Belfast Telegraph

Brokenshire tells of regret over Northern Ireland post as he returns to discuss City Deal for Derry

Former Secretary of State James Brokenshire at the Guildhall yesterday
Former Secretary of State James Brokenshire at the Guildhall yesterday
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Former Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has spoken of his personal sadness at having to step down from the position for health reasons in the midst of political instability.

He was speaking during a whistlestop visit to Londonderry yesterday where he met politicians to discuss a City Deal for the north west.

A City Deal is an agreement between the UK Government and a city which gives local areas specific powers and freedoms to help the region support economic growth, create jobs or invest in local projects.

It was Mr Brokenshire's first official visit to Northern Ireland since he stood down after a lung cancer diagnosis last January.

He is recovering well following surgery.

Now Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Governments, he said: "I feel very keenly the absence of devolved government, the absence of an Executive, and when I look back to the start of the year it is a personal sadness that I had to stand down because of my health, but I know the people of Northern Ireland want and need devolved government.

"I know the Secretary of State has been working with MLAs and discussing how we take this forward, but of course I know the anger and frustration that is there.

"It is why we do want to see a devolved government back in position.

"Actually, it does come down to what the Westminster Government can do and what the Irish Government can do, but ultimately it is about what politics is about here and how it absolutely remains this Government's policy to see locally elected politicians held accountable to the people. What the Secretary of State has done is take steps where it has been needed to provide that political direction and stability and certainty."

Among those who met with Mr Brokenshire was SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

He described yesterday as "another positive step towards a City Deal".

Mr Eastwood said: "The united voice and vision behind the tireless advocacy for the deal is extremely encouraging and the SDLP will continue to work with all parties from across the political and civic spectrum to ensure that the deal is secured.

"Historically, the north west has been a victim of underinvestment and economic inactivity.

"The delivery of a City Deal will be transformational for Derry and therefore it is important that we keep up the momentum to securing this deal."

Mr Brokenshire said he was "very firmly" in support of a City Deal for Derry.

He added: "I absolutely recognise the way in which investment here in the north west could transform the city.

"I do want to see a City Deal coming to fruition because of the difference it can make to the lives of so many people and why this has been important for me to hear about progress, to hear about other issues we can support and getting that momentum and turning it into a reality."

Foyle Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion said the delivery of a City Deal must have the necessary economic benefits that meet the needs of the region.

Belfast Telegraph


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