It’s time to right a 50 year injustice and expand Magee College Derry

Colum Eastwood is an SDLP MLA for Foyle.

Next Tuesday marks the 50th anniversary of a report which condemned Derry to decades of economic stagnation.

The Lockwood Report recommended the siting of a second university in Northern Ireland at Coleraine instead of Derry. The publication of the report was the catalyst for a mass, cross-community, campaign by the people of Derry. The effects of the Stormont government’s subsequent decision not to support a new university in Derry are still acutely felt in our city today.

It was recognised by the people of Derry in 1965 that the decision would have a detrimental impact on the city’s ability to develop economically. They were right.

When it comes to economic indicators Derry is at the wrong end of all the league tables. Economic activity in the Derry City Council area is the lowest in the North at just 55%, compared to the Northern Ireland average of 67%. The city has the highest percentage of Job Seekers Allowance claimants not only in the North, but across England, Scotland and Wales too. Derry also has the highest rate of claimants across all categories – male, female and young people, while the city is second only to its new council partner Strabane when it comes to the percentage of long term claimants.

Only by increasing the skills base of the labour market in Derry and the wider North West will we combat our unacceptably high rate of unemployment. The substantial expansion of university provision will play a pivotal role in turning our economy around.

The arguments for an expanded university in Derry are clear. What is also clear is that Northern Ireland as a whole is underperforming hugely in terms of keeping up with the pace of expansion in both Britain and the Republic. The North produces the highest proportion of school leavers going to university of any area in Britain or Ireland, with more than half doing so. However, we have the smallest university sector.

Magee College

Magee College

The increased rate of school leavers going to university from here has only been achieved by a growing proportion of them taking up places in Britain. In fact, despite the higher fees regime across the water, there has been a steady increase in students from the North choosing to study in Britain. This increase has coincided with the abolition of the MaSN cap in England. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland has retained its MaSN, forcing more students to leave these shores to attend university in Britain. Most of them never return. The loss of Northern Ireland students to Britain is seriously damaging to our productivity and wealth generation as well as the ability to grow our own businesses and attract inward investment.

A recent report by the University for Derry campaign (U4D) reveals that Northern Ireland requires an additional 15,400 places at its universities just to match the levels of university provision in England. Provision in England is actually increasing by 30,000 places this year, precisely because the British Government realises the connection between the skills generated by university education and the long-term health of an economy.

According to the same report, Northern Ireland’s two universities have a combined income of almost £500m and generate an additional £675m in economic activity. By extrapolation the opportunity presented by bringing Northern Ireland higher education provision to a par with the UK average can be measured in hundreds of millions of pounds in additional income and economic activity – which would far outstrip the cost to government.

The decision by the old Stormont government to ignore Derry and site the new university at Coleraine is one that has created a legacy of economic inactivity and joblessness. Today’s Executive has the opportunity to right that wrong. There have been many warm words and supportive messages about Magee’s expansion from Martin McGuinness, Ulster University and others. However at every opportunity the Executive has failed to make a Programme for Government or budgetary commitment to major expansion. Fifty years on, now is the time for action.

You can follow the Expand Magee campaign on twitter and Facebook.

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  • Barry

    What the Magee campaign needs to acknowledge is that potential students do not want go to study in Derry. There are courses up there that are drastically undersubscribed and can be barely filled through clearing. There is also a perception that it is a cold house for Protestant students. It’s all very well increasing numbers but you are not going to get the students to fill them.

  • barnshee

    “When it comes to economic indicators Derry is at the wrong end of all the league tables. Economic activity in the Derry City Council area is the lowest in the North at just 55%, compared to the Northern Ireland average of 67%. The city has the highest percentage of Job Seekers Allowance claimants
    The decision by the old Stormont government to ignore Derry and site the new university at Coleraine is one that has created a legacy of economic inactivity and joblessness”

    What`s the Irish for give us more British money?

