Thanks for sending through the text of questions posed to (and the answers given) by Sinn Fein. I will try and answer the questions and also dispel some of the Sinn Fein myths that they have shared with you.
1) Telehouse - Mark was heavily involved in the campaign to ensure that the Telehouse was located in our city rather than Coleraine. We continue to want to see this deliver progress and attract investment here. In December one of our MLAs Pat Ramsey asked the DETI Minister about this and here is the text of the question and answer provided.
2) Sharon O'Connor's redundancy was agreed by all parties on Derry City Council. We acknowledge that the payment represents a sizeable payment of public money but nonetheless it was legally sound. As with other occasions when we are spending public funds, the SDLP councillors sought assurances that all payment due was properly entitled and had been subjected to due process.
3) The SDLP fully understand the need for adequate infrastructure to allow this city and region to grow its economy and make it an even more enjoyable place to live or visit. When our Party was the lead nationalist party in government, Mark Durkan initiated the Executive Programme Funds to ensure that items of regional significance got funded. This is how the Toome bypass was secured - as Peter Robinson who was Minister for Regional Development at that time did not make this a priority within his own Department.The SDLP are avid supporters of the upgrade of both the railway line and railway station. John Dallat MLA and myself have been pushing this agenda for years. Check out.
I note that this is where the Sinn Fein answer suggested that Mark had put a 'restriction' on funding. Mark has categorically rebutted this insinuation many times in the past. The idea that an MP/MLA for Foyle (of any party) would stop investment in a train line serving their constituency is nonsense. Indeed, the Assembly Hansard record contains a reference to this - Tuesday 8th April 2008:
Mr Durkan: Will the Member give way?
Mr Campbell: I will give way if I am given an extra minute.
Mr Durkan: When the Member was Minister for Regional Development, did he work under a restriction from the Executive banning any proposed investment on the stretch of line from Derry to Coleraine?
Mr Campbell: I thank the Member for the intervention. I can confirm that I did not work under any such restriction. Anyone who declares that I did is blatantly telling lies, but that would not be the first time, nor would it be the first crime that they had committed.
I don't often rely on Gregory Campbell as a source of factual information but nevertheless he was Minister of Regional Development during the time the 'restriction' supposedly was in place and he could have agreed with the Sinn Fein position that the SDLP had somehow restricted him or his Department from investing in the rail line. He didn't follow the Sinn Fein nonsense and clarified the matter - but unsurprising Sinn Fein continue to project this line.
In terms of the road improvements, the SDLP are fully supportive of both the A5 and A6 road improvements. We recognise the need to get both these routes improved to provide safer travel and better connectivity for businesses, visitors and investors. The A5 was halted by a successful judicial review but thankfully has continued to be progressed through addressing the one area of objection -namely the impact on the Tully Bog stretch outside Omagh. The SDLP have continued to press the Regional Development Minister on when he'll be announcing further progress on this following the end of the consultation period on the Tully Bog report last year.
In relation to the A6 upgrade, the DRD Minister continually indicates that he has no funding for this work. SDLP Minister Mark H Durkan MLA is supportive of this project. However, until the other DUP/SF Ministers put this project into the Programme for Government and commit money to it, it will remain a concept rather than a reality. As a person married to someone who commutes on this Derry – Belfast journey every day I know all too well of the importance of getting this road upgraded and we will continue to push for it to be included in the next Executive Programme for Government.
4) Mark as MP has promoted Derry as a place to invest and worked to attract jobs here. He was centrally to EE choosing to bring 330 jobs here within the last year and also is championing 'City Deal' status for Derry which offers us an opportunity to attract vital funds away from Westminster and Stormont to deliver projects here such as the expansion of UU Magee. Both he and the SDLP recognise the high levels of unemployment here and while every jobs attracted here is to be welcomed, we share the view that we need better paid positions to locate here - otherwise we won't be able to grow the economy in the significant manner we need. Have a look at what Glasgow has achieved with their City Deal for example.
During his time as a MLA Mark also instigated the Integrated Development Fund which funded the also Magee Robotics Centre, the A2 Maydown upgrade to the City of Derry Airport, the Skeoge Business Park C-Tric at Altnagelvin and other public realm projects. If re-elected as MP Mark will continue to work to develop investment for the constituency through working in Parliament for a ‘City Deal’ and working with the Northern Ireland Executive to fund the various much needed projects here. I hope that you find this reply helpful and informative. I also hope that the various links to sources other than SDLP outlets serve as evidence for my answers rather than slagging off opponents as what seems to have happened with the previous respondent!
Should you wish to discuss with me further, just get in touch.
- The first two links supplied by the SDLP correspondent are not responsive.