Doherty outlines Strabane priorities for 2008
West Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty has outlined some of his priorities for Strabane District in 2008.
"2007 was a year of unparalleled political progress where seemingly immoveable obstacles and challenges were overcome through political courage and good will from all sides so as to forge a better future for everyone on this island.
"The challenge for us all in 2008 is to ensure that the political developments of the past year are not only built upon but are experienced on the ground through improvements in peoples' quality of life.
"Redressing the historical neglect in areas west of the Bann is key to improving the quality of life for the people in Strabane District and the wider West Tyrone constituency.
"Since the re-establishment of the power-sharing and All-Ireland institutions, progress has been made on redressing some areas of historical neglect.
"Following a lengthy campaign by Sinn Fein elected representatives from throughout the northwest for the A5 to be upgraded to dual carriageway status DRD Minister Conor Murphy announced that the necessary finance has been ring-fenced on an all-Ireland basis for this massive infrastructural project with the recommended route to be known by the end of this year. This will go some way towards redressing the infrastructural neglect that has retarded economic development in West Tyrone.
"Sinn Fein has also been to the fore in the campaign for an economic task force for the North West part of Ireland and the British and Irish governments' response was the setting up the North West Gateway Initiative in May 2006. The objective of the Initiative is to help with the regeneration of the local economy through integrated planning and well-structured investment in physical and social infrastructure on a cross border basis in the region. The potential of this initiative has yet to be realized and I have been pressing for the development of specific projects between Strabane District and Donegal.
"At present, there are only two acres of available land for industrial use within Strabane District which does not compare favourably with many other Districts in the six counties. In order to facilitate opportunities for inward investment and the expansion of existing business in the area it is crucial that additional land for industrial use becomes available. In correspondence with Economy Minister Nigel Dodd's on the issue, I have now been told that Strabane is one of four areas identified in the first phase of Invest NI's current acquisition policy. I will be meeting Invest NI officials to demand that the development needs of Strabane District are met not only through ongoing investment but also by ensuring that the area does not lose out through default because Invest NI has not secured sufficient land and premises for both inward and indigenous investors.
"Improved health service provision for the people of Strabane District will continue to be a priority for me during 2008. Along with other Sinn Fein representatives in the North West, we will be continuing the campaign for the development of a Satellite Cancer Centre in the region. The campaign has forced the issue firmly onto the North/South Health Ministerial agenda and we will be continuing with our efforts until we receive a firm commitment and timeframe for this essential facility to become operational. I will also be meeting with Western Health & Social Services officials to press for bringing forward the timetable for outreaching of additional medical services like x-ray provision into the main local health centres.
"Suicide is the biggest killer of our young people on this island and the tragic deaths of three more young Strabane people at the end of last year has highlighted the gaps not only in terms of 24 hour help line provision in this area and in local mental health provision but also the continued absence of a national strategy that will promote an integrated, fully resourced, and holistic prevention strategy across all 32 counties of our nation.
"There are many other wider issues which will present challenges and opportunities as we move through 2008 including: the draft Budget, Programme for Government and Investment Strategy which for the first time contains a commitment that all of these will be subject to Equality Impact Assessment which is crucial for areas West of the Bann like Strabane; securing a rural planning policy which gives equal weighting to the needs of rural communities as well as meeting the objective of sustaining the rural environment for this and future generations; finding a replacement to the 11+systeam of academic selection; tackling poverty and the lack of social housing;
"There remain other vital areas of work to be completed around the Good Friday Agreement - specifically in the areas of the Bill of Rights; equality; the Irish Language, the north-south bodies and the transfer of power on policing and justice.
"During 2008, Sinn Fein will not be deflected from the task of bringing about further positive political, social and economic change and from the task of ensuring that the trajectory continues towards greater all-Ireland harmonization, integration and ultimate re-unification." ENDS