Progress ‘not measured in number of meetings’

First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and DUP leader Arlene Foster, who will take over the First Minister role from Mr Robinson in January,  pictured with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Joan Burton and other Irish Government Minister during a recent meeting of the North South Ministerial Council. (Picture by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.)

First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and DUP leader Arlene Foster, who will take over the First Minister role from Mr Robinson in January, pictured with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Joan Burton and other Irish Government Minister during a recent meeting of the North South Ministerial Council. (Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.)

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The Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers has said that progress on addressing the economic issues of the North West cannot be measured in the number of meetings that have taken place.

Officials from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness’ office were speaking after criticism was levelled by SDLP representative, Gerard Diver, at his final Council meeting before he takes over as Foyle MLA from Pat Ramsey.

Mr Diver had criticised the number of meetings a Ministerial Regional Sub-Group had met since its inception a year ago to tackle regional disparity, initially in the North West area.

He said that to his knowledge the group of Ministers had met just twice , with the last meeting having taken in April.

When asked for a response, a spokesperson for OFMDFM said: “The SDLP might be better reflecting on their voting record in relation to the 2016/17 budget which guaranteed funding for both the A5 and A6.

“These projects will deliver major economic dividends for the people of the North West. This budget is an immediate investment in jobs, in our quality public services and in our long-term economic growth.

“In relation to the Ministerial Sub-Group, the deputy First Minister and DETI Minister met on 17 December to discuss issues such as Grade A office accommodation on the Ebrington site, the economic strategy for the North West and the development of the Shackleton site at Ballykelly.

“However, progress will not and cannot be measured by the number of meetings. We will continue to work collaboratively regardless of departmental boundaries to drive forward economic development and prosperity for all in the North West as evidenced by the good news from the 2016/17 budget.”

She added: “People care more about how Government enables them to provide for their families, access health care and reduce the time they spend commuting rather than the number of meetings politicians have.”