Bryan Moore, A Derry resident pondering over what way to vote in the upcoming general election, put a number of questions to Sinn Fein and the SDLP. Here he shares the responses from both parties with TPQ readers, beginning with Sinn Fein. Tomorrow evening TPQ will feature the SDLP response. Bryan Moore is a supporter of the peace process but feels it is underachieving in terms of improving the quality of life for the citizens of Derry and elsewhere.
BM: Did Derry loose Telehouse to Coleraine despite announcing we had won the review?
SF: No. If you go to the Strand Road/Bay Road roundabout you will see the Tele-House located just at the entrance to McDonalds.
BM: Why did Sinn Fein along with other Councillor’s sanction the payoff to Sharon O'Connor when there was a legal basis to challenge it?
SF: There was no legal basis on which to challenge and although many will question it, it was based on the public service severance policy.
BM: Why do we not have a proper road/rail system to other parts of the country?
SF: It was actually Mark Durkan when Finance Minister restricted funding for upgrade of the Rail link. Conor Murphy removed it when he was Minister and the present delays are a result of the incompetence of the present Minister Danny Kennedy in making a mess of the tendering process resulting in a projected overspend of £20million over the original estimate.
BM: I believe Connor Murphy put a halt to the road link to Belfast due to funding.
SF: Conor Murphy never put a halt to any projects - in fact he delivered more projects to this area than any other roads Minister, including the dual-carriageway to City of Derry Airport and Skeoge Road dual carriageway.
BM: However there seems to be money in the coffers for 11 percent pay rises? (Please don’t respond about you taking an industrial wage ... the party still takes the money)
SF: You ask a question then do the courtesy of allowing us to answer it as we feel appropriate. But now that you mention it - we do take an industrial wage - all full time workers - deputy First Minister, MLAs, MEP, drivers and support staff are all paid exactly the same. And the Party receives the rest which allows us to create employment for dozens of constituency workers delivering a service to the electorate which even our political opponents admit is next to none.
BM: Why nobody seems to be standing up for Derry city in relation to jobs and infrastructure?
SF: I think if you refer to public comment over a long period of time you will find that Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin has been leading the fight for expansion of Magee which will be a major economic driver for investment and job creation in the North West just as she also done in in her campaigning on Health issues which delivered the massive investment in Altnagelvin including the new Radiotherapy unit.
Raymond McCartney has been instrumental as a member of the regional development Committee in delivering much needed investment in our roads system including the Airport dual carriageway and Skeoge Road both opened by Conor Murphy when Roads Minister. He is also working tirelessly with West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty to overcome the legal obstacles delaying the A5 road which will open up the North West for inward investment. Sinn Féin Minister Michelle O Neill is in the closing stages of transferring 600 well paid public service jobs to the North West (Ballykelly). This will have a very positive impact on the entire North West economy including Derry.
Gearóid Ó hEára, our Westminster election Candidate has a record of delivery in the many projects that he has been involved in over the years, from a founder member of the Off the Streets Initiative in Shantallow in the early 90's to bringing the Fleadh Cheoil to the City in 2013 which injected over £40million into the local economy. He is already working on bringing it back again in 2017 or 18. As well as being involved in establishing a number of job creating community projects over the last 30 years, he has also led the multi-million pound redevelopment on the lower Great James Street area of the city into a vibrant Irish language and cultural hub now employing over 40 people. He is in the process of further development which will see the creation of a Gaeltach Quarter in Derry and the creation of even more jobs. He was instrumental in the development of Irish Language education in this City which has given job opportunities to dozens of Irish Language teachers and ancillary staff in the many Gaelscoileanna throughout the City.
I have no doubt that he will put the same vision and determination into attracting job creation and retention projects to the rest of this constituency. He will bring a renewed focus on delivery of projects such as expansion of Magee, A5 and A6 as well as investment in the Rail network and the Air and Sea Ports.
He will be able to utilise Sinn Féin's combined political strength in the Executive, new Councils, Assembly, the Dáil, Europe and at Westminster to drive forward an agenda for change in the best interests of all our citizens.
BM: And 300 call centre jobs is not acceptable!
SF: While there is a perception of call centre jobs being low paid this is not always true. In fact many of the call centre jobs in Derry are in fact well paid. And while you may say call centre jobs are not acceptable - the numbers applying for them when they become available does not support your conclusion. Most of the jobs created in Belfast that people complain did not come to Derry are call centre jobs. We can’t complain about these jobs not coming to Derry and at the same time say this type of job is unacceptable.
BM: Also we don’t need more quango committees to review the North West ... we need action.
SF: I agree that we don’t need more Quangoes. I would point out that the Ministerial Sub-Group initiated by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is about action to put a focus on investment and job creation in the North West. It is not a Quango and has already shown signs of delivery with the announcement of the £11million teaching block at Magee which is an essential ingredient in the expansion of the University.
In conclusion I would point out that it is the easiest thing in the world to put forward allegations of inactivity without ever having to provide evidence for those allegations. I hope that these answers will dispel any notion that we are not exercised by the needs of our constituents and show that we are working to address them. I hope that they will be accepted as a considered response to your questions.