Two of Derry’s best-known public figures have issued a hard-hitting statement in which they warn of the “great danger” of history repeating itself on the city’s university issue.
Businessman Philip O’Doherty and former Policing Board vice-chairman Denis Bradley say Derry has been “waiting in vain” for more than a half a century for a university.
“The people of this city deserve more,” the two men say in their statement. “A great injustice and great damage were done to this city fifty years ago. There is a great danger that history is repeating itself.”
Their comments come amid the fallout of Stormont Minister Stephen Farry’s recent decision to allocate just half of 500 newly-created student places to the Magee campus of the University of Ulster.
Dr Farry announced his plan in the face of a co-ordinated civic campaign aimed at securing all 500 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) places for Magee.
In their statement, Philip O’Doherty and Denis Bradley say that, even had the 500 places come to Magee, this would only have represented “half the numbers required to describe it as a university with the potential to bring economic change to this city”.
They add: “A number of years ago, all the political parties, the commercial institutions and the University of Ulster signed up to the ‘One Plan’. That plan stated that the only hope for an economic future for this city and region was a university of a reasonable size. Reasonable size was outlined as 9,400 students. This was described as the minimum. The number of students presently attending Magee College is around 4,000. The overall number who attend the University of Ulster is 25,000.
“The ‘One Plan’ said that, without a reasonable size university, ‘a generation of the city’s people will become poorer and face bleaker social and economic prospects’. It also pointed out that the city sat at the bottom of the league of all the main economic indicators.”
Turning to Minister Farry’s assertion that the Executive was supportive of the ‘One Plan’, the two men remarked that the Executive “has been quiet on this issue. The people of this city deserve better.”
Their statement concludes: “Dr Farry also said that the University of Ulster was quite free to redistribute its resources across its three campuses. 4,000 in Magee put against 21,000 in the two other campuses is not equal or fair. The University has been quiet on this issue. The people of this city deserve more.”