Derry needs and deserves well paid jobs: SDLP MLA

Derry has the worst unemployment in Northern Ireland, along with low incomes and high levels of poverty. This must change, writes Sinead McLaughlin MLA.

Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 10:27 am
Sinéad McLaughlin

The SDLP is producing a comprehensive plan to create more good quality jobs in Derry and the wider North West, including Donegal and Strabane. Over the coming months, we will provide more details of our proposals, consulting widely.

Today begins this process. At 11am this morning (Tuesday), we will hold an online Zoom meeting, with guest speakers as well as my party colleagues Colum Eastwood and Mark Durkan, plus myself.

Our initial focus is on dealing with Brexit, including the Protocol. We need to minimise disruption to East-West trade, and resolve the North-South difficulties. The European Union and the British government must urgently negotiate mitigations, focusing on what is best for the people of the North of Ireland.

Meanwhile, we must also act positively and decisively to promote the opportunities created by the Protocol. It should be obvious to anyone that membership of both the UK’s Internal Market and the EU’s Single Market is a massive opportunity. Having said for generations that Northern Ireland needs a unique selling point - at last we have it. So let’s not talk it down, or be embarrassed by it, but use it to our advantage.

Invest NI has been doing exactly this. Invest NI is not well regarded in Derry. But Invest NI deserves praise for going out and promoting the benefits of the Protocol for businesses locating in NI.

A recent poll by Manufacturing NI found that nearly half of manufacturers want the Executive to identify and secure the positive benefits of the Protocol.

A quarter of respondents said the Protocol was already giving them benefits, or expect it to do so.

Many manufacturers - 38% - expect continued difficulties from the Protocol, but the main issue is the disruption of supply chains.

This itself creates new opportunities for local suppliers – Marks & Spencer has just announced it will buy more produce locally. Other major retailers are doing the same.

Over the coming months, the SDLP will publish a comprehensive job creation plan for Derry.

The city needs and deserves well paid jobs. The Protocol can help deliver this, so let us make sure that it does.

○ Sinead McLaughlin is the SDLP’s jobs spokesperson.