Durkan calls for funding for Auschwitz trips

SDLP MP Mark Durkan has demanded that funding be made available to allow school children in Northern Ireland to take part in educational visits to the death camps at Auschwitz Birkeneau.

Speaking ahead of an event on Thursday to mark Holocaust Memorial Day when Mr Durkan will recall his visit to Auschwitz in 2008, he revealed how there has not been a Holocaust Educational Trip organised for students in Northern Ireland since 2008.

The Foyle MP has now tabled a parliamentary motion at Westminster calling on the government to re-establish a funding arrangement – originally initiated by the previous administration – which provided invaluable financial support for the Lessons from Auschwitz project run by the Holocaust Education Trust (HET).

"I fully support the important and effective work of the Lessons from Auschwitz project run by the Holocaust Education Trust," he said.

"The original public funding was provided by the government to support the programme involving post-16 students in schools throughout the UK.

"The previous administration subsequently altered this welcome and successful funding arrangement by restricting Whitehall's funding to the schools under its governance.

"Indeed, there has hasn't been a HET-organised trip to Auschwitz for Northern Ireland students since 2008 as a result of this altered funding arrangement. "I regret that the Holocaust Educational Trust has since had to lobby for uncertain and uneven funding from devolved administrations with mixed results. This funding context inevitably dissipates some of the Trust's valuable efforts and impedes the qualitative planning and delivery of this profoundly significant programme.

"I am therefore calling on the government to revert to the original funding envelope to support the Lessons from Auschwitz project across the UK.

"I would also encourage the devolved administrations, along with government, to extend every positive support and cooperation which they can provide for the project and the other important work of the Holocaust Education Trust."

Mark Durkan will recount his experience of visit the death camps at Auschwitz Birkeneau during an event at the Tower Museum on Thursday.

Beginning at 11.30pm. there will be a panel discussion at the Tower Musuem to coincide with the Enslaved Exhibition where a range of speakers will look at the historic context of the Atlantic Slave Trade as well as discussing the plight of people living in Africa today who are still enslaved and whose stories are often untold.