It’s time to invest in the West – Francie Molloy MP
Mr Molloy said:
“Public services west of the Bann are antiquated and need to be brought up to 21st century standards. There is no proper infrastructure, no evidence of strategic forward planning, and no proper servicing regime.
“But our lack of infrastructure and economic misfortune isn’t just a consequence of the current economic recession. Nor is it all the fault of the Executive.
“These economic disparities are the out-workings of decades of discrimination and systemic underinvestment by previous regimes and British direct rule ministers.
“The people of the west pay for the same services through their taxes yet receive poorer services. They deserve more than what they are currently getting – they deserve the same quality of services and infrastructure as other areas.
“People and businesses west of the Bann have always been aware that the roads and other infrastructure required to attract investors does not exist. But events of recent weeks have exposed just how extensive the underinvestment really is.
“First came the revelation that the electricity supply in Mid-Ulster was not sufficient to supply power to a proposed investment in Cookstown by Dale Farm. The owners were in fact told if they wanted security of supply they should relocate to Ballymena where they would not encounter similar problems.
“Then during the NI Water dispute we discovered that the plant necessary to deliver water to homes, businesses and farms were not of the same standard as those in the east resulting in all of the water disruptions occurring in the west.
“Electricity, broadband, roads gritting and the water infrastructure is inferior to that east of the Bann. None of these essential services can be relied upon. This is not good enough.
“It’s time for a change in attitude. It’s time to invest in the west.
“Many of the most successful businesses in the North of Ireland have been created west of the Bann, a number of them becoming world leaders in their fields.
“In the main most have done this on their own initiative, struggling to get the level of investment available to multi-nationals. We now need to demand that a focus is directed towards addressing this investment disparity. I welcome the initiative by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA in establishing a Ministerial sub-group to address the economic imbalances between the east and the west.
“Direct government investment, Invest NI and other sources including exploring the availability of European funding for the west needs to be prioritised in order to create equality of services and equality of opportunity to build modern infrastructure and create business opportunities.
“If we are to achieve long-term economic stability it is essential that we have access to proper transport infrastructure, high speed broadband, a reliable water supply and heavy grade electricity supply networks suitable for industrial needs.
The MP for Mid Ulster concluded:
“The new eleven model super councils coming on stream in April will provide opportunities with planning services being devolved to councils.
“With ambition and imagination the new councils can lead the way with local elected representatives capable of opening up the area west of the Bann for investment in infrastructure required to stimulate businesses and attract tourists to our towns and countryside providing much needed employment.”