SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said it is “absolutely wrong” to use the expansion of higher education to make a political point and has accused the Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry of “downright shabby politics” over his pronouncement that expansion of Magee in Derry is “off the table” indefinitely.
Mr Durkan said: “There will be wide resentment that a Minister has lobbed the line ‘Magee expansion off the table indefinitely’ into the discussion on the budgetary fallout from the Treasury’s bullying fines on the block grant.
“It is shabby for Dr Farry to take the compelling case for expansion of Magee as a hostage in a budget debate where people need to see more principle and purpose from local ministers and less cynicism.
“It is also quite disingenuous to use such shrill rhetoric to imply that there has already been a substantive, meaningful policy and budgetary commitment to Magee’s expansion as set out in the One Plan.
“This shallow ruse appears to be the newest excuse as to why we don’t have a Minister, Department or Executive proactively prioritising the expansion at Magee as the optimum way to deliver and share the regional benefits of higher education expansion.
“I have already asked Dr Farry to tell us what concrete budgetary commitment previously made to increase numbers at Magee has been withdrawn or frozen in the context of his unilateral pronouncement.
“In this crass attempt to present Magee’s expansion as a direct, significant casualty of people’s valid concerns on public welfare reform, Dr Farry is not only misrepresenting the degree of actual commitment to Magee and Derry but is also insensitive to the deeply held anxieties about the impact of welfare reform on hard-pressed households – not least in Derry.”