Said the Foyle MLA: “I welcome Paul Frew as Northern Ireland’s new economy minister. Previous minister Diane Dodds left him with a large and challenging in-tray, which she failed to get to grips with you. I hope minister Frew does better.
“The North has a badly imbalanced economy. Much more needs to be done to spread jobs and wealth to all parts and all communities.
“Unemployment and economic inactivity are much too high in our most deprived communities, especially those in Derry, Strabane and West and North Belfast.
“The minister needs to ensure investment and skills are raised in those areas and elsewhere.
“Derry is demanding a full sized university, with 10,000 students.
“This is a commitment of New Decade New Approach and must be delivered.
“But there also needs to be much greater focus across the North on vocational skills training, especially through further education colleges.
“This includes in the construction sector, where skills shortages are causing serious problems.
“The new minister also needs to rethink his department’s approach to energy policy.
“We need a much more rapid decarbonisation of our energy sector, moving away more quickly from our dependence on fossil fuels.
“His department has yet to show sufficient seriousness in this, or to recognise the opportunities for quality jobs through the Green New Deal and an expansion of the renewable energy sector.
“I was very disappointed that minister Dodds failed to extent emergency financial support to students to those students from the North of Ireland who are studying in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. I hope minister Frew will reconsider this.
“And – the elephant in the room – minister Frew must recognise the opportunities available from the Brexit Protocol to create jobs by attracting new investment and supporting the expansion of our local businesses.
“While obviously the Protocol needs to be applied with flexibility and pragmatism to overcome the difficulties, the opportunities must be exploited for the benefit of all parts of our community.
“I have requested a meeting with Minister Frew to put these points to him.”Tags: