Colum Eastwood claims Executives have failed to deliver for Derry; Sammy Wilson accuses him of ‘whining’
Colum Eastwood has claimed previous Stormont Executives have failed to deliver for Derry but former Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has accused the SDLP leader of ‘whining’.
The East Antrim MP specifically pointed to investments in City of Derry Airport, the North West Cancer Centre and investment in roads infrastructure during heated exchanges at Westminster.
Mr. Wilson’s party leader Jeffrey Donaldson, meanwhile, pointed to expenditure at Ulster University’s Magee College campus.
The SDLP leader raised what he characterised as the poor record of former Executives in promoting the economic development of the north west during the second reading of the NI Budget Bill.
The Foyle MP invited Mr. Wilson ‘to visit Foyle, because my experience of previous Executives is that they did not do an awful lot of levelling up there’.
Mr. Wilson replied: “The hon. Gentleman continually raises this issue—sometimes taking a whining approach as well—but under the Executive I remember money going to the airport at Londonderry, Altnagelvin hospital getting the cancer centre and money being allocated for the road from Londonderry.”
Mr. Donaldson added: “And for the university.”
Mr. Wilson also pointed to the Dublin government’s decision to cut funding for the A5 in 2011 and to defer funding for the project in 2019.
“I am thinking only of my own experience. Actually, the road was cut because the Irish Government said they were not going to make their contribution to it,” he said.
Responding, Mr. Eastwood pointed out that far more investment is needed in the north west to redress the chronic regional imbalance within the six counties.
He pointed to several outstanding central and regional government commitments that have not yet been made good.
"It is interesting that people in Derry are entitled to some Government funding—thank you very much! My constituency has the highest unemployment, the highest claimant count and the highest household overcrowding, and it has five of the 10 most deprived areas in NI.
"Maybe some work was done, and maybe some money was spent outside the Greater Belfast area, but it has not had the impact that some might claim,” Mr. Eastwood stated.
The SDLP leader claimed Derry has been neglected for decades and that concerted action is needed to help the city realise its potential.
Among the outstanding projects mentioned by the Foyle MP were Magee College, the Brandywell and the Northlands addiction centre.
"If people think it is good enough or acceptable just to say that we will throw a few quid at people in Derry—people who have been left behind—after many decades, they are absolutely wrong.
"The New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) agreement was referenced earlier, and this Government have a responsibility for some of the commitments in it. I think of the expansion of Magee—there is still no funding for that from the Government.
"There is the Brandywell stadium—there is still no funding for that from the Government. And there is the Northlands addiction centre—we have had promise after promise, but the money is still not in a bank account,” said the SDLP leader.