Mon 13th February
Speaking after her contribution to the Assembly debate on the Executive’s public spending requirements for the remainder of the financial year, Ms Ritchie said that devolving further financial powers would give a much needed shot in the arm to many aspects of the local economy, including tourism in South Down.
She said: “On 7 May 2008, Northern Ireland was given a further opportunity to re-build its economy; make provision for job creation and sustain existing employment with the re-establishment of political institutions underpinned by the principles of devolution and working together.
“For the SDLP and myself, the purpose of devolution is to ensure that in achieving control over the reins of government, we can do the job much better than London; that it brings benefit to the local population, but that we want more of it.
“Therefore, it was all the more disappointing to learn last week that the Finance Minister was not interested in further devolution.
“Why would a Finance minister in the North not want to ensure that we had greater financial control, that we had further ability and capacity to have tax varying powers, that we had the ability to set, collect and invest those taxes back into the economy which in turn would provide the stimulus for economic grown and job creation.
“What exactly has happened in the Ministerial Working Group on rebalancing the NI Economy? Has it made any progress?
“We should be pursuing areas like the devolution of Motor Tax, Landfill Tax, Corporation Tax – is this really being done.
“Devolution works for communities: South Down has two out of the five signature projects for tourism in Northern Ireland – St Patrick’s Country and the Mournes. We do not have the money to invest in their proper development. There is a need for additional investment in talented and experiences staff to develop projects.
“We must ask – why is the Finance Minister pursuing narrow political interests over the need to provide for the future?”
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