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Investigation Needed into INI Failures

25 September, 2006

Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, has said that Invest NI's Performance Report shows, once again, that INI and its sponsor department DETI have failed to ensure balanced economic development throughout the six counties.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"This latest Performance Report by Invest NI shows, once again, that investment is being skewed away from deprived areas into relatively affluent ones. Invest NI, by replicating patterns of disadvantage and discrimination, is clearly part of the problem and is in contravention of its statutory equality duty. Sinn Féin is calling for an investigation into the activities of Invest NI in its continued failure to promote equality outcomes for the most disadvantaged areas.

"Figures clearly show that there is a bias in directing investment to the Belfast Metropolitan Area and the East to the detriment of areas West of the Bann and border counties. Within Belfast the most deprived wards in the North and West of the city receive the least amount of investment. This is resulting in unbalanced economic development and is reinforcing patterns of discrimination. The outcomes are that deprived areas continue to have higher poverty levels, higher economic inactivity rates, a lower skills base and lower income levels. This is unacceptable and needs redressing. INI has a key role to play yet seems incapable of doing so and unwilling to acknowledge its responsibilities.

"Despite how INI may try to present the figures, they are stark. Percentage breakdowns show that the 11 councils West of the Bann received only 27% of investment; Belfast and the East received 73%. The 6 parliamentary constituencies West of the Bann received 26% of investment. The 6 councils identified by DETI itself as being the most deprived received less than 18% of investment.

"It is clear in this Performance Report that INI sees the rest of the north as a Travel To Work Area for Belfast. INI is attempting to justify its imbalanced investment patterns by implying that people who live in those areas which receive the least amount of investment are unwilling to travel to work, stating that there is an "availability of jobs for those prepared to travel".

"These disgraceful comments do not take into account the real difficulties and lengthy times for travel; the lack of a rural transport system; inadequate linkages to Belfast; the amount of travel for someone travelling everyday to Belfast; delays and blockages on routes; the environmental impact of such travelling and delays; the implications for work/life balance and the impact on family life. Lower income levels West of the Bann also mean that people have less income to enable travel.

"The decision-makers within INI miss the point entirely that balanced regional investment is about ensuring the survival and sustainability of local communities. INI‚s policy of virtually ignoring particular areas of the north, in conjunction with Rural Planning Policy PPS14, is ensuring that rural communities, particularly those West of the Bann, will not have a long-term sustainable future. This has an inherent sectarian/political bias given that the areas that will be impacted on the most are majority nationalist." ENDS

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