Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Arlene Foster's own-goal with Derry whingers jibe

The people of Derry have long viewed the powers-that-be in Belfast with suspicion, and often with some justification.

There is a historical feeling among the citizens that the Maiden City has never been given its fair share of any spoils going, and that includes inward investment. Given that only 6% of overseas jobs created in Northern Ireland went to the north west, it is hardly surprising that eyebrows have been raised and questions asked about the performance of Invest NI.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster mounted a robust defence of the job creation body but some would judge her use of the term whingers to describe critics of Invest NI's track record as intemperate. Surely anyone who is concerned about their region and who asks valid questions of those empowered to bring jobs there is performing a useful task. That doesn't make them a moaner or complainer, otherwise the terms could be levelled at nearly anyone in the province.

There is no doubt that Belfast is regarded as the economic powerhouse of the province and there are compelling reasons why many inward investors would want to set up their businesses there. While Invest NI can scour the world for firms willing to come here, it cannot stipulate where exactly any business should be located. Business owners are capable of making that decision for themselves.

Yet the lack of investment in Derry is a concern. The area tops the unemployment league table and it is understandable that local representatives want the Executive to redouble efforts to tackle the problem. They want to be assured that the city is one of the locations that Invest NI and ministers promote when on trade missions overseas.

They also want investment in the infrastructure of the area and on building up the skills of local people which would make it more attractive to new companies. Those are not whinges but legitimate and constructive points of view.

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