SDLP Councillor Gerard Diver has questioned the seriousness of the Executive towards tackling regional inequality in the north west, claiming a special Ministerial body has only met twice since its inception a year ago.
Speaking during the December meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Colr. Diver said it beggared belief that the Ministerial Sub Committee- introduced by the Office of the First and Deputy Ministers and involving several other Executive Ministers had last met in April.
He added that his own party colleague, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, was only given 24 hours notice of that second meeting.
Commenting on the number of meetings, he said there seemed to be an “ad hoc approach”, adding: “Are you for real? Somebody is definitely having a laugh here!”
He said that this gave a clear indication of the level of seriousness with which the chronic problems facing the North West were being allotted.
Mr Diver- speaking during his last meeting as a Councillor before he replaces outgoing SDLP Foyle Assembly Member Pat Ramsey at Stormont- delivered his scathing verdict during a discussion on a motion brought by Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher.
Are you for real? Somebody is definitely having a laugh here!Colr. Diver
Colr. Gallagher had proposed that, given the “abhorrent socioeconomic inequalities” facing Derry and Strabane, that the Council demand that the Assembly allocate all the necessary resources from its surplus (£250m) to address the inequalities that exist here.
“It is time for Stormont to face their responsibilities to the North West and also alleviate the negative impact on those most dependent on welfare,” his motion continued.
He said the advancement of the money for the A5 has been “on the table more times than a DUP resignation letter”.
“No amount of window dressing can hide the fact that this latest deal was a dreadful one that is going to become catastrophic as the years go on.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Cooper claimed the motion was illogical an not thought out and “coming from a member who last week voted against a £6m investment in the Brandywell”.
He added that it appeared the proposer would prefer direct rule from the Tories, which he said would leave this area “decimated”.
Colr. Cooper said that £75m has been committed towards the A5 Dublin road, and suggested an amendment to the motion to the effect that the council calls on the Executive to prioritise and further resource the North West Gateway Initiative and associated policies aimed at tackling the socioeconomic and infrastructural inequalities in the Derry, Strabane and Donegal region.
His motion, which also called for unallocated welfare relief monies and other future funding to be directed to citizens in areas of most need, replaced Colr. Gallagher’s motion after it was voted through.
SDLP Colr. Diver said the arguments for increased investment were well rehearsed and questioned whether the Executive was serious about addressing inequality experienced in the north west.
He also said that reducing Corporation Tax, by itself, was unlikely to result in any meaningful transformation for the north west, and claimed the monies allocated for the A5 were nowhere near enough for what was required.
“Our party has been to the forefront of calling for a city deal that would help this city and Strabane and towns associated with it. The Executive are not interested in that.”
He added however that his information was that government officials were instead talking to Belfast City Council about a City Deal for them.”
Colr. Gallagher’s motion was defeated and Colr. Cooper’s amendment, which then became the Substantive Motion, was carried with the backing of 24 Councillors and Colr. Gallagher himself, with 10 abstentions.
Colr Gallagher said afterwards that regardless of which motion was carried, he was glad the council was taking action on the issues raised.