I’m launching a Private Member’s Bill to address the neglect of Derry’s economy once and for all
Across the Assembly chamber and on the airwaves time and again, we have debated the legacy of historic discrimination and the chronic neglect that has stymied our economy and driven a generation of young people to leave our shores.
Those arguments have rightly focused on the need for higher skills and expanded university provision in this city. They have also lamented the blind eye that Stormont has turned to the plight of people here.
Some debates have led to warm words in economic strategies, with promises of reform.
However, despite these warm words, Derry still tops the economic league tables which everyone else wants to be at the bottom of.
From high unemployment, high economic inactivity to low productivity, investment has been allowed to flow to places like Belfast while places like Derry have been far too often left behind.
Far too many of our people have been trapped in cycles of poverty and the size of our university campus still pales in comparison to those in cities of similar sizes across the island.
Meanwhile, the same strategies that were touted as tools to address the imbalances in our economy lie gathering dust.
I am convinced that the soft nods in these economic strategies to economic justice for our city don’t cut it anymore. A different approach is needed.
That is why I am driven to launch my proposal today for a Private Member’s Bill on Regional Jobs and Investment to address the chronic neglect of our city once and for all.
This Bill would change the way Stormont works, by mandating every Department to address regional imbalances, reforming our economic development agency Invest NI and finally mandating the expansion of higher education in our city.
And this isn’t just about the Department for the Economy. It’s about mandating the whole of government, particularly the Departments for Infrastructure and Education, to assume responsibility for tackling the gross inequalities that have been allowed to take hold in our economy.
Over recent months, I have engaged extensively with a range of stakeholders in the economy. It is clear that while business is prepared to play its role, our government and its policies have let us down. No piece of legislation will be a silver bullet.
But political accountability and strategic leadership will be crucial ingredients in the recipe for the investment that can reverse the decline of our region.
This legislation is vital to ensure that no future Executive is let off the hook for failing to deliver for Derry.
I believe that it is long past time that our government stepped up to the plate to rebalance investment and opportunity across the North.
The SDLP stands ready to play our full part in making that happen through this Bill. I hope you will support our efforts and contribute your thoughts to our public consultation: https://www.sdlp.ie/regional-jobs-bill or contact me directly at [email protected].
Join our campaign and have your voice heard on the future of our city and region. Together we can ensure that at long last Derry receives its fair share.