The past failures of Ilex have marred its recent successes, local commentators have agreed.
But politicians, business leader and lobbyists in the city believe the recommendations made in a consultants’ report - in which stakeholders are critical of the body’s progress - can help drive the regeneration of the city forward.
The review conducted by consultants BDO does highlight recent success by Ilex, such as the successful UK City of Culture bid, the delivery of the EU-funded Peace Bridge and publication of an integrated regeneration plan for Derry.
However, it also contains criticism from stakeholders, particularly in relation to the lack of progress at the Ebrington and Fort George sites.
Derry’s Chamber of Commerce welcomed the review. “All the recommendations would add and strengthen Ilex’s ability to deliver for Derry,” said Chamber Chief executive Sinead McLaughlin. Ms McLaughlin added: “There is much more work to be done, and rather than concentrate on the previous difficulties experienced by Ilex, let us now be encouraged and harness the new energy.”
Foyle assemblyman Pól Callaghan said: “This BDO report into Ilex confirms what the people of Derry already know - that progress on the regeneration of the Fort George, Ebrington and Clooney sites has been frustratingly slow over the past decade. The people of the city will hope that the completion of the peace bridge will signal a step change in the fortunes of those key sites.”
MP Mark Durkan said that the better performance of the body in recent years did not “mask” the sense of disappointment that more had not been achieved sooner. Mr Durkan added that it was important for Ilex to have specifically targeted funding to allow it to be “properly enabled and supported in overcoming challenges, harnessing opportunities and fulfilling the potential of this city and its people”.
University for Derry has largely endorsed the review. U4D chair Padraig Canavan said: “We realise that Ilex has faced enormous difficulties over the years and that the current leadership has a very challenging task. But we commend that leadership for building new momentum and putting in place a sound regeneration plan that has the input and consequential backing of the enormous number of people.