27 May 2020
Standing up for Derry
Tackling the legacy of economic and social neglect in the North West
In recent months, there has been a rightful focus on the dealing with the COVID 19 Pandemic in order to save lives and to protect our most vulnerable. The Pandemic has underlined the effect that a decade of Tory austerity has had on the health service, and how woefully equipped those regions who suffer from increased levels of deprivation, income inequality and poorer health outcomes are in a time of crisis.
It does not take a genius to work out that Derry and the North West of Ireland have suffered from decades, if not centuries, of economic and social deprivation. There are some who would say that this is simply the product of regional “imbalances”- as if economic policy is a scale which only needs to be slightly tweaked in one direction or another to address “imbalances”. This is a lie.
It is not a coincidence that Derry has one of the highest levels of economic inactivity in the north, or that Donegal has been nicknamed the “forgotten county”. This is a result of a deliberate policy of economic and social discrimination which has been reinforced by partition. Regional inequality has been created by the intentional decision of allocating resources based on creed and not on need.
Five of the ten most deprived wards in the north are in Derry. Derry suffers from high unemployment, low skill levels, lower health outcomes, and lower educational attainment. From 2016-2019 InvestNI, the body that is tasked with investing across the north of Ireland, brought only 22 Foreign investors to Derry compared to 634 such visits to Belfast – mainly in south Belfast.
This equates to Derry being introduced to less than 3% of the total amount of international investors they hosted for that period. Yet, InvestNI point blank refuses to develop a sub-regional strategy to combat what is clearly discrimination.
Tackling regional inequalities requires systemic change and as stated in the New Decade New Approach Document Stormont resources must be allocated on based on objective need.
• Civil Rights 50th Anniversary march Shipquay Street Derry
Ensuring 1000 Initiatives Flourish
There are dozens of incomplete projects across Derry that would help reverse decades of neglect. From developing high tech industry, cross-border all-Island tourism strategies and the regenerating our city centre – projects that all need to be developed to realise their full potential: Sinn Féin is more than up for challenging this and turning the tide on years of neglect.
Derry has waited far too long for the much needed expansion of Magee University to 10 000 students and the establishment a medical school for its first student intake in 2021.
These two key commitments to the North West in New Decade New Approach has the potential to not only address a host of skills shortages and increase health outcomes in the North West, but would also address the legacy of the disgraceful sectarian decision over 50 years ago not to locate a university in Derry.
Former British Army sites that were occupied during the conflict are undergoing redevelopment so that we the people of Derry get access to those once heavily militarised spaces. Ebrington Barracks, once a site of oppression and subjugation has now become a multi-purpose events venue, and is home to a handful of local fledgling businesses. The late Martin McGuinness said of the site that it had the potential to transform “not just the landscape of the city, but also the economic prospects of the North West”. Be assured that Sinn Féin in Derry will work tirelessly to deliver on Martin’s vision.
• Foyle MLAs Martina Anderson, Karen Mullan and Senator Elisha McCallion at Magee College Derry
No return to the Status Quo
As Irish Republicans where we see injustice, discrimination or inequality, we call it out. The basis on which the Executive was restored is good governance and genuine power-sharing. To do that we need a step-change, where resources are allocated on objective need and where equality and human rights become the by-product of a new society emerging from conflict.
In Derry, we have a roadmap towards that goal, and Team Sinn Féin Dhoire will fight to ensure that commitments given are delivered.
In recent weeks Sinn Féin in the Stormont Executive has helped to deliver matching funding for the Derry and Strabane’s Inclusive Growth Deal which will lead to a transformative total investment of a quarter of a billion pounds for the city and district.
Derry and Strabane district council will receive double the financial assistance per head of population compared to the Belfast Region bid and more than twice the other bids combined.
These are the steps that are needed to end regional inequalities in Derry and the north-west and to address decades of economic and social deprivation.
Sinn Fein representatives are the agents of change. We know that despite everything that was thrown at Derry – from gerrymandering, oppression, the Battle of the Bogside, internment, Bloody Sunday, shoot to kill, collusion, the Hunger Strikes, discrimination and neglect, the spirit and humour of our people was never broken. If anything, the sense of community was strengthened.
In horrible situations, despite massive adversities, people managed to survive. They got on with rearing their children and they did an amazing job.
It’s those children of the Battle of the Bogside who say the pace of change has been too slow – yet go on to say, that we are in a better place now and we have the opportunity to make it a great place.
For such a tiny place, Derry and its people have fairly punched above our weight and it is the strength of that conviction which commits us to making Derry and the north-west an equal space for all who live in it.