Northern Ireland news

James Brokenshire believes his illness contributed to instability

Former Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire was in Derry to discuss the city's City Deal application. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

Former Secretary of State James Brokenshire believes his resignation from the position through illness earlier this year contributed to political instability in the north.

Mr Brokenshire, now Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, was in Derry yesterday to discuss the city’s bid for a “City Deal” economic package.

The British politician – who underwent surgery for lung cancer - said he was sad and disappointed at the continuing failure to re-establish devolved government in Northern Ireland.

Mr Brokenshire told journalists: “Personally I am saddened that my own illness earlier this year forced me to take a step down at a time where there was that instability and how my absence perhaps added to some of that.”

The Local Government Secretary said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the talking would continue.

“We would engage with them (the Irish government) in a constructive fashion because ultimately our commitment to the Belfast, Good Friday Agreement remains; that north-south cooperation that is a firm part of that,” he said.

Mr Brokenshire said he was keen that a city deal would be developed for Derry as well as Belfast. Under the terms of a city deal, a local council is given power and freedom to support economic growth and job creation.

The minister met various stakeholders in Derry to discuss technical aspects of the bid.

“I very firmly want to see a City Deal here for the Derry, Londonderry city region as well as obviously in other parts of Northern Ireland too,” he said.

Following the visit, Sinn Féin MP, Elisha McCallion said any City Deal must be in line with Derry’s strategic growth plan.

SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood said the north west had 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,” he said.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond pledged support for a City Deal for Belfast in his budget speech last year while last month he also promised to consider a City Deal for Derry.

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