Govt Removal Of Money Intended For NI Schools 'Act Of Vandalism'

The Alliance Party has described the UK Government's reprofiling of money originally intended for integrated and shared schools has "an act of vandalism".

The Strangford MLA and Education spokesperson, Nick Mathison, was speaking after the party raised the matter with Education Minister Paul Givan in the Assembly Chamber.

As a result of the reprofiling of the £150 million initially ringfenced for education as part of the Fresh Start Agreement, 10 shared education and integrated school building projects across Northern Ireland are no longer able to proceed.

Mr Mathison said: "The UK Government's removal of this money is an act of vandalism, especially when they claim to be supporters of integrated education.

"As soon as it became clear Treasury were suggesting reprofiling existing funding pots as part of a financial package, Alliance Leader Naomi Long wrote to the Secretary of State to say it should not be applied to Fresh Start funding, specifically cautioning against proceeding with a plan that would only harm integrated education.
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"The responsibility for the complete lack of transparency from the UK Government in the reprofiling of these vital funds lies entirely with the Northern Ireland Office. They chose to proceed with this decision and they must be the ones to defend it.

"Alliance's position is clear. The Executive returned because the DUP chose to nominate a Speaker and deputy First Minster, ending their long, damaging and unjustified boycott – not because of the creation of the financial package. Throughout the collapse of the institutions, Alliance has been explicit we wouldn't use public finances as leverage to get back into government.

"Alliance is calling on the Secretary of State to undo this harmful decision. Meanwhile, the Education Minister does have levers directly available to him now. The £150 million is not part of the £3.3 billion funding package and has not been lost to the Executive, so the Minister should immediately seek to secure it for his Department and invest in any of these impacted integrated schools which are ready to progress with their projects.

"Anything less is an act of extraordinary bad faith. The Education Minister cannot criticise the Secretary of State for his actions from the floor of the Assembly on one hand, and on the other refuse to act himself when he is entirely free to do so."

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