The Executive’s new Programme for Government has failed the North West, business leaders and lobbyists have said.
The revelation that the draft document contains no mention of Derry’s ‘One Plan’ regeneration blueprint and ignores proposed initiatives for the economic and social rejuvenation of the North West sparked outrage in the city yesterday.
A copy of the draft document - which is due to go back to the North’s Executive this week following consultation with assembly members - was leaked to local economist Paul Gosling, who said it contains “nothing explicit or implicit that deals with the North West”.
An urgent letter was yesterday sent by Londonderry Chamber of Commerce and the University for Derry lobby group to all ministers in the Executive, urging them to amend the Programme for Government to benefit the North West.
Padraig Canavan, Chamber President and Chair of U4D, said: “The draft Programme for Government fails the North West. Many people in Derry-Londonderry had high hopes that the city’s ‘One Plan’ would be accommodated in its entirety in the Programme for Government - at the very least as a recognised aspiration.
“Instead, the draft version does not even mention the ‘One Plan’ - unlike the very many other government strategies that are listed.
“Nor is there any recognition of the priorities of the North West. Those priorities are the substantial expansion of Magee and improvement to the transport infrastructure, particularly the road and rail links between Derry-Londonderry and Belfast.
“As the draft version stands, the report offers little if any hope for the economic and social conditions of the North West.”
SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan said the omission of the ‘One Plan’ was “hugely disappointing and somewhat bewildering”.
“With such an omission exposed it will probably now be filled with a suitable amendment - but this city needs more meaningful and reliable commitments than lip service or ‘rent-a-mention’ for the ‘One Plan’.”
Mr Durkan said it has already been made clear that the city’s agenda is not being factored into government plans.
“The fact that the necessary expansion at Magee was not planned into the student finance package tells a story too. Another bad example was the Executive’s failure to provide a proper budget envelope for the City of Culture.
“We have had positive promises that were pledged as guarantees, such as the upgrading of the railway line, reversed or exposed as empty posturing.”
Mr Durkan added that the A5 and the A6 projects did not gain their priority status from the Executive. He said; “It was Peter Hain as Secretary of State who announced the priority for the Dungiven by-pass and the A6 dualling in late 2005 while it was the Irish government in the pre-devolution National Development Plan which provided the key funding basis for upgrading the A5.”