    Yea its all to do with a decision 50 years ago—- and nothing to do with a campaign of murder and destruction which drove some 17000 protestans from the city side and the subsequent transfer of property and businesses into more “appropriate” hands?

    Place you campaign carefully where the sun don`t shine

  • Korhomme

    It wasn’t just the decision not to put a new uni in Coleraine; Derry’s economic woes began with Partition, when the city was cut off from its hinterland in Co Donegal.

  • Reader

    Colum Eastwood: Most of them never return. The loss of Northern Ireland students to Britain is seriously damaging to our productivity and wealth generation as well as the ability to grow our own businesses and attract inward investment.
    The reason the graduates don’t come back is because they can get jobs over there, but not here. Unless you are starting a business exporting graduates another local university isn’t going to help. However, if you started an industry employing graduates, some of those lost graduates might come back – only to compete with the unemployed and under-employed graduates that stayed here.
    However, I am interested in those people struggling to “grow our own businesses” in your constituency – what sort of graduates do they need, and what will they pay? I’m a STEM graduate, and I would move West of the Bann for the right salary.

  • Reader

    Um, yes. If it wasn’t for partition Derry could be just like Letterkenny.
    By the way – what do you mean “cut off” – something to do with the Dail’s “Belfast Boycott”?

  • Dan

    Just think what that £200m spent on the Inquiry could have brought to the city instead

  • Korhomme

    Nothing sinister; only that with partition there was a real, international border, with approved crossings, customs posts etc. If part of Derry’s natural hinterland was in NW Donegal, people there couldn’t so easily trade with Derry, and vice-versa.

  • chrisjones2

    But it did. Millions was spent on hotels, lackeys, solicitors, dinners, drinks. Whole careers were built on it – or built up on it

  • chrisjones2

    Derrys economic woes are largely self inflicted from over 30 years of riots and bombs

  • Korhomme

    That can be viewed rather differently, if it’s accepted that Derry’s economic problems began with partition. The bombs and riots then become a manifestation of, and reaction to relative poverty and inequality (and disenfranchisement).

  • chrisjones2

    Burning most sources of employment cannot have helped though

  • chrisjones2

    Ah the Londonderry Aire – like the whine of a jet engine on full throttle

  • chrisjones2

    But lots of the unemployed in Derry and Strabane work in Donegal and vice versa. Its a thriving trade

  • chrisjones2

    Wasn’t it once revealed that even a DUP MLA bought his suits at Magee in Donegal?

  • aber1991

    “and nothing to do with a campaign of murder and destruction which drove some 17000 protestans from the city side and the subsequent transfer of property and businesses into more “appropriate” hands?”

    Who murdered Samuel Devenney? Have the Protestants of Derry apologised for gerrymandering and their use of their gerrymandered power to operate a “Council jobs for Prods and only Prods” policy?

    Derry was in a dire economic state before the Troubles began.

  • socialanimal81

    A sensible call to invest and invigorate the economy of the most deprived and neglected areas of NI, helping the economy as a whole, something everyone could get behind and the bile floods from the usual slugger suspects. You can set your watch by it. Just what is your problem lads? Bullied by a Derry boy at school were we? Although the citing of the university in a one horse town like Coleraine was an epic act of sectarian stupidity, the (calculated) decision to also restrict investment in roads or rail has also played its part in suppressing Derrys economy. Rioting and violence hasnt been a Derry problem for a long time. It is however Belfast’s bread and butter, but due to its large university provision and established infrastructure it seems to be coming out of recession nicely. Companys want to invest where there are graduates and good access. If Derry had been afforded the same opportunity it would be doing the same, but we cant have that place attracting any more fenians from across the border! The demographics are perilous enough as it is! And dont you dare stick up for your city colum, ya big whiner…..

  • barnshee

    “Who murdered Samuel Devenney? Have the Protestants of Derry apologised for gerrymandering and their use of their gerrymandered power to operate a “Council jobs for Prods and only Prods” policy?”

