The ‘Journal’ has introduced readers to five of the seven candidates contesting the May 7 Westminster election in Foyle over the last few days.
The penultimate candidate is Sinn Fein Westminster candidate for Foyle, Gearóid Ó hEára.
Gearóid O hEára - Sinn Féin
Q1 - Why should the people of Foyle vote for you on May 7?
Gearóid O hEára: “Derry needs a dedicated champion and in Foyle I want to be that champion for change. I’m asking people who want change to vote for Sinn Fein.
“I believe that we need to create a sense of civic unity and to harness this city’s combined political strength in the Executive, on the new Council, in the Assembly, in the Dáil, in Europe and at Westminster to drive forward an agenda for change that enhances the quality of life of all our citizens. This city deserves nothing less.
“The priorities are the expansion of Magee, the delivery of the A5 and A6 roads and the creation of jobs for our young people.
“I have a record of delivery on many projects and I will bring the same energy and enthusiasm to this role as I brought to my previous roles as; a councillor for 16 years in the Shantallow area; a founding member ‘Off the Streets Initiative’ in Shantallow in the early 90s; as Mayor in 2004/5; as co-ordinator of the Fleadh Cheoil 2013 which injected over £40m into the local economy and as the leader in developing the multi-million pound Cultúrlann (cultural project) in Great James’ Street, which currently employs 40 people.
“I will put the same vision and determination into attracting jobs to this city. We need less rhetoric and more action.
“I am already working on bringing the Fleadh Cheoil back again in 2017/18.
“I will bring a renewed focus on delivery of projects such as expansion of Magee, A5 and A6 as well as investment in the Rail network and the Air and Sea Ports.
“I will utilise Sinn Féin’s combined political strength in the Executive, new Councils, Assembly, the Dáil, Europe and at Westminster to drive forward an agenda for change in the best interests of all our citizens.
“I believe people are ready for change and I believe that I can deliver that change.”
Q2 - What are the greatest challenges facing the Foyle constituency at present?
Gearóid O hEára: “This city has suffered decades of discrimination and under investment.
“I will work to end that by tackling the unemployment, under investment and underachievement by working with the North-West Ministerial sub-Group initiated by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to address these issues and deliver on the promise of the ‘One Plan’.
“I will be a tireless ambassador for this constituency in seeking out investment and job creation opportunities - particularly for the youth and long-term unemployed. I will campaign for an end to zero hours contracts and the establishment of a living wage which the Sinn Féin group on the new Council has already established as Council policy.”
Q3 - Foyle has been an SDLP stronghold for over 30 years, if voted in what would you and your party do differently?
Gearóid O hEára: “We would work with all political, community, educational and business representatives - regardless of political or other affiliations - to create a unity of purpose to deliver prosperity for all based on equality.
“It is now clear that British governments of whatever hue will continue to impose austerity on our society. Sinn Féin is the only party at this election firmly opposed to austerity that has a proven track record in negotiations.
“Following this election Sinn Féin will be seeking an immediate negotiation with whoever forms the next British government to secure a viable budget to deliver public services, return economic powers to promote growth, jobs and prosperity and protect those most in need.
“It is grossly unfair and unequal to compare the north with England or Wales and to impose stringent cuts on us, despite 25 years of conflict and institutional neglect. We need to renegotiate the budget with the British Exchequer and demand that the £1.5 billion taken out of the block grant is restored and that our successful peace process reflects the benefits of peace within those communities that have suffered most.
“A new budget is required to end austerity and we need the fiscal powers necessary to determine our own economic policy, to stabilise the political institutions and build on the progress of the peace process. We need to take control of our own economic and political destiny.”
Q4 - How would you and your party help the people in Foyle realise a better quality of life?
Gearóid O hEára: “Sinn Fein has worked tirelessly in Council, at Stormont and in Europe to improve the quality of life of our citizens.
Since the re-establishment of the political institutions when Martin McGuinness took over as the Education Minister, successive Sinn Féin Education Ministers have completely redeveloped the schools estate including new schools in this city - St. Mary’s, St Cecelia’s, St Patrick’s, Thornhill, St Johns and Lisneal to name a few.
“Martin is also putting the case at the Executive for a focus to be put on the regional imbalance of the economy of the North-West. As part of this focus he has set up a ministerial sub-group which will work to redress that imbalance. His agenda is my agenda, it is Derry’s agenda, the university, the road and rail infrastructure and the Further and Higher Education Institutions of Magee and the North-West Regional College.
“I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with Martin McGuinness to deliver on the objectives of the North West Ministerial Sub-Group and on the One Plan.
“I will work with councillors, MLAs, MEPs and TDs in Foyle and Donegal to ensure that we are at the centre of a revitalised North West Gateway initiative designed to ensure infrastructure investment, job creation and proper marketing of this part of Ireland are delivered.
“I believe that Derry can establish itself as the digital capital of the North of Ireland attracting investment and jobs in the Digital and Creative Industries providing much needed well paid jobs for our graduates and young people.
“ It is our pledge to defend the most vulnerable, to protect public services and deliver a new and better future for this society.
“I believe that I can be the champion for change that this constituency deserves.
“I ask you to come out on May 7 and Vote, Gearóid Ó hEára, Vótáil Sinn Féin.”
Meet the candidates
Hamish Badenoch Conservatives
Mark Durkan SDLP
David Hawthorne Alliance
Julia Kee UUP
Gary Middleton DUP