tax debate

The Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust breakfast briefing on Tuesday 14 June 2011, brought together a panel of experts to discuss the governments consultation on reducing Corporation tax in Northern Ireland.

The panel comprised the Minister for Finance and Personnel Sammy Wilson MP MLA, Dr. Esmond Birnie, Chief Economist for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Joanne Stuart, Director of Attrus Ltd and Patricia O’Hagan, Managing Director of Core Systems Ltd. The event attracted a wide range of leading business representatives and MLAs.

See more details about this event.