    Samuel Devenney was beaten by the police during a riot- his death was caused as result of the beating =police killed S Devenney

    “Derry was in a dire economic state before the Troubles began.”

    Derry remains in dire economic state -whose fault .is that now?

  • barnshee

    “A sensible call to invest and invigorate the economy of the most deprived and neglected areas of NI, helping the economy as a whole, something everyone could get behind and the bile floods from the usual slugger suspects. You can set your watch by it. Just what is your problem lads”

    Derry has been free of the wicked unionists for nearly 50 years

    Whose fault is it now?

    The problems of 50 years ago -over population- dependence on government handouts continue— Ah its loss of “hinterland” the thriving metropolises in Donegal- its state of the art manufacturing facilities the boundless hectares of the best agricultural land in Ireland -Not.
    British state Derry prevented Donegal going back to turf fires andt weed for real rather than as a tourist attraction.

  • Starviking

    And if I recall correctly the pre-troubles Nationalist MP did not oppose the massive job losses caused by the withdrawal of the NATO Anti-Submarine School there.

  • chrisjones2

    they can get jobs over there, but not here.

    And, whisper who dares, its a far better place tro live

  • socialanimal81

    Whose fault is it now?
    The levels of government which make decisions to expand university provision and fund key infrastructure are national, not local. The gerrymandering of 50 years ago might be gone but the influence of sectarianism, or at the very least east o’ the Bann provincialism, still seems to pervade the executive. I would say that Sinn Fein / SDLP dont have a great record delivering in these areas for the north-west since getting their hands on some levers of power since 1998, but at least they’ve tried to move things along. As far as unionists are concerned, there are almost no seats to be won in Derry and surrounding areas, so why fund anything there?
    You need to speculate to accumulate, and if Derry is to move from its unenviable economic position it requires the elements that power every other city in Ireland, namely universities, infrastructure and the private sector companies that are attracted by these. This can only be provided with government funding, as it was in Belfast and Coleraine.

    Not sure what you’re talking about with that Donegal rant. The reason for Derrys dramatic population expansion in the 1800s and early 1900s was down to its industry employing tens of thousands, attracting many from Donegal and beyond. There seems to be great resistance in the corridors of power to providing the economic drivers to allow a similar situation (albeit in high tech industries) to occur again.

  • socialanimal81

    Anyone else standing up for their local area is champion of the people, but if from Derry you’re a whiner…… yawn…..

  • Reader

    I have tried both. So has my brother. We both ended up here. Northern Ireland can be a good place to live, especially a place like Bangor with access to Belfast.
    I know people who have made career limiting decisions to stay in, or return to, Northern Ireland, Or who live here, and commute or telecommute. Not everyone is attracted by the bright lights and the quality of life across the water in the City of the Black Snot.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Probably not a great idea to waste money on 400 teachers we don’t need at a premium then, eh?!

    Oh, and all this training people in single-religion institutions to work in a multi-religion society? Helpful hint: that’s not great for career prospects either.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It is tragic, just think of how much would not have needed to be spent if we did have the Widery Whitewash, and British government officials and Paratroopers didn’t splash out on the best lawyers they could find. You said it!

    Then again what if instead innocent people just accepted the finger of guilt, if people were happy just to be interned for crimes they didn’t commit, we’d be spending much more worse conflict and wasting loads of money keeping innocent people locked up in jail, and law abiding tax paying citizens from the Catholic Community weren’t paying anything into the Exchequer because they were interned for drinking with the wrong people down at the pub.

    http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1996752,00.html

  • Kevin Breslin

    Is the minister for DEL and the Alliance Party going to continue to spout platitudes or does it have a real strategy for the integration it wishes to achieve?

    How much money would it take to actually force, not brow-beat, but force higher educational establishments to co-operate with one another rather than the saving figures that would exist if educational complied with a simple Pareto-Efficiency formula that didn’t take account of the stakeholders who would have to work it?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Mind the Elephant in the room: English Lawyers for English Paratroopers Helping to Avoid a Nescessary Tribunal.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Really? Because NATO never had any jurisdiction in Donegal, it formed after Irish independence and the return of the Treaty ports when the South of Ireland long established its neutrality.

