It was with great interest I listened to Radio Foyle this morning to hear that a special Stormont
committee, set up to try to create jobs in Derry and the North West, has met just once since it was established.
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This ministerial sub-group established in January 2015 was to "rebalance the regional economy". Setting up the group Martin McGuinness said it was to address issues such as 'jobs, the A5, the A6, the expansion of Magee, the One Plan, Ebrington and Fort George.'
The group's first and only meeting happened in March 2015 with no date for any future meetings set. Not exactly a resounding success in fact lackustre wouldn't even cut it if we're honest. Derry has the highest rate of child poverty, the highest rate of unemployment and we pay the highest domestic rates. Meanwhile these chauffeur driven, overpaid leaders do little, outside of ripping the backside out of expenses which for some may be considered an achievement.
When I think about the lack of opportunity in the city I cast my mind back to the doling out of the Slush fund, sorry Social Investment Fund. You might remember that those two brainboxes who occupy the OFMDFM put more money into football pitches than into job creation schemes. That said you may just think these people really aren't the sharpest tools in the shed. And do you know what I'd tend to agree with you.
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You may have noticed there's been a recent round of sabre rattling over a Sinn Fein proposed name change to the city that would put the Scarva sham fight to shame. Why now is the question?
In 2009 there was a conference in Derry entitled 'Changing patterns, Changing outcomes' attendees at the conference came together on 'key priorities education, skills training, infrastructure, enterprise, jobs, eliminating poverty, and making the city a welcoming place for citizens and visitors alike.' It was also felt that it was essential to ensure 'equality and the needs of the most deprived people were addressed in every action plan'.
Attending the conference Derry Sinn Fein supremo Martin McGuinness is on record as saying 'Some call it Derry, Some call it Londonderry, we all call it home' in reference to the name of the city '
You could argue that the proposed name change is an aspiration that would reflect what the majority of people refer to the city as. I understand and appreciate that, but I would again question the timing of this. After all it didn't seem to bother Martin that much in 2009.
6 years on from the 'Changing patterns, Changing outcomes' conference I would state that neither the patterns or outcomes have changed. Whilst there has been a level of regeneration within the city and we were the first UK City of Culture, there's been no jobs boom. Just like the false fronts on derelict buildings across the city the changes have been superficial. Many children in our city still live in poverty, young people are still having to leave the city to get an education as courses in Magee University have been scrapped. Many of these young people then have to move away from the city to find work. In addition to this the needs of the vulnerable and deprived are not being met.
The impending closure of care homes in the city at William Street and Rectory Field tell their own tale. I was part of a group of people who helped raise awareness of the closure of the Foyleville care home in Derry in 2010 and I saw first hand the impact it had on the elderly residents who were being evicted from their homes. I was actually present when the McShane family who organised the campaign to save Foyleville were told that the home would be closing and something I will never forget is an elderly gentleman who asked if he could give his savings to the Western Trust could he stay in what had been his home for 20 years.
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Stormont, full of those who live in cloud cuckoo land will no doubt come up with some grand announcement about a sub-committee or another action plan, then when those initiatives go no further than the public fanfare and backslapping some bright spark will suggest that the main currency in Derry should be the euro and the sabre rattling will once again begin.
What started as a sham now truly is a shame.