A leading Sinn Fein MLA has spoken publicly of her desire for the party to take on the relevant ministerial post to allow for the expansion of higher and further education in Derry if it remains the second largest party after next year’s Assembly elections.
Due to reorganization of departments at Stormont, the portfolios for further education and economic development are to be merged into one department in 2016.
And, following the motion at the Ard Fheis backing the expansion of student provision in Derry, one of the party’s MLAs has given the clearest signal yet that Sinn Fein aims to take control of the new Department of the Economy.
Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin told the Journal yesterday: “I am confident that we will deliver on the extension of Magee. Following the Assembly elections next year if Sinn Féin receives the mandate it is my view that Sinn Féin should take control of the new Department of the Economy, enabling us to deliver on our commitment to Magee development.
“In the meantime we will maintain pressure on DEL Minister Stephen Farry to progress the project to the maximum in the remainder of his administration of the department presently responsible for delivery.”
Business leaders in Derry view the extension of student provision as the single most important issue if the North West is to develop a 21st century economy.
Padraig Canavan, chair of U4D, the group lobbying for the expansion of Magee and North West Regional College, said all of Northern Ireland would feel the benefits.
And the advantages to Derry will not just be economic in nature, but will also be societal and cultural.
l Read our interview with U4D’s Padraig Canavan and Paul Gosling on pages 56-57.