Derry’s newest Stormont Minister has welcomed the challenges of his new role.
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan becomes the north’s Environment Minister, replacing the outgoing Alex Attwood in the Stormont Executive.
Mr Durkan, who was married last Saturday, said he hopes to build upon the “the hard work and success” of his predecessor.
“The Department of the Environment represents a diverse portfolio, covering a spectrum of both environmental and economic issues.
“Its work affects every citizen in Northern Ireland, whether that is in the form of local government, planning, natural and built heritage or road safety.
SDLP Leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said the Derry MLA, nephew of the city’s MP Mark Durkan, “represents the emerging generation of the SDLP, a hard-working politician with a firm commitment to social justice.”
The new minister was elected to the Assembly in 2011 and had until now been the party’s spokesperson on social development.
In 2005, when elected to Derry City Council, he polled the highest amount of votes in the local authority’s history.
His new portfolio covers the natural and built environment, planning, road safety, waste management and local government.
“Building on the hard work and success of my predecessor Alex Attwood, I will continue where he left off, ensuring planning works for citizens, tourism and the overall economy,” Mr Durkan said.
“Making decisions and clearing the backlog of applications is the correct way to progress and ensure clarity for those involved“
He continued: “Local government reform is well underway and I will drive the programme to ensure that we reach the goal of stronger, more efficient and more effective local government – local government which is focused on our citizens and responsive to local needs.
“Road fatalities have fallen in recent years, however the carnage and loss of life in the last week illustrates the need for me to continue to focus efforts in this area to make our roads safe for all users.
“I will also be robust in my approach to protecting the built and natural environments which make Northern Ireland such a unique place to live. This includes reducing the volume of waste going to landfill and also going after those who seek to damage our environment through waste crime. ”
Mr Durkan is currently honeymooning.