DUP European election candidate, Diane Dodds, recently paid a visit to her hometown to talk to the people of Banbridge about the importance of European membership.
Mrs Dodds, who lives in Banbridge, said it is important that the unique identity of the town centre is maintained so that Banbridge continues to be a vibrant community.
“Banbridge has still got thriving businesses and there are many very good local shops,” she said.
“We don’t want to see anything that will undermine that and it is important that the town centre is protected.”
There had been concerns that future development at The Outlet could detract from Banbridge town centre, however, Mrs Dodds said the two could work together to improve the retail offering of the town as a whole.
“We should work to make The Outlet and town centre complement each other rather than being in competition,” she continued.
“We are coming out of a global recession that has deeply affected the economy of Northern Ireland but Banbridge has survived well.
“Independent traders are the lifeblood of the town and I want to support those and keep them there. It is that unique point of difference that makes Banbridge special.”
Mrs Dodds, who has been an MEP for the last five years, is also encouraging community groups in the Banbridge area to make the most of everything that is on offer in Europe.
“People are concerned about Europe and that it encroaches on their everyday life,” she continued. “They feel there is a lot of bureaucracy and cost to Europe and they are concerned that we get enough back for what we put in.”
Mrs Dodds said it was vital that small community groups take advantage of the funding and grants on offer from Europe.
“Small groups can draw down money directly from the EU,” she explained. “The money doesn’t appear out of nowhere. It is our taxes and whilst we are part of the EU people should make the most of it.
“Over the last five years I have delivered over £6 million of community funding, helping groups and individuals to improve local communities.”