Sinn Féin Waterside Councillor Bridget Meehan challenged Invest NI this week when they visited Council’s Regional Services Committee. While the local office has recently provided funding for local economic development initiatives including Clinical Translational Entrepreneurship & Innovation Programme, Rural Tourism and Craft Development, much more investment is needed in the Northwest.
Cllr Meehan told the committee that across the 18 constituencies in the North, 56% of the £784m investment by Invest NI from 2011/12 – 2012/13 went to 8 constituencies in and around Belfast. Foyle received only 6% of the investment. Out of the 5,060 jobs promoted from 2011/12 – 2012/13, 48% went to the 8 constituencies in an around Belfast and Foyle received 7%. With regard to the 2,699 jobs created 2011/12 – 2012/13, 46% went to the 8 Belfast-centric constituencies and 11% went to Foyle.
“Undoubtedly, there’s a trend. The investments made and jobs promoted and created by Invest NI are heavily concentrated on 8 specific constituency areas that are in and around Belfast. There are clear regional disparities, especially when it’s accepted that Derry is the second city in the North and the fourth largest city across Ireland.
Sinn Féin has consistently challenged these regional disparities in relation to the Foyle constituency. Invest NI and DETI hold the position that their role is to support the entire North; that they have no requirement to target areas of need or regional disparities; that they have no tools to do so, even if you wished to. This position is held in spite of reference in the Programme for Government to tackling regional disparities and in spite of the recent announcement about Coleraine’s Economic Zone which does seem to target a specific area.
Cllr Meehan asked Invest NI for a commitment to support Sinn Féin and Derry City Council in creating an Economic Zone for Derry.