‘Come and make our city your new home’

Paul Faith/PA Wire
Paul Faith/PA Wire
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A Derry MLA says the city is now ready to be seen not just as a place to visit but somewhere where people want to “come, live, work and invest”.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said while the focus on recent years had been on marketing the city as a tourist destination, it was now time to encourage people to settle on a permanent basis in the north west.

But he warned that “the fundamentals - the road and rail networks and the expansion of the university” need to be urgently and properly addressed to maximise Derry’s potential.

“You go outside of Derry and people are talking about this place, talking about how we are setting the example for the rest of Northern Ireland,” he told the ‘Journal’.

“I think the next step is to say to people across Ireland and the UK, that Derry is a great place to come and live, to come and set up businesses, to enjoy what a tremendous place this is.

“But what we don’t do is ignore the reality that still exists around the lack of investment and highly skilled jobs.”

He said it was vital the Stormont Executive should provide the vision, leadership and commitment to address the continued negative impact on Derry of “years of misrule and of no-rule”.

“No-one in Derry is whingeing or looking for handouts from government. To make sure we get the fundamentals right is not asking for anything but our entitlement,” he said. “The potential doesn’t get achieved if we don’t get the fundamentals right, if we don’t develop the university, develop the roads and railways.”

The former Mayor said the city’s position on the border can be advantageous.

“Everyone complains about the corporation tax rate in the north being a barrier to investment - but we live a stone’s throw from the border, where once you cross it the rate drops to 12.5%.

“Why are InvestNI and IDA (Industrial Development Agency) not speaking to each other, figuring out a way of bringing investment right up to the border, where 80 or 90 % of workforce come from Derry.

“Investors could be a couple of miles from the centre of Derry with a preferential tax rate.”

He said Derry’s City of Culture year must act as a springboard to encourage people to move to the city.

“We are minutes away from some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, we have a fantastic music, cultural and arts scene - and not just during 2013, that has always been the case. But it all goes back to getting the fundamentals right,” he said.