The incoming president of the employers' group, Ibec, has said the Irish business community stands with the Government in insisting that the Good Friday Agreement is maintained to protect the peace process and the all-island economy that depends on it.

Addressing the organisation's annual president's dinner in Dublin last night, Pat McCann said business needed a stable political and social environment from which to operate and once it has certainty it is resilient.

Mr McCann, who is the CEO of hotel group Dalata, said there was no doubt that some Irish industries will find a hard Brexit very difficult to handle, particularly the food and drink sector.

He added that many of Ireland's newer industries would be less affected as they are services businesses and do not have physical product to move.

However, the underlying wish is that this all gets solved sooner rather than later in a positive way, he said.

He also questioned how long it would take to get a trade deal, given that it has taken over three years to agree a Withdrawal Agreement.

On tourism, Mr McCann claimed that the hospitality sector had never been taken seriously by successive governments.

He said it was almost like an after-thought, despite the fact that tourism is the one industry that can thrive in the regions.

He said he had come to the conclusion that people in the hospitality sector were by their nature just too nice and do not make a fuss and as a result they get taken for granted.

Mr McCann claimed that the VAT increase imposed on the hospitality sector in January this year was dressed up to look like somebody did the tourist industry a favour in 2011 when VAT was reduced to 9%.

But this was despite the fact that hospitality kick-started the Irish economy after the crash and thousands of jobs were created in the industry, he added. 

Ireland now has the highest rate of VAT in the eurozone and even at 9% it would still be one of the highest, he told the audience.

Mr McCann also claimed that the business community was extremely concerned about the international perception of third level institutions, reflected in the global rankings of our universities.

The cost of housing and a lack of sufficient new homes required a continued focus, he said.