New university group will be formed

Members of the delegation who met Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry at Stormont. From left; Philip O'Doherty, Maeve McLaughlin MLA, Padraig Canavan, Sinead McLaughlin, Paul Gosling, Tiernan Heaney, and Gerry Gallagher. (0609MM12)

Members of the delegation who met Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry at Stormont. From left; Philip O'Doherty, Maeve McLaughlin MLA, Padraig Canavan, Sinead McLaughlin, Paul Gosling, Tiernan Heaney, and Gerry Gallagher. (0609MM12)

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A new committee is to be formed in Derry in the coming weeks to pursue the demand for the expansion of the university at Magee.

A delegation from the city travelled to Stormont this week to meet Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, to discuss the demand for expansion.

The group, which included representatives of university lobby group, U4D, members of the Chamber of Commerce, and representatives of Derry City Council was hosted at Parliament Buildings by Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin.

Ms McLaughlin described the meeting with Dr Farry as “a frank exchange” and said the minister remains to be convinced about the need for expansion.

“We welcome the engagement with the minister on this important issue,” she said. “There has been a major public debate around the expansion of Magee and the need for a robust business case and that is what we discussed with the minister.

“The delegation represented all sectors and we had a frank exchange with the minister and it has to be said that he remains to be convinced that if there is a business case in place for the expansion of Magee that it will stack up. That does not wash with me or the rest of the delegation and we made that clear to him. We told him that he needs to support us and allow us to commission the business case and let us face any challenges,” she said.

Ms McLaughlin said the next step in the campaign will see the formation of a new committee. “It is our intention to form a Magee implementation group involving the University of Ulster and Derry City Council and others which would be answerable to the City Strategy Group.

“I would expect that to be done in the coming weeks and we will be making commissioning a robust business case for the expansion and will present that to Minister Farry.

“We hope that when that is done he will have more information and will be able to go into the next budgeting round with that plan on his desk,” she added.

The Foyle MLA also said the campaign would continue until the expansion of the university is secured. “We are not going away and we made that very clear to the minister. We will be persistent and consistent in our approach to this.

“I have also secured an adjournment debate in the Assembly on the expansion of Magee which will take place next week and will provide an opportunity to discuss this important issue in a public forum,” Ms McLaughlin said.