Belfast Telegraph

SDLP's Durkan slams 'populist headline grabbing stunt' from Sinn Fein MP over City Deal

An SDLP MLA has slammed Sinn Fein's Elisha McCallion over her claim a City Deal for Londonderry has collapsed.

On Tuesday, Foyle MP McCallion said Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley was refusing to conduct formal talks on a deal for Derry, but that negotiations were continuing for Belfast.

In a statement, she said she had been working with the Government for months on "an Inclusive Growth Deal" for the north west, but had now been informed by Mrs Bradley the Government "is not formally committed to a deal for the North West", although work "will continue on a deal for Belfast".

Responding, a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office said the Government's position on City Deals for Northern Ireland had not changed.

On Wednesday, SDLP MLA Mark Durkan said it was an example of "another populist headline grabbing stunt from Elisha McCallion".

"It was bad enough that earlier this week we witnessed the cringe-worthy comments from the MP claiming that she secured Mr Barnier’s visit to Derry – the EU Commission have clarified that that was not the case," said Mr Durkan.

"Now we have the MP saying that plans for a Derry City Deal have been scrapped. This is also inaccurate."

Responding to the criticism, a spokesperson for Sinn Fein said: "It seems the SDLP are more interested in mud-slinging to cover their inability to play any role in delivery. Elisha is working with all the relevant stakeholders to deliver for the Region, something that the SDLP failed miserably to do throughout their time sitting on the green benches of Westminster.

“The SDLP can continue to snipe from the side-lines but Elisha will not be deterred from delivering on this region’s strategic needs including the A5, A6, Magee expansion and opposing the disastrous impact of Brexit."

Mr Durkan said his party understood discussions with Derry and Strabane District Council were unable to continue as there had been "no mandate given to civil servants to continue the conversation".

"However, rather than throw in the towel it is our job as politicians to secure that mandate. The SDLP won't be running away at the first hurdle just because we haven't got an MP in Westminster that will stand up and fight for the North West," he said.

"Mrs McCallion needs to face facts, she’s an MP and it’s about time she went to work. While Elisha sits at home, it is a Labour MP who is asking questions in Westminster about Derry’s City Deal," he added.

"You can't say that representation in Westminster doesn't matter and then bemoan the influence that DUP MPs have there."

In December last year SDLP leader Colum Eastwood announced he had secured a commitment from the then Secretary of State James Brokenshire for a City Deal for Derry.

City deals are agreements between central government and cities which gives local regions greater power over decisions impacting their areas.

With the powers cities have greater autonomy over how public money is spent, and can help businesses grow and stimulate economic activity.

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