    NATO cut jobs it didn’t need, would have happened anyway, happened despite unionist opposition didn’t it?

  • Kevin Breslin

    I have long suggested a merger of the University of Coleraine and University of Magee to break away from a University of Ulster which will pretty much become a second University for Belfast. Surely that would overcome the sectarian issues in favor for a geographic fightback?

  • Stanton Banks

    “British state Derry prevented Donegal
    going back to turf fires andt weed for real rather than as a tourist
    attraction”

    The reality is, if it had not been for spend from Donegal, then many businesses simply would never have survived in Derry.
    Take a drive around places like Killybegs on the west or Greencastle in the east and you will find them far from impoverished and mostly from fishery. A good deal of that money would have been flowing into Derry in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when many there were amongst the most impoverished anywhere on the Island.
    Staying with fishery as an example, take a look at the fleet in Killybegs and then look at the aging fleet in Portavogie or Kilkeel, The British state served them well alright. I’m sure they look across from Inishowen with bitter envy at the caravan and Buckfast paradise that is the “North Coast”.

  • carl marks

    of course that money would not have been spent if the Para’s had not murdered 13 people and the government had not told lies and staged a cover up!
    and are you suggesting that the dear old British government would have made that money available for civic development in Derry if the inquiry had not of taken place, because if you are then I would love to see your reasoning.

  • Starviking

    Well Kevin, that would be me told off rightly…except the NATO Anti-Submarine School was at HMS Sea Eagle in Derry. You know, the place this slugger article is talking about?

    As for NATO cutting jobs, NATO was not the mover behind the closure, and in any case NATO has few jobs – personnel are provided by member states.

    HMG decided to move the school to Plymouth, not NATO.

  • Kevin Breslin

    A member state Eddie McAteer didn’t want to be part of and who didn’t have any power in anyway.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Honestly, Letterkenny doesn’t look any worse when you compare it to say Lisburn or Portadown.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Surely the Derry hinterland is NE Donegal rather than the North West … Muff, Burnfoot, and Inisowen.?

  • Korhomme

    I didn’t phrase that very well, did I? I was including not only Inishowen, but also Donegal to the north and west of Derry, a much larger area.

  • Ian James Parsley

    I can’t speak for either, but nor have I heard either “spouting platitudes”.

    Whereas I have heard platitudes from Nationalist parties who are suddenly against the cuts they voted through and/or all for “educational choice”…

    Actually, living segregated lives is not a choice which is available in real life in a diverse society. If the Minister wishes to confront such narrow-minded sectarianism, whatever as source, he will have my full support.

  • Guest

    Cutting support to St Mary’s and Stranmillis is going to do little to support integration, might turn a few in West and South Belfast off teaching, but little else. It would be easier to simply sell this for what this really is, a cut to teacher training places, a desire to reduce the number of qualified teachers in the job market. This doesn’t move us anywhere on integrated education.

    Alliance say there is savings to be made through integration, through implementing integrated colleges and removing “segregated education”. However while David Ford has been able to broker difficult shared services such as policing, justice and even the NCA. Stephen Farry cannot seem to move anywhere on merging two training colleges together, he hasn’t been able to sell any of the benefits to the public at large, heck he judges “shared education” campuses as a step in the wrong direction but they are a bigger move towards integrated education than the inertia on integration he seems to have achieved under his ministry. Who is he trying to integrate here?

    And that last comment was not meant as a compliment to shared education.

  • Cue Bono

    Well in fairness they do whine a hell of a lot and their whiney accent amplifies their whines.

  • Cue Bono

    Except it isn’t a fifty year injustice is it? It is a myth to say that the Unionist government picked Coleraine over Londonderry because it is a unionist town. In fact they brought in independent assessors from England to choose the best location and Coleraine was chosen because of the fact that seasonal student accommodation was available in Portrush and Portstewart.

