Chamber welcomes Villiers’ comments on financial assistance

The Londonderry Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the offer by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers for the UK Government to provide financial assistance for the economic development of Northern Ireland.

This offer is consistent with the request for support made by the Chamber when it met with Ms Villiers in November last year, when the Chamber urged the UK Government to provide financial assistance for the regional development of the North West.

Ms Villiers indicated this week that the offer of support is conditional on political leaders in Northern Ireland making progress on the establishment of a shared society.

Chief executive Sinead McLaughlin said: “The Chamber wholeheartedly welcomes and supports the offer by Theresa Villiers to provide assistance with Northern Ireland’s infrastructure development to assist the economy here.

“The offer from Theresa Villiers is entirely consistent with the Chamber’s direct request to the Secretary of State when we met her in private in advance of her addressing our Chamber lunch at the end of last year. The Chamber is clear that for the economy of the North West to prosper we need two things in particular – the upgrade of the A6 to the standard of a modern road between major cities and also the substantial expansion of university education at the Magee campus.

“The infrastructure weakness we suffer from in the North West of Northern Ireland is an unfortunate legacy from the direct rule period. Despite a promise of £18bn of financial support from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for infrastructure improvement, this level of support has not been provided by the UK Government.

“Theresa Villiers said this week that the provision of a new economic support package for Northern Ireland is conditional on greater progress being made towards the establishment of a genuinely shared society. While the Chamber strongly supports a shared future and social normalisation, we hope this requirement will not cause a delay in the delivery of financial support. We hope that clear commitments from the Northern Ireland Executive to making progress may be acceptable to the Secretary of State, rather than waiting for a shared society to actually be delivered.

“However, we agree that it is essential for the Executive and the Assembly to resolve differences and accelerate moves towards a shared society, in which all parts of all communities are treated with respect.

“We thank Theresa Villiers for having listened carefully to the lobbying of ourselves and no doubt others who will have put forward similar suggestions for the improvement of infrastructure. It remains our strongly held view that the priority improvements required for Derry and the North West are the upgrade of the A6 and other parts of the road network and the substantial expansion of the University of Ulster’s Magee campus, as specified in the One Plan.”