Sinn Féin ministerial team in Derry to talk housing, Covid and Irish Unity
Joint head of government Michelle O’Neill spent the Day in Derry today (Wednesday) with her full Ministerial Team for a range of meetings with businesses, community groups and the local council.
She was in the city to hear about the challenges and opportunities that exist in Derry.
Speaking at the Guildhall, Michelle said, “We are delighted to be here in Derry this afternoon with our full ministerial team and our two local MLA’s and some of our councillors. Sinn Féin have just gone through a whole significant period of change in Derry and we have two new MLAs in Ciara and Padraig who have really hit the ground running and champion the needs of the people of the city. They have invited our whole ministerial team to come here today to talk to people so we are meeting everyone from a youth group to the council to local businesses. We want to hear about the challenges but also the opportunities and what we can do as Executive Ministers to support growth here in the city.
“I don’t know if it gets enough attention but over the past five years, things have changed significantly in the city. Over 5,000 jobs have been created here in the city and that’s probably a conservative estimate. We’ve seen advances in the medical school, 70 places have opened up in the postgraduate programme, we’ve seen a number of courses transfer to Magee and then obviously there’s the expansion of numbers. We are very much committed to that but alongside that there is really exciting plans for strategic growth. When you look at community development over the past year, the Covid support grants have reached all communities which is really important. But what I heard this morning is an enthusiasm for the opportunities that lay ahead in terms of job creation, in terms of economic development and we are going to play our part. We are here in Derry to tell the people of Derry that we are here, we’re listening, and we are here to deliver to people right down to grass roots level. Big economic development projects, inclusive growth, futures fund and city deals programme but that has to filter into the community. The people in Creggan or the Bogside have to feel that there’s change and opportunities there for them so we are very much wedded to all of that.”
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey also announced today that there will be 100,000 homes build over the next 15 years in a bid to tackle the housing crisis.
She said, “We have just announced today our housing supply strategy and this is my plan to see over 100,000 homes built over the next 5 years. This strategy is to make sure we have both public and private land put forward for the housing development programme. We will insure that the planning system and the infrastructure system responds to that and also to insure that our construction and skill set are there so we can see this house building take place in areas where people need it most and that we’re delivering the type of housing that people deserve. So this is a radical plan, it’s going out today and there is going to be a nine week consultation process. I am encouraging all people, especially those who are waiting on a home and find themselves homeless to engage in this process. I want to see these houses delivered over the next 15 years and I’ll make sure that all infrastructures and resources are in place so that we can do that with over a third of those houses being social and affordable housing as well.“
Michelle O’Neill assures the public that the government has no intention to close schools or to ask younger school children to wear masks while in school, as has happened in the republic. She explained that, while there have been confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the north, there are no current plans to tighten the restrictions.
She said, “I think it was almost inevitable, we always knew it was only a matter of time before we had our first case of the Omicron Variant. The advice remains the same today, that is to double down on our efforts, try to go back to basics and get the booster vaccine. We will meet again in the coming days to discuss the recent announcement on confirmed cases. But the advice we have today is for the public to be very conscious that we now have this circulating in our society. We had three cases confirmed but there is no doubt that there will be more in the days ahead so remain vigilant. If we have to look at additional measures then that is what we have to do but as of today, the Chief Medical Officers advice is that what we are doing is enough but we need to ask the public to be vigilant and to get the vaccine if you haven’t already gotten it.”
What does the future hold for Sinn Féin? “Irish Unity,” Says Michelle. “That is the reason we exist and we are very much for leading change at this moment of time from Cork to Derry. The part are on the ground delivering for people and we want to bring about change. After the country was partitioned, it led to so much negativity, it disadvantaged everyone who lives on this Island and Sinn Féin want to lead change. We want to stand up for workers and families. We want good jobs for people, we want to support those who are more vulnerable in our society, we want a good health service, access to health service when you need it. We want to see a change in all those things.”