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Unionist concern at under achievement at odds with failure to stop cuts to services

16 September, 2005

Sinn Féin education spokesperson, West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson has questioned the commitment of to tackling the issue of educational underachievement within the communities they represent when they cannot even vote in support of overturning cuts to educational services on the Education Library Boards.

Mr Ferguson comments come after elected Unionist SELB representatives voted against a motion to overturn the cut the Children's Bus Service to his schools across the Board area to the sound of hundred's of children chanting for the return of the service on the street outside.

Mr Ferguson said:

"I would question the commitment of unionist politicians to tackle the issue of educational underachievement in the areas they represent when their elected representatives cannot even vote to reserve cuts to school transport provision in the SELB area.

"The absence of this service, particularly in rural areas, means that children as young as 4 & 5 years of age will be forced to walk on main arterial routes to school, some of which don't even have a footpath. The decision also has an adverse impact on working parents as well as upsetting other school curriculum studies particularly if children are left stranded at school.

"It would be scandal if unionists are highlighting the issue of poverty, deprivation and educational underachievement only to try and justify sectarian violence when I am sure that the vast majority of ordinary decent people they represent would prefer that they actually did something to address the issue.

"What is required is a long-term response to poverty, deprivation and educational underachievement that affects both our communities. Direct rule Ministers have failed to prioritise these issues. Unionists opposed Martin McGuinness when he brought forward proposals that would help address some of these issues just because he was a Sinn Féin minister. This is not the politics of hope it is the politics of bigotry.

"Unionists would better serve their constituents if the worked with Sinn Féin to address poverty, deprivation and educational underachievement. Obviously engaging directly with Sinn Féin to get the institutions back up and running would help this." ENDS

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