The prosperity of Derry as Northern Ireland’s second city must be a core aim of the Executive, SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood has told Finance Minister Simon Hamilton.
Speaking during a debate on the Budget Bill, Mr Eastwood said it was time to fund the “countless plans” drawn to help transform Derry’s economy. In particular he called on the Minister to ensure financial support is in place to implement the many essential programmes included in the overarching ‘One Plan’.
He called on the minister to ensure the city is given the infrastructural tools it needs to create greater economic success in the entire region.
“We had a fantastic week in Derry, with hundreds of thousands of people strolling along the quay and taking in the fantastic carnival atmosphere of the Clipper race and the Legenderry Maritime Festival. Derry can do things like that very well, but unless we get the economic drivers and the infrastructural fundamentals correct, those things will come and go,” he said.
Mr Eastwood added: “We know exactly what needs to be done to transform Derry’s economic fortunes. We have the answer in the One Plan which details 11 catalyst programmes painstakingly analysed and agreed on by stakeholders in the city as having the potential to have a huge impact on Derry’s economy and social deprivation indices.
“A major mistake was made in not including the implementation of the One Plan in the Programme for Government. It wasn’t mentioned at all in the first draft of PFG and after we kicked up a fuss, the programme only committed to ‘developing’ the plan. But we had already developed the plan, the problem was that we needed it implemented. Unfortunately, if it was not going to be in the Programme for Government, it was not going to be in any of the subsequent ministerial commitments.”
He added: “We do not want to see queues of people leaving our city or any other place in the North for Australia or England and never coming back, nor do we want to see people continuously claiming benefits when they could be contributing to the economy in a very positive way.”
Mr Eastwood said that the key proposals of the One Plan - including the development of Fort George and Ebrington, the expansion of the Magee campus, the upgrade of the A5 and A6 routes and the revamp of the Derry to Belfast rail link - need to be addressed with great urgency to allow Derry to flourish.
“Unless we get the infrastructural development correct, we cannot reach our full potential. We are not asking for anything special: we are asking for the opportunities and tools to do those things for ourselves.”