‘City Deal’ needs to be crafted to our benefit

Mark Durkan MP, Professor Deirdre Heenan and journalist Paul Gosling at a 'City Deal' seminar in the City Hotel on Friday. Photo: Stephen Latimer Photography.
Mark Durkan MP, Professor Deirdre Heenan and journalist Paul Gosling at a 'City Deal' seminar in the City Hotel on Friday. Photo: Stephen Latimer Photography.

Economist Paul Gosling has reiterated his view that good transport links, skills and access to research and development are the vital ingredients required to develop a fit-for-purpose 21st Century city in Londonderry.

Speaking at an event to promote the idea of a City Deal for Londonderry, the day after it was announced local regeneration company Ilex, is to be wound down, Mr Gosling said: “Derry knows what it needs to be successful. It is road improvement, airport routes, every school an excellent school, and the expansion of Magee.

“But the decision-makers have failed to provide the ingredients for us to be successful.

“Without these factors enabling us to improve our situation, there are two outcomes. We remain a benefits-dependent society, with essentially a low waged economy. One problem with that outcome is that benefits are being cut, as those whom the system has failed are increasingly punished for that systems failure. The other problem is that with a higher minimum wage – which I fully support – the opportunity to compete through low costs disappears.

“That gives us the alternative outcome. It is the traditional Irish outcome. Emigration. There is a modern variant. It is commuting to Belfast and getting stuck in the A6 at Moneynick every day.”

He expressed cautious support for a City Deal for Londonderry, which would devolve extra power and capacity here.

But he said Londonderry and Belfast mustn’t be lumped together under one City Deal and warned it may be a mechanism by which Government “devolves the blame for cuts.”

Mr Gosling said: “The idea of a City Deal that lumps Belfast and Derry together as, supposedly, one city, merely reconfirms the existing structures of discrimination that have done Derry so badly for so long.

“Derry has been failed by existing decision making processes. We know what needs to be done.

“But while we know what needs to be done, generations of politicians in Westminster and Stormont have failed to deliver it to us. Either for reasons of not caring, or of conscious discrimination. The modern face of discrimination is arguably no longer about religion, but instead about geography. “The result is much the same.

“So there is a very strong argument in favour of the City Deal for Derry. But the decision-making must take place here. And it needs to come with adequate resources and access to additional resources.

“Those resources need to recognise and compensate for the generations of past discrimination and under-investment – some of which came from a Stormont that failed to govern for all and much of it from a Westminster which often did much the same.

“With sufficient resources in place, City Deal could turn around the fortunes of Derry.”