12/02/2002

Assembly backs Queen's Jubilee school memento

The Stormont Assembly has backed a motion calling for the Department of Education to provide funds for souvenirs for primary schoolchildren to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

A motion tabled by the DUP calling for a special memento to celebrate the occasion was passed in the House by 26 votes to 11 on Tuesday February 12.

However the Minister for Education Martin McGuinness said his department could not see any justification for the expenditure and added the money could be better used in the classroom.

The Jubilee issue, which was tipped to be hotly debated in the chamber, was sharply criticised from the unexpected corner of the Ulster Unionist Party. The Culture Minister Michael McGimpsey said his party would not participate in the vote, which he regarded as "unseemly" in the wake of the death of Princess Margaret.

In response, the proposer of the motion, Maurice Morrow (DUP, Fermanagh and South Tyrone) said the motion had been tabled before the princess' death.

Education Minister Martin McGuinness said it was important that events such as the Jubilee celebrations did not prove divisive. He said that if schools wanted to receive funding for their own special events, then they could apply to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

The SDLP abstained on the issue, claiming the motion was more about party political advantage than Royal souvenirs.

(AMcE)

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