Kudos to the media team at the Department of Finance who have started a weekly ezine from my ministerial desk to keep the public informed of our myriad activities. You can see the first ezine here and sign up for a weekly update.
My first full week as Finance Minister was, as you might expect, filled with figures and stats, balance sheets and strategies, but in between times I did get to enjoy my first ‘cruise’ on the Erne and a visit to Northwest City Region of Derry.
“My mission is to work with all to cement the peace, create a prosperous shared society and foster a strong, jobs-rich economy with opportunity for all,” I told the Committee which is chaired by Emma Little-Pengelly of the DUP.
“It’s my intention as Finance Minister to place a special focus on an enhanced peace dividend for working class communities and for border regions which may feel left behind. The funds available to us as a government do not match the scale of ambition of our community so I will make every effort to grow the funding ‘pie’ in the time ahead. I will also encourage the Finance Committee to join their voice to mine against austerity and for more fiscal autonomy so that we can make decisions in the interest of all our people rather than have decisions beneficial to London only imposed on us.”
In Derry I got to visit the University of Ulster campus at Magee again and was reminded of how progress in the northwest is linked to the growth of that college.
I was guest of Waterways Ireland at their magnificent Enniskillen headquarters and was thrilled by their determination to build the greatest ‘blueways’ in Europe across Ireland’s waterways network. The budgets of cross-border bodies have been squeezed over recent years due to cuts in the block grant from London but I firmly believe that investing in the work of agencies like Waterways Ireland can reap rewards in terms of increased tourism and the creation of jobs.
Indeed, before leaving Enniskillen, I met Barry Flanagan, a young entrepreneur who has just invested in two water taxis. Small businesses like [www.twitter.com/ErneWaterTaxi]Erne Water Taxi can do more to lift an area than a hundred masterplans so I wish his fledgling venture well.