Magee expansion remains on agenda

The group driving the lobby to expand Magee will not be deterred by the Assembly’s rejection of a move to boost student numbers at the Derry campus.

The rejection of a motion to increase undergraduate numbers at the University of Ulster campus by MLAs on Tuesday will steel the resolve of lobby group University for Derry (U4D), its chairman Padraig Canavan has pledged.

The motion was defeated after 49 assembly members voted against it, with just 27 in favour - revealing that more than 30 of the total 108 elected MLAs did not vote at all.

“Tuesday’s vote and the unfortunate comments by some MLAs speaking against the proposal must not deflect us from our determination to achieve the substantial expansion of Magee,” says U4D chairman Padraig Canavan.

He stated that the North West remains “united in favour” of the expansion - a move which forms a key part of the regeneration proposals (‘One Plan’) for the city.

Mr Canavan added: “We have won the argument here.

“But we still have to win the hearts and minds of many people further afield.

“We must continue to explain to them that improving the economic and social conditions in Derry-Londonderry is not merely of benefit to ourselves - but to the whole of Northern Ireland.

“A prosperous North West contributes to a prosperous Northern Ireland.”

He said the benefits of the expansion should be clear to all. “We must once again stress that Northern Ireland needs a stronger graduate base in the modern economy skills if we are to attract more inward investment, assist local businesses to expand and get more spin-off enterprises created through the universities.

“The argument seems obvious to many of us, but sadly not to everyone within Stormont.”

Mr Canavan commended the 27 MLAs - many from areas East of the Bann - who supported the resolution and the whole of Derry City Council who voted for a similar proposal on Monday.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood, who addressed the Assembly on Tuesday, said the people of Derry will not accept a failure to expand the campus.

“In 1965, when John Hume led 25,000 from every political persuasion in Derry to the steps of Stormont, they were ignored.

“We will not be ignored again.

“The time for lip-service is over. People demand action from this Executive.

“It’s six months since posters went up all over Derry telling us that Magee’s expansion was guaranteed. The people of Derry are now calling that guarantee.”

The motion calling on the Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry “to ensure the creation of 1,000 extra student places at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus during the current comprehensive spending review period in order to provide the key economic driver that is envisaged by the Ilex regeneration plan” was tabled by SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey, who did not attend the vote personally due to illness.

They 76 MLAs present voted as follows:

In favour: Ms M Anderson, Mr Attwood, Mr Boylan, Ms Boyle, Mr D Bradley, Mr Brady, Mr W Clarke, Mr Doherty, Mr Eastwood, Mr Flanagan, Ms Gildernew, Mrs D Kelly, Ms J McCann, Mr McCartney, Mr McDevitt, Dr McDonnell, Mr McElduff, Mr McGlone, Mr McKay, Mrs McKevitt, Mr McLaughlin, Mr McMullan, Mr A Maskey, Mr P Maskey, Mr Ó hOisín, Ms Ritchie, Mr Sheehan.

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Eastwood and Mr McDevitt.

Against: Mr S Anderson, Mr Beggs, Mr Bell, Ms P Bradley, Mr Buchanan, Mr T Clarke, Mr Copeland, Mr Craig, Mr Dickson, Mrs Dobson, Mr Douglas, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Dr Farry, Mr Ford, Mr Frew, Mr Girvan, Mr Givan, Mrs Hale, Mr Hamilton, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Hussey, Mr Irwin, Mr Kennedy, Mr Kinahan, Ms Lewis, Ms Lo, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyttle, Mr McCarthy, Mr McCausland, Mr McClarty, Mr B McCrea, Mr I McCrea, Mr McGimpsey, Mr D McIlveen, Miss M McIlveen, Lord Morrow, Mr Moutray, Mr Nesbitt, Mr Newton, Mrs Overend, Mr Poots, Mr Ross, Mr Swann, Mr Weir, Mr Wells, Mr Wilson.

Mr Agnew voted both for and against the motion and so his vote was discounted.