    A fifty year MOPE more like.

  • socialanimal81

    MOPE, MOPE, MOPE. One of your favourite words Cue Ball. The lockwood committee was made up of 4 educationalists from GB, and four ‘local’ members – not a local catholic amongst them of course. And sure it was all about accommodation, not that Derry had any, or an established University College at which to site the new uni. We’ll also not mention Unionist MP Robert Nixon, who revealed prominent Derry unionists had pressured the government NOT to locate it in their home town, lest the place be overrun with ‘liberals’ who’d threaten their delicate local council gerrymander in future. Turns out it was f*cked anyway.

    One factor you forgot to mention which the lockwood committee also wanted for the site – reasonable tranquility. At least in that respect, boring, boring Coleraine had Derry beat hands down.

  • socialanimal81

    …Zzzzzzzzzz…..

  • Cue Bono

    As I pointed out the deciding factor was the availability of seasonal accommodation. To the best of my knowledge summer holiday homes in Londonderry are few and far between. They most definitely were a few years later when Marty and the boys were boasting that it looked as it “had been bombed from the air.” Exciting stuff indeed, but hardly suited to running a university, so good call Robert Nixon.

  • Starviking

    So Eddie McAteer chose dogma over job losses for his constituents. Hardly representing his people well.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oh, because relying solely and continuously on military investment did wonders for the working class people of Belfast. Heck there’s even a cynical arguement the paramilitaries were creating investment here by ensuring defence forces had access to waged labour. Eddie McAtteer didn’t support them, yet loyalist “vigilante” organisations were decriminalised under both unionist and direct rule, was that to ensure the “investment” continued?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Farry’s comments about training too many teachers may be fine, I don’t know either way. He is the minister for the Department of Employment and Learning, he has done solo runs before, why is he so reluctant to do anything about this issue?

    As for narrow-minded sectarianism or sectarianism

    In Dublin, the Catholic and Church of Ireland sectors have come together, with provisions agreed and introduced to protect the requirements of faith-based schools.

    As far as I am aware, these churches are both organised up in Armagh, I find it strange he can’t get Archbishop Richard Clarke and Eammon Martin to meet on the issues of St Mary’s and Stranmillis, if they are successful in Dublin.

  • Cue Bono

    …Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..Hey

  • socialanimal81

    Not really a good call for Mr Nixon, CB. He was speaking out to highlight the narrow mindedness and bigotry of unionism at the time. He cast in favour of citing the uni in Derry during a vote at Stormont and was booted out of the party soon after. The university is widely considered responsible, amongst other things, for convincing many catholics that there would never be fair treatment in NI which helped give traction to militant republicanism which spiraled into the troubles. I’d agree that the tactics of Marty and his ilk to wreck the city to a point where nobody wanted to go near it was a disgrace, the legacy of which is partly responsible for the economic hardship faced there today.

  • Starviking

    A job is a job, and keeping jobs in the area would have benefited more than just the workers.

  • Kevin Breslin

    No offence to the defence forces, who I am sure take in large groups of the loyalist working classes but you cannot build your economy on militancy, surely the economic misfortunes of Nazi Germany tell us that.

  • Starviking

    You seem to be saying that trying to save one Northern Irish military facility is equivalent to running a war economy. That is a stretch of interstellar dimensions.

    As for the economic misfortunes of Nazi Germany, could you quantify some of these – as I’m unsure as to whether you’re talking about the economy per se, or the effects of starting and fighting a world war.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Northern Ireland was a war economy, it had an unsustainable post war windfall to keep that economy active for a while, but that wasn’t meant to last. The UK would need to have unlimited resources to continually fight wars.

