Page last updated at 19:12 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Businesses feel bite of credit crunch

By Bobby Friedman
Spotlight reporter

Another day, another set of gloomy headlines about the economy.

The Ulster Bank's chief economist, Richard Ramsey, said that the credit crunch will hit Northern Ireland harder than the rest of the UK.

Connor McCarthy
The problem now is there's no buyers which leaves no work… I've booked to go to Australia, I don't know for how long
Connor McCarthy
It's surprising news, as the conventional wisdom is that our large public sector would shield us from the worst of the downturn.

There is, though, a big difference between an economic survey and everyday life.

Spotlight will tell the stories of people across Northern Ireland as they try to cope with the credit crunch.

In the construction trade, stories of distress are commonplace.

Portaferry on the Ards peninsula has been hit hard.

Local fish and chip shop owner Joe Boyle told us: "There's practically a tradesman in every house in this town."

Twelve months ago Tony McCarthy ran two successful businesses in Portaferry, one a private development firm and the other a supplies shop.

"We have tried everything and the staff have worked hard, but the work is just not there," he said.

Joe Boyle
Times are tough for Joe Boyle's fish and chip shop in Portaferry
The shop has now been forced to close and it's been months since he last sold a property.

He has laid off almost 20 staff and his son Connor is leaving the firm to look for work overseas.

"The problem now is there's no buyers which leaves no work… I've booked to go to Australia, I don't know for how long", said Connor.

Even those in other industries are feeling the knock-on effect.

Joe Boyle says he has been running his shop for 25 years but business has never been so bad. Builders who used to buy his food are now out of work.

"A lot of small businesses are feeling exactly the same as me. We're wondering can we keep open; we're wondering can we keep going?" Joe told us.

Across Northern Ireland, we've found widespread anger at politicians for what's being perceived as a lack of action.

'Neglecting'

University of Ulster economist Mike Smyth says politicians are neglecting the most important issues facing Northern Ireland.

"Yes, devolution of policing and justice is important, yes, academic selection is an important issue," he says.

"But this is far more important and to waste political energy on these other issues while our economy in trouble is almost unforgivable."

We put these issues to Finance Minister Nigel Dodds and Sinn Fein's Mitchell McLaughlin.

First Minister Peter Robinson has promised action soon, but the people we met on our travels are already feeling the squeeze.

Until more is done to help them, it's likely that their frustration will only increase.

Spotlight: Coping with the Credit Crunch is available on the BBC's iPlayer until Tuesday 11 November

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