SF slam DUP in education row

John O'Dowd
John O'Dowd

Sinn Fein has slammed claims by DUP MP David Simpson that it was former Education Minister John O’Dowd’s own ‘political agenda’ that prevented investment in the controlled sector.

Mr O’Dowd said Mr Simpson’s claims are ‘devoid of fact’.

He said: “It is the DUP which have stood in the way of equality for all in the Controlled sector.

“The Dickson plan does not benefit young people in the Controlled sector and the figures for academic achievement in Lurgan and Portadown show it.

“Too many young people, every year, are being left behind as a result of the Dickson plan.

“During my tenure as Education Minister I put it to the then Southern Education and Library Board to bring forward a solution for all the young people in the Craigavon Controlled sector.

“The opposition to that simple demand for equality for all was organised and driven by the DUP ,” said Mr O’Dowd.

“I could not approve new builds for the Controlled sector in Lurgan without a plan which met the needs of all the young people including those on the Lurgan Senior campus site.

“No such plan came forward because of the DUP campaign against such a plan.”

The former Education Minister said: ‘The DUP interest in education in Portadown and Lurgan has centred on the needs of the two Colleges instead of on the needs of all the young people in the controlled sector.

“Only last week in Westminster David Simpson showed how much interest he has in the needs of the working class when he voted to end free school meals for thousands of children in England,” he said.

“The DUP locally have shown the same concern for the working class community in the controlled sector.”

The row comes as the Education Authority are in the process of drawing up a development proposal to look at all possible options pertaining to the Lurgan campus of Craigavon Senior High School.

This development proposal was sparked following the recommendation of the Board of Governors at the Senior High School to close the Lurgan campus and transport them to the Portadown campus - a decision, the DUP claimed not to support.

Long term it is imperative to see new builds on all the Post-Primary sites within the Dickson Plan area