  • Starviking

    Excuse me? Northern Ireland was a war economy? All economic effort was directed towards war? There was me thinking it was an agricultural economy with a large heavy industry sector around Belfast.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The agricultural economy would have gotten on well without the submarines, and as would any farm machinery made by heavy industry and I believe the heavy ship building industries of Belfast never made a submarine in their lives.

  • Starviking

    This discussion seems to have mutated quite significantly.

    The economic significance of the NATO Anti-Submarine School (JASS) was the influx of personnel to the region – people needing fed, housed, entertained, etc. They came with ships. Ships that needed maintained and provisioned. Good for the Port of Derry.

    That is the employment case.

    Finally, as a complete aside, you seem to be labouring under a few misapprehensions:

    First, Anti-Submarine Warfare does not primarily rely on the use of submarines. It relies on the use of other vessels and craft to counter submarines. These can be aircraft and helicopters, operating from ships as small as frigates to as large as aircraft carriers. Vessels involved directly in anti-submarine warfare are frigates. The shipbuilding industries of Belfast produced not only frigates, but also aircraft carriers which had anti-submarine roles.

    Secondly, the presence of a military facility in an area does not mean that production of items, vehicles, or crafts for that facility have to be located near the facility. H&W would not be expecting a windfall from the JASS, they got their production orders from the Admiralty, foreign navies, and commercial ship operators. The latter being their main source of revenue.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You simply don’t get why relying on military ships and aircraft for economic growth including personnel spending money in the local economy is effectively a war economy. It’s because it requires a very high demand for war both active war and military surveillance. Look at East Belfast and for all the NATO investment there, once it up and went in the peacetime not only did you have unemployed people who could not get jobs, some became the British equivalent of the IRA to stay economically active. It would explain the large difference between loyalist activity in the Fountain and Waterside to that seen in North and East Belfast. Loyalism is based on rewards for military loyalty, but those rewards run out.

  • Starviking

    You don’t seem to get what a “War Economy” is: the direction of all economic output to support a war.

    That was not the case post-war, though defense budgets were large at times.

    If we were to follow your ideas to their conclusion, Shorts should have refused to do work on defence, and we would be missing a big employer in Belfast as a result.

    H&W should have abandoned perfectly good, well-paying work on Carriers, Destroyers and Frigates to look for even more commercial work than they were doing. They more-or-less did that from the 60s, making a big impact in the Supertanker field – but that didn’t stop shipbuilding from closing in Belfast – changes in the world economy did that.

    With your theory of identifying wasted economic activity based on hindsight, perhaps H&W should just have decided to build wind-turbines in the 1800s, because they would be the thing in the 2000s?

    You seem to have constructed a case to support your view that the loss of the Anti-Submarine School at Derry was a good thing. Unfortunately your theory just leads to absurdity.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The Northern Irish war economy when it comes to Shorts and Harland and Wolff dried up ages ago. The over reliance on a defence spending bubble has left many from working class Protestant areas in deprivation, just as an undersubscribed submarine school would have done. Look at Raytheon’s existence in Derry, (sure they gave us microwave ovens and other magnetron devices and there’s no denying that) but they were easily driven out by a people who clearly did not want war dependency.

    You are trying to sell me on a bubble that popped three or four decades ago and one which has created a cultural dependency on war in many areas of Northern Ireland. If you were to ask who the major manufacturers were in during the era of the Northern Ireland Parliament and it was clear there was nearly wholesale dependency on war rather than the civilian trade in goods up until ironically enough former militant Terence O’Neill came to power and the balance started to shift the other way.

    If you think not being a war economy would have led to poverty just look at Sweden and Switzerland two neutral countries and two of the richest economies in Europe. The UK’s own raw material reserves would have been a lot better if it had diversified earlier, the miner’s strikes would have been delayed, the silicon age and the carbon nanoscale age would have gained more traction and less UK service people would be dead. The Troubles would have also been mitigated a level, Loyalism would have been weaned off its military teat and Republican agit-propaganda would be a harder sell if the UK was not so obsessed with the unrealistically and unnessarily high output of military hardware.