Spratt Welcomes DCAL Announcement on Queen’s Festival

South Belfast DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt has welcomed today’s announcement by Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Edwin Poots, that £300,000 has been made available over the next three years for the Belfast Festival at Queen’s. Mr Spratt, who facilitated meetings between the Minister and Queen’s Representatives, said:

‘”This is great news for everyone involved in the Belfast Festival at Queen’s and for Belfast as a whole. The benefits of the Festival, both economically and culturally, are vast and this announcement can help to make the Festival bigger and better than ever before.

Over the last few months I have worked closely with Queen’s in convincing the Minister of the benefits of direct government funding for the Festival. It is clear from this announcement that Minister Poots recognises that the Festival is a world class arts event and should be safeguarded in the future.

Yet again we see the benefits of devolution by securing the future of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s.”

December Association Meeting

We were pleased to welcome North Belfast MLA Nelson McCausland as the guest speaker at our December Association Meeting.

Below are some photographs from the meeting, one of which was published in the following day’s News Letter.

During his address Mr McCausland outlined how the DUP was making progress on matters of importance to students by building a strong economy in Northern Ireland. Commenting Mr McCausland said,

“The single biggest challenge for Unionists today is to build a strong economy in Northern Ireland which is able to cater for the well educated graduates leaving our schools, colleges and universities. By building a strong and competitive economy we can improve our economic, social and cultural future.

The Democratic Unionist Party has taken charge of Departments which can assist in building the economy in Northern Ireland. The Finance Minister has brought forward a budget committed to economic growth, the DETI Minister has ensured the message is beamed around the world that Northern Ireland is open for business and the DOE Minister has initiated the a review of the Planning Service to bring forward recommendations on streamlining the system.

The successful implementation of the Programme for Government and the ten year investment strategy will provide a more prosperous outlook for those living and working in Northern Ireland. A key element of the PfG is the commitment to increase the number of students enrolling for PhDs. This is needed if Northern Ireland is to become a leading Research and Development hub. We have the ability but this ability must be channelled and utilised.

The so-called brain drain in Northern Ireland has caused untold damage and has undoubtedly weakened the Province. We have lost a significant part of a generation of graduates who, for reasons including a lack of career opportunities and the terrorist campaign, chose not to build their career in Northern Ireland. Many of these people have built lucrative careers across the globe. It is paramount that we provide suitable career opportunities for today’s generation and set conditions in place whereby the brain drain is stopped. That is the task of work which the DUP has set about.”

Mr McCausland also spoke of his disappointment that the Education Minister has failed to provide clarity for parents and teachers on the future of post primary education. The North Belfast MLA said,

“No clarity has been brought to the issue of post primary education by the Minister. She has become known as the Minister for confusion and mess. The Education Minister has been in place for seven months but has failed to produce a clear roadmap for post-primary education.

We have an education system which is the envy of Great Britain. We produce excellent results and highly skilled students. Regardless of the political motives of the Minister, she will not be permitted to destroy our education system.

The Minister seems oblivious to the fact that the DUP secured academic selection in legislation. Any plans brought forward by the Department of Education must support academic selection or else DUP support will not be forthcoming. The Minister must get on with the job and provide clarity on this issue.”

Mr McCausland concluded by saying,

“Our DUP Ministers are not in the Executive to make up the numbers. They have already got to work by making decisions and introducing change for the betterment of Northern Ireland on a wide range of issues.

It is important that we seize the opportunity to provide an attractive future for those studying in Northern Ireland. Devolution has placed us in control of our destiny and we intend to use our position to improve Northern Ireland economically, socially and culturally.”

Spratt Welcomes Minister’s Commitment to Queen’s Festival

South Belfast DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt has welcomed a commitment made in the Assembly by the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Mr Edwin Poots, in relation to the future of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s. Commenting after raising the issue of the Belfast Festival during the debate, Mr. Spratt said:

“I welcome the commitment made by the Minister following his statement on Festival Funding. It is clear that the Minister wants to remove the uncertainty over the future of Festival at Queen’s and I am delighted that the Minister has committed to working to grow the Festival.

The benefits to Northern Ireland as a result of the Festival are vast in terms of economic benefits, job creation and nurturing a world class arts scene. The Minister is clear that he wants to make this significant event even better in order to make the benefits even greater for the whole community.”

Wilson Comments on Minister’s Decision on the Future of Education

DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has welcomed a decision by the Education Minister to make a statement on the future of education in Northern Ireland. Commenting the DUP’s education spokesman said,

“The DUP has been pressing the Minister since she first came to office on this matter. A statement from the Minister is long overdue and will be welcomed by primary school principals across Northern Ireland who have been left in the dark for the last few months. I have been inundated by principals outlining that the uncertainty around post primary education was constraining them in carrying out their duties.

This statement should be definitive and should reflect the views of parents and teachers alike. The last thing we need on this subject is more ambiguity and a refusal to take cognisance of the views expressed to the Department on selection through a variety of mechanisms.

The DUP has been very clear in recognising that the transfer test is not ideal and should be reformed but we made it clear at St Andrews, and won a legislative change, that academic selection will be retained. Our approach to education is the envy of Great Britain and the Minister should ensure that any new system gives students the option to choose what school they attend. There should be an option for those of a more academic mindset and also for those of a more vocational mindset.

We want to work with the Minister to get an agreed way forward which can ensure that Northern Ireland continues to have an education system which is envied well beyond these shores. We must not get to a situation where change is being introduced for the sake of change. I trust that the Minister will give due consideration to her decision and will recognise that the education of children is much too important to be turned into a political football.”