SDLP MLA Richie McPhillips says he will use his party’s role in opposition to fight for priority development and investment in Fermanagh.
The Newtownbutler man was speaking after the SDLP followed on from a decision by the UUP not to join the DUP and Sinn Fein in the Stormont executive. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said his party members “didn’t take the decision lightly” but are determined to hold the “government to account”.
Mr McPhillips took the last Assembly seat in Fermanagh South Tyrone on May 7th and was elected alongside two Sinn Fein MLAs, two DUP and one UUP.
He says he has already challenged his constituency colleague, the DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster, to ensure that Fermanagh gets it “fair slice of the cake”.
“The SDLP will hold the new Executive’s feet to the fire to make sure our communities get a fair deal,” he told the Herald.
Mr McPhillips says that communities west of the Bann were treated as an afterthought by the last Executive:
“Over the last five years, Northern Ireland has effectively been ‘repartitioned along an east/west axis’ with investment flowing to already affluent communities.
“It’s clear that communities falling west of the Bann were treated as an afterthought by the last Executive and left to survive on crumbs from the table of affluent areas, which were well looked after throughout the economic downturn and received the lion’s share of public investment.
“It’s communities in the west that consistently have the lowest levels of investment and the lowest levels of employment. Yet there remains no overarching strategy to deal with these facts. We have been treated as an afterthought for far too long.”
Meanwhile the Assembly will meet at noon today (Wednesday) to allocate Executive ministries under the D’Hondt power-sharing system. The Minister for Justice will first be voted on in a cross-community vote to replace Alliance leader David Ford who served in the role from the creation of the post until the recent elections.
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Posted: 8:30 am May 25, 2016