Sinn Fein MLA for Foyle, Raymond McCartney, is demanding an apology from SDLP MLA, Alex Attwood, after he labelled projects benefiting from the Social Investment Fund (SIF) as “loyalist and republican”.
In an interview with The Derry Journal, Mr. McCartney criticised the West Belfast MLA for what he described as “insulting” comments.
Mr. Attwood made the remarks during an interview on BBC Radio Ulster last week.
“During a recent radio interview, Alex Attwood launched an insulting and inaccurate attack, questioning the integrity of key projects and services working for the people of this area,” said Mr. McCartney.
“Threatening to remove funding from projects which received funds from the SIF, Alex Attwood told BBC Radio that the SDLP were ‘going to be tough on £80million being managed by the Sinn Fein and DUP First and deputy First Minister which in the great part is going to their favoured loyalist and republican projects’.
“That is an outrageous slur. The SIF has been directed at projects in areas of high social deprivation which are aimed at improving the lives of the people who live there. In this area, projects such as a capital cluster to improve play facilities with a value of £1.75m at Ballyarnett, Ballymagroarty and Daisyfield. And £3.3 Million Community Work Programme, a project to improve employment, providing long term placements targeted upon those on the margins but especially the young (25 years) long term unemployed have benefited from significant investment.
“Is the SDLP saying that they would remove this funding as part of their ‘get tough’ policy? Is the SDLP saying that all these projects are republican or loyalist fronts?”
When contacted by The Derry Journal yesterday afternoon, Mr. Attwood defended his stance and suggested Mr. McCartney was not “facing up to reality”.
“In its original design, the SIF was devised by two parties to provide funds to favoured projects. There are no ifs or buts about it.
“The big efforts of well-motivated people mean that some SIF projects are very valuable and worth while. It shouldn’t be any other way given that the SIF budget line is £50million.
“Despite this, there remain concerns about what has happened since SIF was first proposed, not least in loyalist communities. Anyone who claims otherwise is not facing up to reality.
“It is the view of SDLP, that there should be no future SIF budget line, no SIF 2 and that neighbourhood renewal is the right place for valuable projects that are worth while. This is only one way of ensuring that there are less cuts than the catastrophic treasury/DUP budget, recently forced through the executive with Sinn Féin capitulation,” he said.