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New NI Secretary of State arrives in Derry for first official engagement

29 July 2019

The newly appointed Secretary of State for N. Ireland, Julian Smith, arrived in Derry today for his first official engagements following a series of talks with the political parties at Stormont.

Mr Smith met with the Deputy Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Cara Hunter, and Council Chief Executive John Kelpie at the Guildhall to discuss a range of strategic issues affecting the future of the North West City Region.

The Secretary of State heard more about the City’s ongoing campaign for a Medical School at Magee, concerns around the potential impacts of Brexit, the need for the restoration of the NI Assembly and the recently announced City Deal.

Welcoming Mr Smith to the City, Councillor Hunter said it was encouraging to see that Derry and Strabane are already high on the new Secretary of State’s agenda. “Today’s visit was very positive and provided the opportunity to open conversations with the new Secretary of State and for us to set out some of our priorities and concerns,” she stressed.

“We made it extremely clear that intervention regarding issues such as the Medical School in Magee is a matter of urgency. Engagement will continue in the coming months to explore further how the ambitions of the region can be effectively progressed.”

Speaking after the meeting, Council Chief Executive John Kelpie, said it had provided an opportunity to address a range of important issues.

“Our strongest message today was that this is a unique place and it needs a unique proposition to address the challenges and deliver the opportunities posed by Brexit. The importance of our position in terms of Europe, Ireland and the UK was discussed and the strategic cross-border partnership working that is so vital to our progress. It was also stressed that a seamless border to facilitate trade and travel is absolutely crucial.

“The meeting provided the opportunity to brief the Secretary of State regarding the Medical School at Magee and the pivotal role this will have in the successful delivery of a range of strategic projects vital to the future of our City Region. I am encouraged that after today’s meeting we can continue our discussions on a more in depth level and look further at how we can now progress the projects that will drive positive transformation of the North West.”

After the meeting Mr Smith took the opportunity to visit the City’s historic Walls, which this year mark their 400th anniversary. He also took time to speak to members of the local business community.