After 50 years of nationalism, Derry still treated with contempt, writes Eamonn McCann

Eamonn McCann.
Eamonn McCann.

The neglect of Derry on both university education and rail links has been blamed for 50 years on sectarian unionism.

There is a great deal of truth in this - but it’s not the whole truth.

The same neglect has continued under politicians wearing green jerseys.

It is half a century since unionism held sway in these parts. Since then, we have had Nationalist MPs, MLAs, MEPs, councillors, ministers and whatnot. Yet Magee remains a branch office of Ulster University and our railway a branch line on the Translink network.

If it hadn’t been for Into The West, there wouldn’t be a train line in Derry left. If it hadn’t been for the Derry University Group, the need to look beyond Ulster University for proper third level provision wouldn’t be on the agenda.

Derry needs to take a more radical view.

The lands and finances of Magee should be detached from Ulster University and used as a foundation key for building a new university for Derry.

Derry is already not just a walled city but a world city. A Derry university freed from the shackles of UU would attract students and academic talent from around the world.

Pleading for a medical school in terms which suggest that that’s all we want falls far short of what’s needed. We need transformation. That’s not going to happen without a stronger, bigger, more determined movement for change.

UU shifted 13,000 students from Jordanstown into overcrowded Belfast - without any consideration of transferring some of the departments concerned to Derry.

In fact, Derry wasn’t even considered. Our name never came up.

Same with rail. We were promised that Phase 3 of the upgrade of the line would be completed by now. But it hasn’t even started - and no start-date has been confirmed.

This is not neglect, it’s contempt.