‘Live horse and you’ll get grass,’ we’re being told

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy
Transport Minister Danny Kennedy
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‘Live horse and you’ll get grass,’ is Stormont’s message to Derry. That’s how it appeared from reading last Tuesday’s Journal. Investments in transport and education are on the long finger.

If you can endure bad times long enough then good times will eventually re-appear, is usually the saying’s meaning. To fit last week’s news it should be slightly tweaked. ‘Live horse and you might get grass – if we can afford it,’ would be more accurate.

MLA Raymond McCartney asked the Employment and Learning Minister for an update on his “most recent discussions” with the University for Derry (U4D) group. Dr Farry’s answer was: “I met with a delegation last September which included representatives of the U4D group. I am committed to achieving the One Plan target of 1,000 additional places at Magee by 2015, subject to resources being available.

Really? Last September was over eight months ago while 2015 is just over seven months ahead.

What are the chances of “resources” being discovered, at this late stage, for 1,000 new places at Magee in time for next year? Who’s kidding who? Will any old waffle do for an answer?

We also read that MLA Pat Ramsey had raised concerns with Stormont officials about the rejection of a funding bid for Magee. Mr Ramsey wanted to know why a £10m bid from Derry had been rejected whilst a £35m bid for the new campus in Belfast had been accepted. There was no mention of an answer.

Meanwhile, the Journal also reported that Dr Farry has been talking to his counterpart in the Republic about a “cross-border learning zone” for Derry.

And we learned that the long-awaited business case for expansion at Magee is to be with Dr Farry by September.

Outgoing University of Ulster vice-chancellor Richard Barnett is committed to backing the business case, when it appears. So, we’ll just have to wait and see. Live horse and you might get grass, is the message there then.

Meanwhile, responding to Pat Ramsey, the Minister for Regional Development said he hopes phase two of work on the railway to Coleraine will be completed by the end of 2016. Phase one was completed in March 2012. Phase two consists of a passing loop and modern signalling.

Four years to do that is glacial progress by any standard.

The Minister, Danny Kennedy said recently he would like to extend the rail network to Dungannon.

If that ambitious plan were to proceed at the pace of work to the Derry line, Dungannon can look forward to a railway sometime in the next century. That’ll be potentially great news for Dungannon folk’s children’s children’s children, when they’re old.

The minister made frequent mention of the One Plan, “particularly in relation to integrated transport”. Sounds good! He says the A6 dualling scheme between Derry and Dungiven is well advanced.

That’s great because we’ve only been waiting 50 years now. Mr Kennedy says, “subject to final approval of the business case” the scheme will, “be reliant upon funding being made available.”

And, a legal challenge has “impacted on the proposed delivery timescale” of the A5.

Isn’t the One Plan brilliant? Isn’t it great that Stormont ministers are so committed to it? Minister Kennedy mentioned it five times.

Unfortunately the horse probably can’t live long enough to benefit from it.