£105m funding package announced in Derry & Strabane City Deal

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The Government has outlined details of a £100 million-plus funding package for Derry - Londonderry and Strabane.

The investment is made up of £50 million in funding for the Derry and Strabane City Deal and £55 million of additional support through a new Inclusive Future Fund aimed at tackling deprivation and employment issues in the city.

The Government had already signalled its intent to part-finance a city investment deal similar to the agreement secured by Belfast. The Government has committed £350 million to the Belfast city deal.

The Derry package was announced ahead of Tuesday's new round of Stormont talks aimed at restoring powersharing in Northern Ireland.

It comes weeks after the dissident republican murder of journalist Lyra McKee in the city. Many believe the extremists are exploiting disaffection and deprivation experienced by young people in parts of the city to bolster their ranks.

IMAGE: Lyra McKee was shot dead by the 'New IRA' in the Creggan area of the city

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said the Derry City and Strabane City Deal would boost innovation and the digital potential of the region and unlock local partner funding.

She said it would enable new projects such as a Centre for Industrial Digitisation, Robotics and Automation and a programme of investment in the city's digital connectivity infrastructure - subject to business case approval.

"This £105 million investment package is a major boost to the economic potential of the region and will help strengthen the foundations for greater prosperity and a stronger, more united society," she said.

"The new Inclusive Future Fund recognises the unique circumstances facing the region and will help create new opportunities for the whole of the community, especially for young people.

"As Secretary of State, I am deeply committed to building a dynamic, prosperous, outward-looking Northern Ireland that works for everyone, irrespective of community background.

"Today's announcement is a major milestone in my personal determination to unlock the huge potential that the whole of Northern Ireland has to offer."

The money offered through the Inclusive Future Fund will focus on delivering greater prosperity and social benefits by tackling issues such as deprivation and youth unemployment.

IMAGE: The 'peace bridge' in Derry - Londonderry

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: "This major investment in the people and community of Derry-Londonderry and Strabane will bring enormous benefits for years to come.

"It will create high-value jobs, put the area at the forefront of the UK's growing digital economy and complement the Belfast Regional City Deal."

The council's city deal bid was supported by a range of local education, business and economic partners in the north west, including Ulster University, North West Regional College, the Londonderry and Strabane chambers of commerce, Western Health and Social Care Trust, Visit Derry, City Centre Initiative and Foyle Port.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council John Boyle welcomed the investment.

"This hugely significant announcement today for the Derry and Strabane District will go some considerable way in addressing the long-standing obstacles to economic development that this city region and its people face," he said.

"It is good news and is the result of an enormous amount of work and sustained effort invested by council and the city and regional partners to develop, deliver and negotiate on the bid."

IMAGE: Mayor John Boyle

Vice chancellor of Ulster University, Professor Paddy Nixon, said: "This investment will now see the rapid development of plans to grow and enhance facilities and student numbers at the Magee Campus including the Graduate Entry Medical School."

Brian McGrath, president of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, said: "This funding is hugely welcome and provides a solid platform upon which to grow and enhance the competitiveness of the city and region and attract further significant exciting new companies, business prospects and investment."

Sinn Fein MP for Foyle Elisha McCallion welcomed the investment as a "first step". She said the Government must do more to address "regional imbalance" in the north west.

"The British Government have a responsibility to deliver a proper financial contribution towards developing the north west region," she said.

"We need more adequate funding to help unlock the region's economic potential as part of the strategic growth plan."

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