Council votes to keep all Uni options open

Councillors voted unanimously to leave all options open, including the establishment of a stand-alone University, in the ongoing drive to expand third level provision Derry.

Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 8:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 9:00 pm

The matter was raised by People Before Profit Councillor, Eamonn McCann, at the July meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council.

Colr. McCann referred to the intervention by Labour peer Andrew Adonis in the British House of Lords last week when he called for the establishment of a Derry-headquartered university.

“His point was that there was great disillusionment in Derry and that something ought to be done about it. He argued that this was the result of discrimination many years ago and the results of that discrimination persisting to this day,” said Colr. McCann.

Colr. McCann said people were extremely frustrated by the rolling postponements of the development of a Medical School at Magee.

“Many people in Derry are utterly cynical about what’s going to happen at Magee and the chances of there being a proper expansion at Magee. The long, long delay in bringing a Medical School, which even if it came would not bring student numbers anywhere near close to what we were promised a few years ago to make what is required to make a proper vibrant university in this city,” he said.

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly, said: “There is a huge disparity in terms of the provision of rail. We know there is a gap in relation to motorways as well and there is also a gap on the island in relation to university provision. Galway, Dublin, Limerick are all cities on this island with thriving universities and on this part of the island we don’t have those student figures that we would want to see.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy, said: “We are absolutely not opposed to exploring the opportunity for an independent university. We feel the more third level options we have the better. But we do believe that the quickest way to achieve university city status is for us to continue to put pressure on Ulster.”

Aontú Councillor Anne McCloskey claimed her geophysicist brother, Professor John McCloskey, a former Ulster University academic had wanted to bring his department to Derry but ended up in Scotland.

“He was offered the chair in Edinburgh where he now works. He has got £20m of investment, the biggest grant Edinburgh University ever got. That should have come to this town,” she said.

“This city needs to look at going it alone. It is the only city of its size in Europe without a university,” she added.

Alliance councillor Philip McKinney, originally from Belfast, said: “You drive into Belfast and they are constantly building. There are tower cranes everywhere. You come up the North West and you haven’t even got a motor way to the second city in NI.”

Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly said: “The lack of infrastructure is down to one thing and it’s institutionalised discrimination. There is no beating about the bush. It’s been going on for decades. It’s been going on since the inception of this artificial state and this has led to isolation.”