Video: Derry MLA Sinead McLaughlin says Derry is on the cusp of 'better times' but blasts limit to Magee College numbers as 'economic self-harm'

Foyle MLA Sinead McLaughlin has said she believes there are better times ahead for Derry and highlighted but said a failure to expand Magee College to a full-sized university of 10,000 students would be an act of economic self-harm.

Tuesday, 21st January 2020, 12:16 pm

She made the remarks during her maiden speech at the Stormon Assembly on Monday.

"I am a Derry girl. I was born, was reared and raised a family in my home town. I love my people and my place in Derry. I am passionate about our city, which is full of potential. Derry is a beautiful city, where the Wild Atlantic Way meets the Causeway coast.

"We are surrounded by the hills of Donegal on three sides. We are a cross-border region that is steeped in history and heritage. If walls could speak. I have lived in Derry in the very worst of times and I have lived in Derry in the best of times, but I really believe that better times are ahead. I commit to the Assembly that I will work very hard to make the best of times better in the future," she said.

The SDLP MLA backed a motion that refused to give consent to provisions in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill which affect the Assembly's competence.

"I do not like the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. It gives the UK Government too much power over Northern Ireland. We need certainty around our future arrangements, but we need to prepare for Brexit. Our economy is weak, and we have poor productivity due to underinvestment in physical and human capital, especially in my city," she said.

The vice-chair of the Stormont Economy Committee said the expansion of third level provision in Derry was essential.

"We must build our skills to build our economy. Our second city needs a full-sized university of 10,000 students. We need to retain more of our talent instead of exporting it. Limiting the size of our university is a terrible act of economic self-harm.

"I will end by quoting the Irish economist John FitzGerald, whose recent analysis of the North's economy was that, to improve the economy, the most important steps are: 'to reduce the number of early school leavers and increase the numbers of graduates'.

"That is true, Mr Speaker, and nowhere is it more important than in the city of Derry, where poverty levels are much too high. It is a failure that I am determined to challenge. That is at the core of my new role in the Assembly."