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.”