A £700 million package to support city deal projects in Northern Ireland will help rebuild the region’s post-coronavirus economy, Stormont’s leaders have said.
Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill said the planned investment was more important than ever, given the economic damage inflicted by the health crisis.
The majority of the money fulfils the executive’s commitment to match cash already offered by the Treasury for city deal projects in the region.
City and Growth Deals are bespoke investment agreements struck between local authorities and the Government aimed at boosting economic investment in specific areas.
Belfast and Londonderry are among the areas in Northern Ireland that have secured a deal.
The £700 million signed off by executive ministers on Monday includes £562 million for city deals and £55 million for the Inclusive Future Fund, an initiative aimed at tackling deprivation and employment issues in the north west.
Those mirror commitments made by the Government last year, at a point when the powersharing executive was in cold storage due to a long-running political impasse.
Another £100 million has been made available by the executive for capital projects which complement the city deal proposals.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The crisis imposed upon us by coronavirus has had devastating consequences across our society and upended the economy.
“Prior to the emergency, the executive had a very clear focus on growing the economy. This has become even more important as we seek to rebuild as part of our recovery plan.
“We hope this significant investment will act as a catalyst for growth, maximising economic impact and boosting productivity.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “While we are still very much in the midst of a crisis, it is important that we work towards rebuilding our society and the economy.
“This investment of more than £700 million by the executive will be transformative for our regional economy. It will boost jobs and deliver much-needed projects across the north.”
Finance minister Conor Murphy said: “This investment package signals our desire to build a productive, regionally balanced and inclusive economy.
“The executive is currently reacting to the Covid-19 emergency. We have already provided over £500 million in grants and rates relief to support businesses survive the ongoing pandemic.
“We also need to plan for the longer term. This investment of over £700 million provides investment in local areas and much-needed jobs and offers hope for the future.”