Northern Ireland’s future depends on education being available to all.
This is the message from Clare Bailey, Green Party candidate for Belfast South, who today (6 April) addressed the City Hall rally called by student representatives and trade unionists in opposition to cuts to education provision and the proposed increase in university tuition fees.
Clare Bailey stressed that the issue of university fees is not just one for students, but should concern all parents and anyone who may wish to go into higher education in the future, whether after school or as a mature student.
Clare Bailey said:
“We must remember the intrinsic value of learning and all that it means for the youth of Northern Ireland. I’m here today to assure you that your cause is our cause; there are voices beyond the students’ unions, beyond the teachers and parents of those directly affected, who understand the gravity of the issue.
“I have not resigned myself to what some are calling the inevitability of increased fees. Higher education must provide people from all backgrounds with the knowledge and skills they require to participate fully in the society in which they live. High fees will only serve to put off those from low income families, stifling ambition in those who need it most.”
The candidate referred to her own experiences as a mature student who might never have taken her place at university had fees been set at the level now envisaged by the Department of Employment and Learning and as a single parent concerned about the impact of any fee increase on her children’s desire to enter higher education.
Speaking after the demonstration, Clare Bailey urged anyone concerned about the future of education to ensure they use their vote on 5 May – and that they hold the representatives elected to the commitments given today.
“We have heard fine words from every party in the last Assembly bar the Ulster Unionists as well as a message of support from one independent MLA. Voters need to study each party’s manifesto and question every politician who knocks on their door to satisfy themselves that their commitment to education for all is genuine.
“The Green Party has opposed higher university fees from the outset and will continue to make the case for investment in education at every stage of life. A strong Green presence at Stormont from May will ensure the Executive’s every move on education is scrutinised and improve the chances of today’s rhetoric becoming reality.”