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MP to lead delegation to meet Chief Executive of SELB

10 June, 2005

Sinn Féin Newry Armagh MP Conor Murphy is to lead a party delegation to meet with the Chief Executive of the Southern Education Library Board Helen McClenaghan today, Friday 10th June, at the SELB Headquarters in Armagh at 2pm. The delegation will include South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane and Newry and Mourne councillor Breandan Lewis. Speaking ahead of the meeting Mr Murphy said:

"The funding crisis facing our Education Library Boards threatens the education of our children. The meeting today is to look at the impact of these cuts on schools and services throughout the SELB area.

"Across the political spectrum and throughout the educational system people are justifiably angry at the situation and Sinn Féin have demanded action. We will be meeting Angela Smith in the coming days to look at a number of ways to overcome this problem.

"I believe that the Boards have been put in an impossible position, particularly by the high handed approach of the former direct rule Education Minster Barry Gardiner.

"If the new Education Minister Angela Smith is serious about addressing educational provision and serious about dealing with the crisis within the Education system then she look at new ideas. Sinn Féin have consistently called for a challenge to the block grant and the Barnett formula to try and ensure that there is more money available in the overall budget. We have also repeatedly called for and reached some agreement in the negotiations with the British government before Christmas, on a genuine Peace Dividend to support investment in tackling the infrastructure deficit that would free up additional resources for priorities such as Health and Education.

"The crisis facing our education system is part of the cost of direct rule and I believe that locally accountable ministers and local institutions would make better decisions that work in the interest of local people and not the paymasters in the British Treasury.

"One such possible solution may be to look at taking responsibility, centrally, for paying education and Teaching staff. The Government entered into wage arrangements with the Trade Unions and they should therefore take responsibility for all such payments and do so centrally. It would then be possible for Education and Library Boards to make more realistic bids for educational provision and in conjunction with Government agree on what it actually costs to provide for educational services that includes, infrastructure, special needs, maintenance, IT, books etc. This would be the honest way forward for Government." ENDS

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