Eamonn McCann: Forget about expansion of Magee University

Vladimir Putin sabre rattling and ordering  Russian troops into the Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin sabre rattling and ordering Russian troops into the Ukraine.

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Forget about expansion of Magee University

Alan Pardew was out of order pushing his forehead into David Meyler's face.

Alan Pardew was out of order pushing his forehead into David Meyler's face.

Remember that pledged increase of 1,000 in the projected intake of students at Magee?

Well, forget it.

It was announced at the University Council on Friday that the Department of Employment and Learning has withdrawn the funding for 350 of the places. That leaves just 650 – falling even shorter than many of us had feared.

There’s been a loud, angry reaction from Magee Provost Professor Heenan and her cohorts, thwarted in their doughty battle for the interests of the Derry campus? Not exactly.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. (2502MM05)

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. (2502MM05)

The political parties have been screaming blue murder about this latest neglect of Derry? Not so as the human ear could detect.

The same meeting of the university council heard that the massive expansion of the Belfast campus is now fully funded and bang on schedule. The UU bosses, backed by all the main parties, have just negotiated a £150 million loan from the European Investment Bank to be repaid over 18 years.

If the project goes wallop, the tax-payers - ie, us – will no doubt be expected to stump up the needful.

Any chance of the Derry campus being backed for a borrowing facility of half that figure? A quarter?

Is it any wonder the town’s in the state it is?

Which reminds me: Martin McGuiness replied in Friday’s ‘Journal’ to Into The West’s plea to him to do a bit more to deliver a decent rail service for Derry. The same oul’ toot. Not good enough, Martin. Not by a long chalk.

More on this next week.

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Stench of hypocrisy wafting across Europe

So Barak Obama, David Cameron and the rest of the NATO gang are outraged at Vladimir Putin rattling his sabre and ordering Russian troops into the Ukraine on the ground that Russia’s national interests are at stake. Maybe Putin should have bombed Kiev to rubble and then sent in troops to slaughter half of those who resisted and torture the other half, after the manner of events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, etc., etc.

As far as the Ukraine is concerned - just two years ago, more than 2,000 election monitors, the majority from Western countries, observed the election which gave on-the-run president Viktor Yanukovych a majority and unanimously pronounced it free and fair. But that didn’t impress Obama etc. one bit. They have continued to support what the ludicrous William Hague last week called the “democratic forces”.

“An incredible act of aggression,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday. “You just don’t in the 21st century act in the manner of the 19th century and invade another country.”

For brass-neckery that takes some beating.

You don’t have to have a good word to say about the ultra-corrupt Yanukovych or the butcher of Chechnya Putin to detect the stench of hypocrisy wafting across Europe on a west wind. Or maybe our nostrils don’t register the odour, since it’s been defiling the air around us for so long.

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Have a rollicking night out

If you haven’t already booked for Conor McPherson’s “A Skull in Connemara” - continuing tonight and tomorrow at the Millennium - make your move now.

Michael is a grave-digger in Leenane, tasked to disinter and get rid of the residents every seven years to make room for new arrivals. This year, he’s due to dig up his wife who was killed either in a car crash or due to Michael bashing in her head with a lump-hammer.

Young Mairtin is his sort-of assistant, a garrulous but amiable fellow apart from his fascination for road accidents, babies drowning in slurry pits and baking hamsters live. The pair batter the bones into powder on a sturdy work-table to make for easier disposal.

There’s a guard who suspects everybody of everything and has a go at strangling Mick, and Mary Johnnie, a contented religious bigot, bingo enthusiast, bad-minded gossip and poteen addict.

This isn’t a great play, in the way that McPherson’s “Lieutenant of Inishmore” was, or as focused and impossibly funny as his “Bruges” screenplay. But it’s as rollicking a night out as you are likely to enjoy in Derry in 2014, deftly directed by Andrew Flynn, acted with perfect pitch by Garret Keogh, Maire McDermottroe, Jarlath Tivnan and Patrick Ryan and with a striking, versatile mood-defining set by Owen MacCarthaigh.

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Alan Pardew headbutt hysteria

The hysteria about Newcastle manager Alan Pardew pushing his forehead into David Meyler’s face (it hardly amounted to a “head-butt”) is a measure of how self-important and faux-moraIistic Premiership football has become. His action was “disgusting” and “unforgivable”, Alan Hansen and his clownish side-kick Robbie Savage concurred on ‘Match of the Day’ on Saturday night.

Luis Suarez referring seven times to the colour of Patrice Evra’s skin in the course of a 20-second in-your-face rant - that was properly disgusting and ought to have been regarded as unforgiveable. But there’s plenty around - not all of them supporters of the Anfield club - to argue that the outburst wasn’t racist at all - merely a quaint Uruguayan usage - and that an eight-week suspension was far too harsh.

Pardew’s action was out of order. But a more serious offence than a prolonged stream of racist abuse - or any of Charlie Adams’s recent stamps on opponents’ legs?