I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the factually incorrect attack by Martin Doherty, lecturer at Magee campus, on Sinn Féin and the DUP.
Martin alleges that the Sinn Féin Minister cast doubt on the Foyle College move to Clooney using a ‘perceived’ threat to Lisneal College to justify his ‘decision’. I would like to point out that at no time did the Minister say that the Foyle move would not proceed. What he did say - and what any responsible Minister just taking over a Department would say - was that he has over 50 projects in the pipeline all of which are considered essential by the schools affected. He went on to say that he would be looking at all of the projects over the summer and would give his decision in September.
He did not ‘block’ the move nor can I see what ‘self-interest’ Martin is referring to. This situation applies to all pending applications due to the availability of funding.
As for Martina Anderson, well again Martin misrepresents what she said. Martina made it perfectly clear that she would do everything in her power, working with all interested parties in Derry, to ensure that both expansion of Magee and the Foyle move progressed as planned and that is her primary objective.
But she went on to point out that the expansion of Magee should not have to wait for, be dependent on or be ‘timeframed’ by the move of Foyle. She pointed out that the present capacity of Magee could accomodate an immediate increase of up to 2000 more students and therefore the first step in expansion should be the removal of the student numbers cap.
She went on to say that she didn’t believe it was good forward planning, or indeed logical, to adopt the position that if for any reason the Foyle move did not materialise, then the expansion of Magee was dead in the water. She said other contigencies should be developed, including looking at other existing proposals.
I can’t see how Martin can claim with any credibility that these positions could constitute a Sinn Féin - DUP ‘stitch-up’ or lack of support for either the expansion of Magee or for the proposals to progress Foyle as planned.
I presume that his accusation of a Sinn Féin - DUP ‘stitch-up’ is based on his comment that “Then we have the DUP Minister raise doubts about funding for the expansion of Magee. It’s bad enough that these two Belfast-focused, ‘not-out-of-my-budget’ Ministers.........see fit to wreck any plans for expansion in the North-West”. Martin should have done his research a little bit better. The DEL Minister (responsible for Universities) is not DUP but Dr. Stephen Farry of the Alliance Party and neither himself or John O’Dowd are Belfast-based Ministers let alone Belfast-focused.
I think that Martin is the one who needs to explain himself. Is he for the expansion of Magee as a driver for economic regeneration of the North West or does he only support it if it fits in with the plans for Foyle College? You see, we can all co-operate and work for a positive result in progressing both projects or we can scupper both by demanding that they are inseparable. Which do you want to see Martin?
Preasoifig Shinn Féin,
Tionól na Sé Chontae.