Derry City Made Wait Again by Stormont Parties
The people of Derry and Strabane and the wider North West area are coming to the sad realisation that the Graduate Entry Medical School, first promulgated with the birth of the new millennium, will almost certainly not be delivered in time for student entry in 2020.
Newly elected Aontú Cllr Dr Anne McCloskey stated: "Welcome to the recurring story of lack of leadership in the north, and exclusion from economic growth in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. On the day Ivan Cooper, one of the founding members of the Civil Rights movement was buried, Derry is economically and socially worse off than before his life’s work started.
"Listening to the media hype, one would almost believe that the decades of photoshoots and rhetoric are finally coming to fruition. The University in Derry is ready to go. Academic staff are in place, the premises identified, the teaching programme organised, lecturers appointed. Even, at last the University of Ulster and wonder of wonders, Queen’s University seem to be on board. Except it’s not happening. Again.
"I awakened the other morning to the headline news on Radio Foyle’s breakfast show, to hear our MP Elisha McCallion report that in a meeting in Stormont the previous day, Richard Pengelly the permanent Secretary for Health had said that he could finalise the deal. I was there at the table, representing my party, Aontú, and that was certainly not the tone of the meeting which I attended.
"While it is true that Mr Pengelly admitted that it was theoretically possible that he could sign off on the business case, he repeatedly reiterated that he was unable to take anything else into account except the bean-counting. Money, (or the lack of it, it seems especially where anything concerning Derry is concerned), is his departments only remit. The business case needs to be robust.
“Business cases, seem to be more flexible when they involve, for example, spending 250 million to move the Jordanstown campus a few miles down the road to York Street, but spend money in Magee-the business case must be robust. Small wonder that the campus in the north’s second city has been dubbed the fourth campus of Belfast’s second University.
"A Civil Servant cannot consider the wider issues of purposefully inflicted deprivation in this city over decades. A civil servant can’t consider that a university might in some small way begin to address the fact that Derry is at the top of all tables of socioeconomic problems-long term unemployment, child poverty, housing stress.
"He cannot consider the fact that of and so on. He can’t consider that of the budget for third level education in the north, only 5% goes to Derry. He cannot consider that since the Good Friday Agreement, economic activity in Derry has fallen by 7%, compared to a rise of 14 % in Belfast. He cannot consider hospital waiting lists of up to four years, a locum bill of 100 million pounds for and most importantly, that people will die as a result of inaction".
"Repeatedly those attending the meeting were told that only a Minister could take this wider picture into account, and only a minister could get this project over the line in time.
"The human cost of this inaction is immense. Unless the recruitment crisis in general practice is resolved, especially west of the Bann, people will not be able to access primary care services, hospital departments will be inundated with patients who could be seen and treated in their own communities, and early diagnosis and referral for life-threatening illness will simply not happen.
"This is an issue of human rights and justice. We know that research confirms that around 80% of graduates, probably more at post graduate level live and work in the area in which they are trained. Derry needs locally trained healthcare personnel.
"The only issue the Stormont parties are interested in is the culture wars, which are of little relevance to people living in housing distress, poverty and ill health.
"The promise of 20,000 University places at Magee for 2010 is just that. I could paper my walls with posed photos of politicians holding signs proclaiming yet another breakthrough in the University saga going back for decades. The behaviour of UU in all of this has yet to be scrutinised in any detail and is certain to make sorry reading.
"Last night I had a motion before DSDC, calling on the MLAs to get back to work now, get a Minister for Health back at her desk and get this sorted. Leave the culture wars and red lines aside and do what is necessary for the people of this city. Equality and respect are words that are meaningless without justice.”