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20/10/2021

Department's no-show snub towards Council is "disrespectful", claims Foyle MLA McLaughlin

Sinead McLaughlin

Sinead McLaughlin of the SDLP has criticised the Department for Economy for pulling out of three separate meetings with Derry & Strabane Council at the last minute

Foyle MLA, Sinead McLaughlin, has accused the Department for Economy of being “disrespectful on every single level” by repeatedly snubbing Derry & Strabane Council.

The SDLP spokesperson for the economy was speaking following the third successive withdrawal from talks by the Department of Economy and the Council's Business & Culture Committee saying this latest withdrawal was “inexcusable”.

The Committee during the last 18 months have on three occasions set up talks with the Department only for those talks to fall through at the last minute.

Frustration has grown as the Committee have been keen to question, and hold to account, the Department regarding its plans for Derry and the north-west.

Mrs McLaughlin says she views the Department's attitude as being “unprofessional” and has taken it upon herself to call them out on it.

She said: “For a year and a half, the Council has made a request of the Department for Economy to attend the Business & Culture Committee.

“They've had three confirmations of attendings and three withdrawals at the last minute.

“I really am concerned about that. I'm concerned about the culture within the Department for Economy that they feel that would be an appropriate behaviour that they could disrespect a local authority and elected representatives and ultimately, the people of Derry City & Strabane District Council by not attending and pulling out three times.

“Once is excusable but three times in inexcusable. I believe we need to call this out. It's unprofessional.

“If that culture and that leadership is given from the Department, it's something we as elected representatives need to be concerned about.

“Because if it's happening in my local council area, then potentially it's happening right across Northern Ireland.

“The Department is ultimately responsible and has a duty to brief local authorities on the work that they are doing and that is exactly what Derry City & Strabane District Council want to do. They want to interrogate about operational targets, ask the permanent secretary and senior advisors within the Department just what work has been done in and around that.

“It hasn't taken place. One and a half years is inexcusable. I know everybody is very, very busy and I know resources are thin on the ground.

“But there is absolutely no excuse. It's disrespectful on every single level and to pull out of meetings at the last minute is just not the way to do business.

“I have asked the Economy Committee to raise this issue with the Minister and senior officials within the Department as this reflects badly on government. Government Departments and Ministers must be available so that they can be held to account.”

The Department for Economy spokesperson said: “Since taking office in July, the Minister has visited Londonderry and engaged extensively both remotely and in person with local businesspeople and groups, including Seagate, Magee University, Maritime Museum and with a series of other local businesses through the Chamber of Commerce.

“Unfortunately, due to diary issues, it has not yet been possible to meet representatives from Derry City and Strabane District Council. The Minister endeavours to meet with as wide a range of stakeholders as possible, and looks forward to visiting Londonderry again in the near future.”

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