A COUNCILLOR has hit out at Invest NI and former Fermanagh MLA, Arlene Foster, for creating a lop-sided investment balance between the County and regions east of the River Bann.
Figures released earlier this month by The Independent Review of Invest NI showed that counties east of the Bann gained 72 per cent of Invest NI funding over the past 10 years.
Fermanagh received £55.72million over the last decade from Invest NI with only 3376 new jobs being created as a result. In comparison, one suburb of the North’s capital – South Belfast – received £218.89million with 16,893 jobs.
Cllr Sheamus Greene insists that while Invest NI are accountable for this imbalance, he also states that Foster, who was also Minister for the Economy as well as being First Minister, has questions to answer given that she was also representing a Fermanagh constituency as well.
He said: “It must be near 10 years now when Arlene Foster was the Minister for Economy. I sent numerous emails to her and the Department to get the figures of what was happening.
“I suspected that Fermanagh and west of the Bann wasn’t getting their fair share. The figures that I got at that time – and I’ve raised numerous times in the Council ever since – was that £2.50 was being spent per capita in Belfast.
“The figure for Fermanagh was by far the lowest investment by Invest NI – it came at 23p. Peanuts.
“Remember, Arlene then became First Minister and she’s also from Fermanagh. Yet damn all changed. Yet you would have thought something would have changed given her links to the county.
“Unfortunately, I can see that in five years time, we’ll be saying the exact same thing. Nothing will change because all Invest NI seem to be pre-occupied with is the big cities who get everything – especially Belfast.
“The likes of Antrim and Armagh don’t come out too bad but Fermanagh was lagging that far from behind, you’d almost think that there was five counties in the North instead of six. The reality is that nobody seems to give a damn.
“They seem to be able to ignore us and have been ignoring us for a lifetime.”
In response, Arlene Foster hit back at Greene of promoting negativity and stated that the Council had the powers to promote the region as a place of investment but had failed to do so.
She said: “Does this councillor not realise that by denigrating the place where we live that when anyone goes online they will see his negativity? Why would anyone seek to come here if this is the sort of attitude from local representatives?
“Anyone with any knowledge know that Invest NI supports investment they do not buy it and actually the local council have powers to promote their area as a place for investment so what has the Sinn Fein dominated council of Fermanagh and Omagh been doing in that regard – it appears very little. Investment only works when everyone works together.
“A little more positivity from local representatives would go a long way. But then it is always someone else’s fault when it comes to Sinn Fein – never take responsibility, never apologise should be their slogan for the local elections.”
Invest NI has been approached for comment.
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