DUP MEP Dianne Dodds discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by Brussels with the Apprentice Boys and the farming and business communities, during a visit to Londonderry on Friday (February 28).
The former North Belfast MLA met the Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABOD) and the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce before visiting Montgomery’s farm in Magheramason.
DUP MLA William Hay, who facilitated the meeting but was unable to attend due to a special sitting of the Assembly in the wake of the Downey controversy, said it was a worthwhile visit.
“As I understand, it was a very fruitful visit. Of course, she’s no stranger to the area and will be returning again on April 17. But Friday’s visit was a chance to go over some of the important changes to funding opportunities.”
Mr Hay said the issue of Single Farm Payments (SFA) was also raised as was the huge reduction in EU money rolling into Northern Ireland. Since 2007, 225m euros has poured into NI from the EU. But just 150m euros has been earmarked for the province under the Peace IV programme from 2014 to 2020.
Mr Hay said: “It’s going to be more economically driven in future, rather than community driven as it was previously. There’s less money to go around with new countries coming in, so we’re going to have to be very careful about where we spend it.”
He said Mrs Dodds underlined her commitment to the agri-food sector during her trip to the North West and was made aware of concerns within the farming community over delayed SFA payments and red tape.
“The importance of agriculture and the agri-food sector to the Northern Ireland economy cannot be overestimated. Diane talked to local farmers about the problems presented by too much red tape and the difficulties this poses for the sector,” he said.