New Year message from West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty
In a New Year's message, Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP MLA Pat Doherty says that his priority in 2009 will be to ensure that major projects of economic and social benefit to the constituency are brought to fruition.
The local MP said:
"Given the severe global economic downturn many people in West Tyrone, like elsewhere, are facing into the new year with trepidation. Local people have already lost their jobs, particularly in the construction and retail sectors, and many more are fearful about what next few months will bring.
"Against such an economic backdrop, it is crucial that major projects of economic and social benefit that in the pipeline for the constituency are brought to fruition in 2009. I, along with other party colleagues, have been working with private investors, government Ministers, Departments and agencies as well as the Planning Service to ensure that these projects are brought to fruition in 2009.
"In terms of Omagh, the pieces of the jigsaw are now falling into place in terms of the Education Village Campus project at the Lisanelly/St Lucia site and just before Christmas, the massive job creation potential of Opportunity Omagh has been re-enforced when representatives of a major international organisation that I met expressed a strong willingness to locate business process operations centre in Omagh with the creation of 120 graduate jobs.
"Likewise in terms of Strabane, there are now several private investment projects at an advanced stage for the town centre and I expect good news on this front in the spring of this year. Following meetings with the North West Development Office, I am also confident that the outstanding amount of funding for the town's community bridge can now be secured to allow the construction of this bridge along with the DRD funded pedestrian bridge linking the town centre with Bradley Way.
"June 2009 will also see the announcement of the preferred route for the A5 Dual Carriageway as well as the announcement of new stand-alone strategic link road roads between the Carriageway and Omagh and Strabane. The pressing ahead with this unprecedented infrastructure project through West Tyrone will be a major boost to the economic fortunes of the constituency.
"With PPS 14 thankfully consigned to the history books progress has been made in shaping a rural planning policy which meets the needs of rural communities but more needs to be done in the months ahead to meet the needs of non farming rural dwellers and Sinn Fein is determined that this happens in 2009. This is particularly crucial so as to ensure that all of our rural communities can maximize the benefits of the £500 million Rural Development Programme between now and 2013.
"In 2009, we also face a battle to overturn proposals from the Department of Social Development, under its Strategic Business Review, to centralise Social Security Agency Services. This model of delivery would not only have a major adverse impact on benefit applicants and recipients but would also mean the transfer and potential loss of public sector jobs from and area like Strabane District, which already has the lowest base of public sector jobs in the six counties.
"Likewise, the ill-conceived proposals from the Western Health Trust to close statutory residential care homes for the elderly in the Western Board area must be vigorously resisted especially when one considers that there is no capacity in the private sector in the Board area to accommodate the elderly residents that would be the principle victims of these proposed cuts. There will undoubtedly be other additional threats to public services throughout 2009 and politically and collectively at a community level there will be a need to fight to retain these services to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community are protected.
"The fallout from the global economic downturn is certain to dominate the political agenda north and south throughout 2009. While the Assembly and Executive must continue to remain flexible in its approach to the unfolding situation as seen in the pre-Christmas unveiling of a package of targeted measures to assist the most vulnerable in our community and to help engender increased economic activity, it is clear that the lessons of the current situation point towards the need to increasingly develop an all-Ireland economy as a means of combating our fluctuating fortunes which benefit no one on this island in the long term.
"The only progressive and sustainable way forward for the development of this island's economic future is for the development of an all Ireland economic framework beginning with tax and vat harmonization. This is the elephant in the room that can no longer be ignored.
"2008 was an extremely difficult and sad year for Sinn Féin in West Tyrone with the loss of veteran representatives Cllr Ivan Barr and Cllr Charlie Mc Hugh. Their loss is irreplaceable but their legacy has been immense. I hope that all families who have been bereaved in the past year will see brighter days ahead in 2009. I would like to conclude by wishing everyone in West Tyrone a happy and prosperous New Year." ENDS