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.”

New Cancer Research Centre at Queen’s Welcomed

DUP Health Spokesperson, Iris Robinson MP, MLA said today:

“The new Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University confirms Belfast as an international centre of excellence for cancer research. More than 300 researchers from around the world will be based there.

The new research centre has been built next to the Regional Cancer Centre on the Belfast City Hospital site. Strong links between clinical practice and the research centre highlight the importance of technology and innovation in tackling this disease, which is likely to claim the life of one in three people in Northern Ireland.

An international research partnership has recently been developed between Queen’s University and the Indian Ministry of Biotechnology to explore new ways of understanding and treating cancer. Northern Ireland is developing strong connections worldwide.

Last year when in Washington I had the opportunity to meet with Robert Clarke, originally from Northern Ireland, who was Professor of Oncology at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Cancer Centre. The tri-partite co-operation between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the National Cancer Institute in the United States is making an important contribution to the fight against cancer.”

Remembrance Sunday @ Queen’s University

On Sunday 11th of November 2007 officers of the DUA laid a wreath as part of the official Queen’s University Act of Remembrance.

The Association was represented by Thomas Hogg (Chairman), Stephen Dunne (Press Officer) and Ian Gow (Deputy Chief Whip). Wreaths were also laid on behalf of the Ulster Society and the recently formed Orange Society.

“In remembrance of all those who laid down their lives, for freedom, in two World Wars and subsequent conflicts. Also in memory of Edgar Graham, Assembly member and law lecturer at this University, murdered by the enemies of Ulster. Lest We Forget – No Surrender.”

DUA Marks 35th Anniversary

On Friday 27th of April 2007 the Democratic Unionist Association held a 35th Anniversary Dinner in the Great Hall at Queen’s. A large crowd of both students and alumni were in attendance to mark this momentous milestone in the Association’s history. Many senior DUP figures were present including MLAs Jimmy Spratt, Peter Weir, Jim Wells, Michelle Mc Ilveen and Simon Hamilton. Ian Paisley Junior MLA was the guest speaker on the evening and spoke amusingly of his time at Queen’s and experiences in student politics.