Foyle MP Mark Durkan believes Derry can continue to strive and shine in 2014.
The spring in Derry’s step from the sense of achievement and ambition stemming from the City of Culture needs to be seen in further strides forward over 2014 and beyond.
This must include momentum in the local arts sector who gave pedigree to the original bid and can give integrity and continuing inclusion to the legacy. That needs support in terms of funding and other policy resources including their due engagement in future city marketing and events.
The success of 2013 should encourage us to marshal all our efforts on advancing delivery of the One Plan. The scale of challenges ranging from unemployment to infrastructure, from university expansion to the impact of welfare reform and from early intervention to environmental protection oblige us to stay united and focused on priorities so widely agreed.
Positive local initiatives, like Digital Derry, point the way forward, not just in terms of using new technology and our connectivity lead but also in terms of creative partnership. Fostering local companies, including talented young people inspired by 2013, and securing new inward investment will take not just good civic work but good will and due priority from government.
There is disappointment that our devolved departments are not translating the Executive’s commitment to the One Plan into project support or delivery. The resource and other pressures cited reinforce the need to present our ambition for growth as regional and national priorities.
For example, growing Magee is about providing much needed university expansion for the whole North. Similarly, the A5 and A6 will not only serve the population of Derry and our economic performance.
Altnagelvin, with more new investment, is not just a local hospital. Nor is it purely a crucial social asset but a significant economic resource as evidenced by CTRIC and the partnership and potential it represents.
The working compact mandated by the city’s Strategy Board to tighten the case for Magee expansion and the combined lobby on road and rail need every effort and support in 2014. Our key asset sites at Ebrington and Fort George need to see more pace and shape over the next year, too.
As we address regional government together to press the One Plan, we should consider the model of City Deals now emerging in England. These can involve departments transferring assets and capacity, agreeing priorities (including infrastructure) and bending budgets to support strategic civic delivery.
The confidence, pride and ambition we feel at the end of 2013 must not dissipate into naive complacency on the one hand or negative complaint on the other. Derry can strive and we can shine. So no letting up in 2014 and no hiding of lights.