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Woodward in no doubt over opposition to Water Charges

5 October, 2005

Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Regional Development, Raymond McCartney MLA speaking after meeting Direct Rule Minister, Shaun Woodward has said that 'radical reform' and 'tough decisions' must not mean the introduction of Water Charges and further stalling of major capital works projects to develop infrastructure on an All Ireland basis.

A Sinn Fein delegation including Assembly Members, Raymond McCartney, Francie Molloy, Barry McElduff, and Donegal County Councillor, Padraig MacLochlainn met with the Minister, Shaun Woodward at Stormont Castle outlining that the only way to deliver on housing, roads, rail, schools, major infrastructure projects by acknowledging that partition continues to undermine the development of Six Counties and All Ireland planning strategies are required redress the problem.

Mr McCartney said:

"Having met with the Minister, it is clear that the current NIO team mean to push ahead with their so-called 'reform' agenda.

"We also reminded Shaun Woodward that he has an obligation to fulfil the workings of Strand Two provisions of the Agreement, and those Areas of Co-operation agreed upon by the two Governments, Transport being one of them.

"The Department of Regional Development and the Department of Transport must spearhead joint working mechanisms to implement transport corridors across the island to match the Dublin - Belfast corridor. Ignoring the deprived Northwest region, which has suffered prolonged social and economic hardship is a mistake. The region needs vital infrastructure to attract and sustain investment and much needed employment. It is not good enough to talk about Derry/Donegal in strategic policy documents while nothing is done to develop the Northwest region.

"The Derry-Belfast motorway/dual carriageway project must be given priority. Sinn Fein also highlighted the importance of developing key routes to Donegal by road and more importantly by rail and the establishment a Western Seaboard Transport Corridor to match the N1/M1 Belfast-Dublin route.

Sinn Fein's continued opposition to the introduction of Water Charges was met with some resistance. Francie Molloy added:

"The notion that per capita spend in the Six Counties is higher than England, Scotland and Wales provides the rationale for imposing Water Charges is absurd. Government attempts to align or marry the issue of providing clean drinking water and paying for the privilege are criminally misleading. Communities have been funding the Water/Sewerage infrastructure through Domestic rate payments and via the taxation system for the previous 40 years."

The Party will meet with the Minister in the several months period to review, particularly the All Ireland dimension to building transport links across the island. Mr. McCartney concluded:

"The new political climate must now create an environment for the restoration of political institutions, so that issues such as Water Charges which are opposed universally right across the political spectrum can be addressed via a local administration." ENDS

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