Nationalist and Unionist politicians have vowed to fight on for the expansion of Magee 50 years to the day since a controversial decision to bypass the city in favour of Coleraine.
The publication of the Lockwood Report on February 10th, 1965 caused widespread anger across the north west and was widely seen as the time and since as having been heavily influenced by political leanings.
The report stated that Coleraine should be the site for a second university and Magee College should be shut down.
In the days after the report there was a massive Protest Meeting at Guildhall, while a University for Derry Committee was also set up.
There was also a motorcade of 25,000 people from Derry to Stormont to protest at the Lockwood Committee findings, and a petition with 15,000 signatures drawn up.
Despite all this, Stormont voted to pass Lockwood’s recommendations on March 4th.
Sinn Fein Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin said that the landscape was very different today: “It’s been a long campaign and we are in a very different place in my view in the fact we have consensus and a very robust business case,” she said, adding:
“It’s critical the expansion of Magee happens in relation to the regeneration of Derry and the wider North West, as obviously this will present a platform for Derry as a university gateway city in terms of the wider north west region.”
Writing in today’s Derry Journal, Mark Durkan MP welcomed a new online campaign for the expansion.
He said: “Just as 50 years ago when John Hume and others led a ‘motor cavalcade’ of 2,000 vehicles to protest at Stormont over the publication of the Lockwood report it is great to see a strong ‘online cavalcade’ demanding the immediate expansion of Magee.”
DUP Councillor Gary Middleton meanwhile said: “Everybody is behind the university campaign. We all recognise and see the potential benefits that will come out of increased places and expansion of Magee.
“We think it’s vital our students are able to study locally and educate themselves locally. And of course employers will start investing because skills will be available in the area. We hear that often from major employers that specialist skills bases are aren’t available so we would be 100% supportive of all efforts to make that a reality.”
UUP Councillor Mary Hamilton added: “We would need Magee extended because we need to try and keep our young people about the city and expanding Magee would also bring more jobs to the city. We don’t want our young people all going away to university because so many of them don’t come back.”