DUP and Sinn Fein clash on EU funding for rail station

The old railway station in the Waterside area of Londonderry  is set to become a new integrated transport hub
The old railway station in the Waterside area of Londonderry is set to become a new integrated transport hub

The DUP and Sinn Fein have clashed over the future of EU funding after around £20 million was announced to redevelop an old Victorian railway station in Londonderry.

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said there is “no need to thank the EU for giving us our own money back”, after the award of €23.5 million towards an overall £26 million plan to redevelop the old Waterside railway station in his constituency.

Mr Middleton said the UK is “fully capable” of paying for its own infrastructure as a “net contributor” to the EU.

He had been speaking after Sinn Fein MP Elisha McCallion had warned that similar projects “in the future may not be able to avail of” such funding, thanks to what she called the “disastrous Tory Brexit agenda”.

While both Mr Middleton and Ms McCallion welcomed the award of the money towards the creation of a new transport hub at the site of the old railway station, the two Londonderry politicians clashed over the future of similar projects after Brexit.

The redevelopment of the Victorian-era railway station, a grade 2 listed building dating back to the 1870s, was given an estimated completion date of 2020 by the former infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard.

The department is also committing £7,409,457 in completing the overall construction of the project.

Ms McCallion said: “This is a wonderful old building and with this money, and the funding from the Executive secured by former infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard, it will be brought back to life and into the 21st century.”

She added: “It also shows the value of EU funding which projects in the future may not be able to avail of as a result of the disastrous Tory Brexit agenda.”

Mr Middleton, disputed that suggestion, however, saying: “Obviously this is very good news and something that we have been campaigning for for some time.

“It is easy to get into an argument and say ‘this wouldn’t have happened without the EU funding’, but with all the money that we send to Europe, this could have been funded by ourselves anyway.

“The UK is a net contributor to the EU – we send more than we get back – so the Treasury at Westminster is fully capable of funding the UK’s own infrastructure without the help of the EU.

“We have no need to thank the EU for giving us our own money back. That may be a simplification but we shouldn’t feel that we owe the EU something when they give us our money back.”