Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has detailed a range of measures by the Executive to progress the development and help boost the economy of Derry and the wider north west.
The Sinn Fein Assembly Member said the Executive was “determined to meet the economic and financial challenges we face, remodel the local economy, maximise growth, increase competitiveness and provide economic security for all our people”.
Mr McGuinness was speaking after concerns were expressed by Derry community worker Tommy Mullan over high unemployment.
Mr Mullan also questioned what a Ministerial Sub Committee set up earlier this year to tackle regional disparity, initially focusing on the north west, was doing.
The Ministerial sub-group, Mr McGuinness said, was working closely with Invest NI to develop an economic strategy for Derry “which should be endorsed and underway within the very near future”.
He said: “The Ministerial Sub-Group on Regional Opportunities is focused on what the Executive can do in relation to these key issues.
“The first meeting in January focused on the creation and retention of jobs in the North West and how it is a key priority and the Executive is working hard to improve the skills base and help create a ‘pro-business’ environment.
“We will continue to work with established international investors like Seagate, Fujitsu and Convergys as well as supporting home grown businesses and new start ups.
“In March the meeting explored what the Executive can deliver for the North West with a particular focus on road infrastructure. Investment in the road infrastructure would increase connectivity and reduce journey times. Improved public transport links enable people to take advantage of more employment and education opportunities.”
Mr McGuinness said that the Executive remains committed to the A5 project and the publication of Draft Orders and consultation will be an important point in the process.
On the A6, he added “should funding become available, construction work could begin relatively quickly”.
“All potential funding opportunities will continue to be explored including the Juncker plan, which will fund infrastructure projects across Europe over the next few years.
“As well as key infrastructure issues, discussion took place about Ebrington, Ballykelly, the digital and creative industries, the expansion of Magee University and the North West Gateway Initiative.
“In February the demolition work began at the former Shackleton military site in Ballykelly. Moving the DARD headquarters to the North West demonstrates our commitment to decentralise jobs. This £20million investment will provide a significant economic injection to the North West and be a massive boost for residents, businesses, employees and visitors.”
Mr McGuinness said that the announcement last week by Employment and Learning Minister, Stephen Farry of approval for the new teaching block at Ulster University’s Magee campus is further evidence of the Executive delivering. Undergraduate student numbers at Magee have been increased by 568 in recent years and the new £11 million teaching block is a necessary important addition to the Magee campus.”
“The Group will continue to work collaboratively regardless of departmental boundaries to drive forward economic development and prosperity for all in the north west.”