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16/10/2021

Foyle MLA McLaughlin: "Where are Derry's jobs?"

Foyle MLA McLaughlin: "Where are Derry's jobs?"

Sinead McLaughlin of the SDLP has pointed out that while 1,621 jobs have been announced this year by the economy minister for location in Belfast, that none have been announced for Derry

Foyle MLA, Sinead McLaughlin, launched a blistering attack on the Northern Ireland Executive for giving Belfast more jobs than Derry.

Mrs McLaughlin was speaking in a debate the impact of the proposed Universal Credit cut in Foyle in the Assembly at Stormont.

She highlighted the West-East discrepancy in terms of where the highest and lowest levels of employment are with the west of Northern Ireland coming a poor second to the east.

One aspect she focused on was the amount of investment that has come to Belfast in comparison to Derry.

The SDLP spokesperson for the Economy and Energy pointed out that while 1,621 jobs have been announced this year by the economy minister for location in Belfast, that none have been announced for Derry.

She said: “I have in front of me a map. It is coloured in shades. The darkest colours show the highest rates of Universal Credit receipt.

Universal Credit map of Northern Ireland highlighted in Foyle MLA Sinead McLaughlin's speech at the Assembly in Stormont

“Three constituencies are in the darkest colours. Those are Foyle, North Belfast and West Belfast. There is one really, really light-coloured area which represents Lagan Valley.

“Much of the East is actually pretty light, which shows where the highest paid jobs and the highest employment rates are located.

“When the UK’s prime minister justifies cutting Universal Credit, he says that he wants people to earn more through their work, rather than through their benefit payments.

“Well, where in Derry are those jobs? Perhaps the communities and economy ministers can suggest how those who are unemployed in Derry can get jobs? And how those in badly paid jobs can get work that pays more?

“I hear, yet again, this week of new jobs going to Belfast. ASOS is bringing 180 jobs to Belfast.

“Two weeks ago, the economy minister announced Agio are to create 100 jobs in Belfast.

“Last month he announced 120 jobs at Tribe, on the edge of Belfast. In June, it was 771 jobs with PwC, in Belfast.

“Also in June, it was 180 jobs in Belfast with Vision 1. In February, it was 200 jobs in Belfast with KPMG.

“In January, it was 70 jobs with Everquote, headquartered where? Belfast of course.

“Not that all the jobs have gone to Belfast. Some 130 have gone to Bangor.

“But where and when are the jobs coming to Derry?

“In April, the then-economy minister said the recovery in the North West is important.

“In February that same former economy minister expressed concern about Derry – not about the lack of jobs being created in my city, but about additional students coming to Magee to study health and life science, and what that might mean for Coleraine.

“However, congratulations to Belfast, with its large university campuses, graduates, commuters and much higher pay than in the West.”

Speaking on the session in the Assembly yesterday on the impact of the proposed Universal Credit cut in Foyle, People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll highlighted the neglect and poverty that Derry has suffered – which he warned would get worse with the £20 cut in Universal Credit.

He said: “Like my own constituency of West Belfast, far too many people (in Derry) struggle with poverty, the lack of housing, low wages and the effects of decades of neglect.

“The failure to increase Magee to a 10,000 student population by now is one of the many injustices the Stormont Executive has failed to rectify. So is the abysmal failure to improve and vastly expand rail provision for Foyle and across the entire North West.

“As my colleague Eamonn McCann has said many times, the old Stormont regime failed the people of Derry and Foyle but so too has the new Stormont regime.

“Twenty-seven per cent of people in Derry and Strabane live below the poverty line. Foyle, just like West Belfast, has been ravaged by the welfare reforms brought in by the Executive.

“The Executive's determination to run public services into the ground in favour of privatisation that allows a tiny few to profiteer is also having a dramatic impact on people's wellbeing.

“There's no doubt that people across the North, including in Foyle, will be hit very hard by the proposed cut to Universal Credit.

“Given Derry and Foyle's existing levels of deprivation, the cut to Universal Credit, out of control energy prices, pay cuts for health workers and new taxes will hit the area very hard.

“The Stormont Executive is talking about finally putting in place an anti-poverty strategy. But it will mean very little if we can't protect people right now.

“It's shocking to me that the Executive has done nothing to demand a Wealth Tax on billionaires, rich corporations and elites. It's clear they don't want to upset elites.

“There's a lot of feigned concern for those trapped in poverty and dependent on food banks in the Assembly from Executive parties.

“But all five of those parties campaigned for a massive cut in taxes for rich, very rich, corporations while they agreed to bring in Tory welfare reforms. That action tells us more about the priorities of government parties than all their words of concern.

“If the Tories follow through on plans to slash Universal Credit, People Before Profit is calling for the Executive to step-in with funding to make sure no one loses out.

“We need less talk about anti-poverty strategies. We need action not promises from the Executive.

“The Executive threw people in Foyle, and across the North, to the wolves by signing up to Tory welfare reforms. The Executive shouldn't do it again. Let's commit now to making sure no one is punished by the cruel Tory cut to Universal Credit.”

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