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Sinn Féin confront Direct Rule Education Minister

11 September, 2005

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson confronted Angela Smith Direct Rule Education Minister outside the Holiday Inn Hotel in Belfast where she was addressing the Annual NILGA Women's Conference.

Michael began by introducing Toirse Ferris the Mayor of Kerry to the Minister and then expressed his disappointment that the Minister had not met this year's education budget shortfall. The Minister said that she was committed to Education but Michael told her that this was insignificant in the face of massive cuts to services and referenced the loss of 62 teaching and support staff from 16 West Belfast Schools.

The Minister, who was not scheduled to take questions according to Cllr Peter Mole General Secretary of NAC, who waited outside with Sinn Féin protestors, entered the Conference and was obliged to take questions on Education from Sinn Féin women councillors.

In Response to government claims that additional money has been allocated to Education Michael Ferguson said,

"In the face of overwhelming evidence of education cuts on the ground the British Government is trying to claim they have increased the budget. This is nonsense. Core funding in the north of Ireland has historically been dependent upon two funding mechanisms, annual block funding which has always been woefully inadequate and a system of 'In Year Bids' to address the shortfall which the British government has now dubbed 'overspend'.

"Axing the second while introducing a minimal increase in the first represents in real term a cut in the budget. No amount of statistical tomfoolery will disguise the fact that educational resources have been cut and the real hardship of the schools, pupils and parents are currently experiencing. This is particularly shameful given the fact that traditionally more money has been spent per head for pupils in Britain than here in the north." ENDS

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