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Sinn Féin welcome progress on Cross Border FE student issue

25 August, 2006

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson MLA has welcomed the statement that the Departments of Education and Science and Enterprise Trade and Employment have agreed in principle to make a one-off contribution towards the Department for Employment and Learning so that 26 County students studying in the north will not be financially disadvantaged this year and that discussions will continue between both Governments.

Commenting upon the statement Michael Ferguson said,

"Sinn Fein has been making strenuous representation to both governments since the news broke that 26 County FE Students would be denied training places in FE Colleges because they lived across the border and would consequently be required to pay fees. I specifically requested an immediate solution for students looking to study in the north this year while a longer term arrangement was agreed.

"Hundreds of 26 County students, many with parents working and taxed in the 6 Counties would have been denied placements in FE Colleges. This would have adversely impacted on colleges such as Fermanagh, Newry and the North & West Institute resulting in the loss of teaching and ancillary posts in the colleges.

"The news that the Dublin Government has agreed to pay for these courses this year is welcome but falls short of a long term commitment to meeting the skills needs of school leavers and the importance of these skills to an all-Ireland economy. Both Governments signed up to the Good Friday Agreement and committed themselves to the harmonisation of both educational and economy affairs and the development of agreed professional skills passports is central to this.

"I want to thank all my colleagues for their persistent lobbying both sides of the Border and it is essential that we see the restoration of the institutions so that we can ensure that the skills needs required by the economy across the island are met, rather than collapsed into a haggle between the two governments." ENDS

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