Stormont reorganisation paves way for delivery for Derry

Magee College

Magee College

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The reorganisation of Stormont departments could be great news for Derry - as it brings responsibility for further and higher education into the same portfolio as the economy.

The reduction in the number of departments from 12 to nine was suggested during the Stormont House talks and included in the subsequent agreement.

Functions that were previously the responsibility of DETI and Department of Education and Learning have merged under the new Department for the Economy.

Should the balance of power remain the same after next year’s Assembly elections, with the DUP, which has ‘first pick’ of portfolios, traditionally opting for Finance and Personnel, the way is open for Sinn Fein to take responsibility for developing the economy - which in turn will allow it to live up to the promise made by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to the Journal, that the days of neglect are over.

Much of the One Plan, could be delivered through that portfolio if any party does take responsibility and show goodwill towards the NW.

Padraig Canavan, of U4D which is campaigning for the expansion of Magee, welcomed the reorganisation, saying: “It is potentially very good news that responsibility for higher and further education is to be integrated with that of the rest of the economy. Skills are the foundation for the modern economy and the recent cut in funding for the skills provided by higher and further education is damaging to the prospects for Northern Ireland’s economy.

“U4D is pleased that recent developments are moving in the direction that makes it much more likely that the expansion of Magee in line with the One Plan will be implemented during the next mandate of the Northern Ireland Assembly. We hope that all the political parties will make this a commitment and accordingly include it in the next Programme for Government. We believe that the strength of feeling displayed in the city and region on the 50th anniversary of the Lockwood decision makes it clear that the local electorate will demand and accept nothing less.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Gearóid Ó hEára has called on Employment and Learning minister Stephen Farry to lift the cap on the number of students at Magee.

Mr Ó hEára said; “Everyone is in agreement on the need to expand Magee and increasing the number of students is key to that.

“Lifting the Maximum Student Numbers (MaSN) cap is essential to ensuring the growth of Magee. This is something, which could be easily done, and it is within the power of the employment and learning minister to do so.”

“This would be a clear indication of the minister’s commitment to the expansion of Magee. I welcome the fact Stephen Farry has said he intends to bid for additional funds to expand Magee in the next Comprehensive Spending Review but this now needs to be followed up with action by lifting the MaSN cap.

“Not only would this be a concrete step towards the full expansion of Magee, it would also help generate revenue to pay for that expansion through additional students. This is within the power of the minister and if he is serious about the expansion of Magee then he needs to show it by lifting the MaSN cap immediately.”