Will Burton reports on the employment challenges facing Derry.
Former mayor of Derry, Colum Eastwood SDLP MLA, is not shy in speaking up for the rights of citizens in Derry and the Northwest. He feels strongly about the lack of civil service jobs based in the city. In recent ministerial questions, it was revealed to Mr Eastwood that 4.85% of civil service jobs were based in Derry with over 60% of civil service positions being located in the greater Belfast area.
Despite the city hosting the City of Culture 2013 and the Fleadh, not one civil service post from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) is based in Derry. Mr Eastwood has repeatedly urged decentralisation to help with Derry’s unemployment issues.
The City of Culture will provide a source of revenue for Derry next year with increased visitor numbers and economic activity in the city as well to to the rest of Northern Ireland. In light of this Mr Eastwood feels the commitment to the city should be more forthcoming from Stormont.
“The people of Derry have delivered the City of Culture for the city, but we need government support to make it happen. I think it is clear that if we are going to have a City of Culture, then we should have the Department of Culture having staff in the city,” said Mr Eastwood.
He was quick to add that decentralisation will not fix Derry’s unemployment woes, yet it would go some way to improve the imbalance between Belfast and Derry.
“Decentralisation is in essence about job-sharing, distributing the economic capacity of the state in a fair manner. This is blatantly not the case at present”, he added.
Mr Eastwood has used ministerial questions in Stormont to press for answers about the lack of movement on the Bain Report which urged re-location of civil service jobs, “to improve regional economic balance.”
With an obvious passion for Derry, Mr Eastwood stresses the need for the Executive to show the people of Derry that they care about the city and its prospects.
“We are glad to see they are paying lip service to the issue, but we need a lot more than that”, he said, “We are the second city of Northern Ireland and have real potential for economic growth.”
“The Northern Ireland government needs to prove that they are committed to Derry, I think people will have seen for a long time a lack of commitment by government to our city.”