St Mary’s University College: Ministerial Crusade

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and Learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 9th February 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance 3:15 pm, 9th February 2015

The Member knows well that, as a Minister, I am bound by the ministerial code and that, where a decision is taken by the Executive, that decision will be respected. However, that is not going to prevent me from ensuring that I continue to highlight the importance of prioritising skills in our economy. It is not going to stop me from talking about and continuing to promote the importance of a shared future.

The Member talks about the importance of protecting the Irish culture. I took the opportunity to invite some of the protestors who were at Parliament Buildings a couple of weeks ago to talk to me about teacher education and what was so important about it that they were trying to protect. I was quite shocked by some of the things that I heard. First, people said that they did not feel safe celebrating their Irish culture outside the context of St Mary's. In terms of what we hear, particularly from unionist Benches, over our universities and the perception — false in my view — about the Gaelic culture in universities, I found that an incredibly strange and narrow approach to take.

I also heard people say that they did not see the need to engage in sharing. They were quite happy, having gone to a Catholic primary school and a Catholic secondary school, to go to a Catholic-based third-level education system, because they would be going on to teach in a Catholic secondary school or Catholic primary school when they qualify, so why did they need to mix with anyone else in society? In the 21st century, when we are trying to build a shared future, I find those attitudes to be utterly shocking.