As a native of this city I am proud of the role Derry republicans have played in the process of change that transformed the North West from a byword for gerrymander and discrimination to a place where everyone now looks on as an example of inclusiveness and cooperation.
We all have to share this small island and need to deal with the past with compassion and understanding; we can’t let our past differences hold us back from creating a future that offers hope to all of our children.
With that as my focus in this campaign and beyond my priorities will be about building bridges where differences still exist and seeking out opportunities at home and abroad that will provide jobs for our young people and long-term unemployed.
This will require new thinking and new relationships with bodies outside the North West.
I welcome the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness’s initiative in establishing the Executive’s North West ministerial subgroup, designed to address the historic underinvestment in this region.
And I look forward to working with that group as it identifies and drives job creation initiatives in the North West, particularly around the expansion of the university at Magee.
The expansion of Magee is absolutely vital to the regeneration of not just this constituency but the entire North West region including Donegal. It is important that everyone working towards expansion for Magee speak with one strong voice. Working together with a unity of purpose we can and will make it happen
I was encouraged to hear my colleague, Maeve McLaughlin report from the latest local Strategy Board meeting that progress is being made.
While it is encouraging to see the unity of purpose around issues like Magee, unfortunately the same cannot be said around the biggest challenge to our stability and prosperity.
The attacks on our ability to reinvigorate our economy, create job opportunities and protect the most vulnerable all comes from the Tory cuts agenda which has already seen £1.5 billion cut from the operating budget of the Executive in addition to the swathe of Welfare cuts being imposed by the British government.
With plans to make more massive cuts to public services and to reduce welfare spending by a further £12bn, it is time for parties opposed to the Tory cuts agenda to stop trying to score political points by attacking each other and put the focus where it belongs – with the Westminster government.
Whatever British government is elected after May 7th one thing is for sure and that is that any benefits to the people of the North will not be won sitting on the green benches of the Commons but, as has always been the case in the past, in a strong direct face-to-face challenge to whoever makes up that government.
A strong Sinn Féin team after May 7th will ensure a continued robust challenge to attacks from whatever government on our ability to deliver a better standard of living for all the people of the North and especially the North West.
Sinn Féin has stood against the Tory assault on public services and the welfare state. We have consistently and publicly declared our determination to protect children and adults with disabilities, the long-term sick and families with children against Tory cuts.
That was our position before, during and since the Stormont House Agreement. That will still be our position after the Westminster election whether it is a Tory or Labour-led British government.
I look forward to being part of that strong Sinn Féin team leading positive change for all our people.