Tory-DUP agreement: Derry must get 'city deal'

Derry's peace bridge.
Derry's peace bridge.

Local politicians have vowed to fight to ensure Derry gets a fair share of the £1.5 billion secured as a result of the DUP entering into a formal agreement with the Conservative Party at Westminster.

The new agreement has seen a number of concessions secured for the north including working towards an “ambitious set of City Deals across Northern Ireland” to boost investment, as well as enterprise zones.

DUP and SDLP MLAs in Derry said last night that they will push for the city to benefit from this, while Sinn Fein warned that “the devil will be in the detail.”

Other funding has been secured to tackle deprivation, provide urgent and longer term investment in health services and for infrastructure projects.

As attention now shifts to the Thursday deadline for an agreement on restoring power sharing at Stormont, DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said the ‘confidence and supply’ deal at Westminster was good news for everyone here and could help secure the delivery of major infrastructure projects for the north west.

Mr. Middleton was speaking after his party leader, Arlene Foster and Theresa May, formally announced that they had agreed a pact, which will see the DUP’s 10 MPs - including East Derry’s Gregory Campbell - supporting the government in parliament on key issues including Brexit, the budget, motions of confidence and on the Queen’s speech.

In exchange, as well as additional funding for the north, the DUP has also extracted several other concessions from the Tories.

“The deal is done and it looks to be a very good deal for Northern Ireland as a whole but also for the wider United Kingdom,” Mr Middleton maintained.

“This deal means there will be no change to the pensions triple lock and the Winter Fuel Payments will remain. For ourselves in Northern Ireland, the agreement is worth £1.5 billion in additional money to what we had.”

Mr. Middleton said that this will involve an additional £400m for infrastructure over the next two years.

“Infrastructure is vital for us here in the north-west and the A5 and A6 are two projects we really need to see delivered,” he said.

He added: “One of the things that really interests me is the commitment to work on City Deals and Enterprise Zones in Northern Ireland, and we as a city need to be right up there and we will certainly be putting our case forward, and I’m sure the council here will also be putting the case forward.

“It is up to ourselves as elected representatives to ensure that when the money is spent, we get our fair share. This agreement does commit itself to the likes of the north west and areas of highest deprivation. We see it as a good news story for Northern Ireland.”

SDLP Leader and Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood said yesterday it was to be welcomed that “after making that case for so long, that the SDLP proposal for a City Deal is clearly reflected in today’s London deal.”

“The SDLP has been making the case for bespoke city deals in Northern Ireland, particularly in the North West, for the last number of years,” he said. “As a result of this deal, a City Deal for Derry must see significant work on the A6 and the expansion of Magee. The document mentions the York Street interchange as a priority but as far as we’re concerned, investment to end regional disparity must be the primary political priority.”

Other parts of the funding agreed will go towards health, education and broadband initiatives.

Mr Middleton said: “We have said for too long we needed more resources and investment in mental health and it is great to see an additional £50m secured for mental health over the next five years.

“This is alongside £200m to transform the health service over the next two years in line with the Bengoa Report, and £100m to address immediate pressures in health and education.”

He added: “£100m has been secured for tackling deprivation over the next five years, which will benefit areas like Foyle whereby we would have one of the highest levels of deprivation.”

There will also be £150m to roll out ultrafast broadband over the next two years, with rural areas to benefit from this, while £500m- will go towards a shared housing and education fund over the coming years.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, however, has that the price of the DUP-Tory deal “is DUP support for continued Tory Austerity and cuts to public services”.

“The Tory government has slashed more than £1 billion from the block grant over the last seven years.

“The allocation of additional funds could help to ease the enormous pressure on our public services. The devil is in the detail,” he said.