Ballykelly ‘public spat’ regrettable - Dallat

The East Derry SDLP Assembly Member John Dallat says, what he has described as “the public spat” between Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill and Finance Minister Sammy Wilson, as “highly regrettable”.

Mr. Dallat was speaking after it emerged in a recent television investigation the NI’s finance minister had concerns about a decision to relocate the agriculture department to a former army base in the North West.

Some 800 jobs will move from Belfast to the former Shackleton Army barracks in Ballykelly and Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has said she is content with her decision.

Assemblyman Dallat said: “Exhibiting their differences in television is hardly likely to engender confidence in their ability to 
transform the former army barracks at Ballykelly into a modern project capable of attracting hundreds of sustainable jobs and generate a new era of prosperity not just for Ballykelly but for the entire North West.”

Mr. Dallat said questions need to be answered about the bill for the millions of pounds he claims it will take to clear up the contamination that exists on the site.

“Surely, if it was right for the MoD to clear up the mess above the ground it was equally right for them contribute to clearing up the mess which we believe exists below the ground,” he said. “Certainly, there are serious questions about a potential £10 million pound bill that should have been picked up by the MoD, but that should not impact on the ability of the Assembly to transform this decaying parcel of land into something which can be a showpiece for prosperity.

“I support the development of the former army base and endorse the practice of decentralisation of civil service jobs out of Belfast and into the communities. I do, however, want to see this done in partnership and agreement and on a basis which enshrines the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.”