The chief executive of Derry City Council has hit out at “one dimensional” negative media coverage of Northern Ireland’s second city after a series of shootings by republican vigilantes.
Sharon O’Connor said the picture being painted in some stories in the national press was not one she recognised.
She said she took exception to the image of Derry in recent coverage of the activities of Republican Action Against Drugs.
She said: “I live in this city and it is not recognisable to me. I do take exception to someone coming from somewhere else and putting it out in a national newspaper and saying, ‘That is Derry’. It’s one dimension. Glasgow would love to have our crime statistics, as would Liverpool or Birmingham.”
Ms O’Connor said the vibrancy of the people of Derry bore no relation to the picture that was portrayed in one particular report.
She said the city is poised to blaze a business trail after becoming the most digitally connected in the British Isles.
“We have to get past negative baggage and tell a different story about this city,” she said.
She said investments totalling over £80m have transformed the UK's first City of Culture into one of the world's leading broadband connectivity hubs, laying the foundation for cutting edge businesses to set up and operate.
Earlier this year, Londonderry became the only city in the UK or Ireland entirely hooked up with superfast fibre-optic broadband, thanks to a £3.7m project led by BT, which is sponsoring Derry's 2013 celebrations.
In a pioneering move, Derry also became the first wi-fi connected city centre back in 2008, with free access to all those living in, working or visiting the Walled City. Plans are now afoot to expand this free wireless project.
Ms O'Connor said that the 20 digital start-up businesses which have sprung up in the city over the
past year or so, coupled with the announcement by US company Kainos that it is bringing 60 jobs to the city, provided an insight into what the future might hold.
“We have the potential for 4,000 jobs to be created over the next 10 years in this sector,” she said.
“These are the very best sort of jobs you could hope to attract. The baseline entry level salary for the software engineer jobs Kainos is bringing will be £24,500. They are good jobs and people need to be good to get them.
“BT have told us the amount of infrastructure they put in here is far and away above what they have put in other places with fibre-optic cable in every cabinet in the city,” Ms O'Connor said.
“Companies say they are very impressed by the energy here, and people don't just come here because of business, they come here because there is a lifestyle and a sense of it being a place that is growing.
“The University of Ulster is training undergraduates to the required levels and Kainos said they are confident the university is producing the right type of graduates they require — that was another reason for them to be here, as well as the financial support from Invest NI.
“The two other reasons they gave were the people and the City of Culture — that got their attention and made them consider Derry in a way they hadn’t before. It is all positive and encouraging.”
“We have a quality of infrastructure here now that other cities are going to have to struggle to achieve. But we are not resting on our laurels. We have to get the message outside of Derry and we need to ensure all the governments in Dublin, London and Belfast get behind us.”
Sharon O’Connor, Derry City Council