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Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:45 am on 22nd November 2016.

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Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin 11:45 am, 22nd November 2016

I thank the Member for his question and for resisting the temptation to oppose removing the cap because, of course, along with mine, his is the other constituency that is really affected by the removal of the rates cap. I thought that it was really important to stop faffing around and to try to focus on actions that will result in better outcomes for our people. For some time now, I have been dismayed by the continuing levels of unemployment and poverty in some of the areas that we look at, especially in Belfast but also in some areas outside Belfast. It is particularly the case in the heart of east Belfast and the heart of west Belfast. At the same time, I have been heartened and buoyed by the renaissance that I see in both those areas. I mentioned that opening tonight is C S Lewis Square beside the EastSide Visitor Centre and the Connswater greenway and not so far from Ballyhackamore, which is doing very well, and Holywood Arches, which may be captured by this. I see great opportunity and great signs of revival.

I know that the Member would not like me to wait until we have all our ducks in a row before striking. In this case, I am striking and trying to send out a strong message that we can make a difference by using property taxes and rates. I believe that we can do that in west Belfast, in the Falls and right up the Newtownards Road, but it needs to be done with the cooperation of other Departments.

I am sure that you have seen it in your constituency. I do not know if Bangor has just adopted a business improvement district (BID) model, but I know that the BIDs are starting to make a difference in Newry, in its cathedral quarter and city centre. This, to a degree, is us taking the BID model and trying to partner west and east Belfast to make a real difference. I look forward to the Member's input in the time ahead, but, like him, I would rather not hang around. I would rather come forward with some bold proposals. Then, let us get them enacted. It is a pilot. If it does not work, we will do something else. However, at least we can hold our heads up and say, "We know that these two areas have not received the peace dividend that we would like them to have received, and, today, we are trying to make a real difference".