New Derry City and Strabane Mayor, John Boyle, says he expects negotiations with the government in London on a City Deal forDerry to begin during his year in office.
The SDLP councillor, who took over as mayor last week, said enough time has been wasted and it is time for meaningful conversations to start taking place.
“There is a degree of unanimity about a desire to achieve a City Deal and I don’t hear a great deal of disagreement about that,” he said.
“A City Deal can be a game-changer for us because it would afford us greater fiscal responsibility in terms of infrastructure and improvement, to develop the university and to address issues such as the Buncrana Road for example.
“Mark Durkan, when he was the MP for the city, was pushing for this five years ago and I am grateful that others have come on board but the reality is that so much time had been wasted.
“There was an opportunity when we had a functioning Executive to promote it, but that didn’t happen.
“If everybody has the will to do it and support it, I am very confident that there will be negotiations during my tenure. I intend to be set-up to help foster that ambition through conversations which I intend to have and that we need to have.
“As mayor of this city I am there to fill any perceived vacuums and I will work very closely with any stakeholder who is interested.”
Colr. Boyle, who was deputy mayor to Sinn Fein’s Maoliosa McHugh last year, said that role was the perfect preparation for his year in office.
“It was the perfect experience as a lot of what will be expected of me this year in terms of public appearances, public speaking, engaging with statutory agencies meeting national and international visitors,” he said.
“The role of the deputy mayor is much busier than in the past simply because it is a much larger geographical area than it was in the old legacy council. It is a two-man job and one man can’t be in two places at the same time.”
He also reiterated that he would represent everyone in the city.
“My record speaks for itself,” he said.
“I feel that every duty that I have performed over the past seven years would suggest that being mayor for everyone is what I would base my mayoralty on.
“I am not naive to the fact that we live in a society where there aren’t contentious issues that concentrate the minds of a significant proportion of the population.
“During my tenure as deputy mayor, I was asked to attend particular functions which I did without any difficulty.”
Since the amalgamation of the old Strabane District and Derry City council’s Colr. Boyle says councillors have learned to work more closely together, something he is keen to see continuing over the next 12 months.
“Initially there was a little difficulty in how we went about treating the urban and the rural parts of the council area because the demands of people are often quite different.
“It was an interesting experience for all elected representatives to learn how to deliver services right across the district.
“I think that has happened over a period of time members began to realise and appreciate that the challenges in the former Strabane district were no different to the challenges that exist in the city area. In many regards that is still the case.
“We still have pockets of social and economic deprivation in both those former legacy council areas. We still have high unemployment rates and physical transport infrastructure problems.
“The A5 impacts all the way through County Tryone, all the way through County Derry and into Derry city. The challenges which we face, we all face together.
“I am not saying that things are perfect and I want to lead from the front on that. I want other representatives, irrespective of which political party or community background they come from, to join me in the battles which we face.
“The people of this city and district want us to deliver the services they so badly need and they want us to fight for them.
“People who feel disenfranchised or people who feel marginalised it is our job, all of us, to speak up for them.
“And as mayor, it is my job to do that much more than anyone else and I intend to do that.”