SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood says that the deputy First Minister must explain why £3 million of public money has been used to allow a company, which closed its Londonderry office in 2011, to reopen in Belfast in 2013.
The move by Stream has also brought home again the pointless of the so-called ‘Save Our Telehouse’ campaign, while also reigniting major concerns over transport infrastructure,
In a statement issued this morning, Colum Eastwood said: “The people of Derry will be rightly angered after hearing news that Stream are creating 1000 jobs in Belfast just two years after making 1000 people redundant in Derry.
“I have read the remarks from Invest NI that these are different jobs and that jobs haven’t been moved from Derry to Belfast. This will sound like empty rhetoric to the families in the Derry that were devastated by the job losses in 2011.
“Serious questions need to be asked of our resident deputy First Minister.
“How can he allow a company that closed down their Derry operation to avail of £3 million of public money to set up in Belfast?”
Mr Eastwood also voiced his concerns on Twitter last night. In a reply, city-based economist and commentator, Paul Gosling reflected the views of many, saying: “Difficult to attract investment to Derry when we have a road link to Belfast much of which is of 1960s standard.”
Not only that, but as the Sentinel reported this week, the small Co Antrim town of Cullybackey, with its 2,500 population, is much better served by the rail network than Northern Ireland’s second city.
The bitter jobs blow also blights hopes that the much-vaunted Project Kelvin would boost Londonderry’s economy after providing super-fast links to the USA, and would attract firms that use digital technology and global communications to the city.
Fours years ago there was outrage voiced by republican and nationalist politicians at a decision to site a so-called tele house in Coleraine rather than Londonderry.
Although the company behind the project said there was no difference between various ‘points of presence’ a bitter campaign brought about a U-turn.
The Sentinel published a number of articles highlighting the political nature of the campaign which led to a ‘container’ being sited at Fort George.
And last year we conclusively showed that the Fort George container’s parity with other access points suggests the 2009 campaign to bring the Project Kelvin ‘Telehouse’ to Londonderry instead of Coleraine made no difference.
The ‘Save Our Telehouse’ clamour was largely focused on the potential jobs benefits but since the Fort George facility became operational in March 2010 the dole claimant rate in Londonderry has risen even during City of Culture year.
Alarmingly, the Sentinel also revealed this year that four people have emigrated from the city every day since the start of the economic downturn.
The Sentinel revealed the tele-exchange at Fort George is a Point of Presence just like seven others in Northern Ireland.
Two years after the ‘Telehouse’ campaign and the tele-exhange subsequently going live the Sentinel asked Hibernia Atlantic how many telecoms companies, carriers or businesses have directly connected to the Fort George facility.
The firm said it “could not give specific numbers or names” and that it was “difficult to fully calculate as our carrier and reseller channels enable many more local companies to connect for Internet and fixed line access that Hibernia would be unaware of.”
However, the firm revealed the Fort George building is no different to the seven other Points of Presence province-wide.
All of this accords with what Vice-President of network operations at Hibernia Atlantic Derek Bullock told the Stormont Enterprise Committee in 2009 before the pointless row over Tele-gate which galvanised public support while delivering nothing in real terms.