Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Students disrupt Stormont business

Stormont's rival politicians are not moving quickly enough to develop a shared future to help ease tensions on the streets, a senior police officer claimed today

Northern Ireland Assembly business was briefly halted after students unhappy at cuts to their allowances started heckling a minister.

Six male youths wearing jeans and hoodies were taken out of the Stormont viewing gallery by security men following loud shouting.

They interrupted the Employment and Learning Minister with chanting but the sitting was suspended for under three minutes.

One protester, Neil Moore, said: "We thought it was important to take the fight to the Assembly.

"Four thousand, five hundred young people will miss out on this allowance."

He represents a campaign group called Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, which he said was made up of Belfast Metropolitan College students and schoolchildren campaigning against cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to encourage poorer young people to keep studying.

The group protested recently at Employment Minister Stephen Farry's department's Belfast headquarters.

The EMA was introduced in 2004 by the Department of Employment and Learning and the Department of Education.

Among the changes is the scrapping of weekly payments of between £10 and £20. A single payment of £30 a week will be paid to students from households with an annual income of £20,500 or less with one dependent child or £22,500 with two or more dependants.

An Assembly spokeswoman said six people were escorted from the public gallery under an order allowing for the removal of members of the public being disorderly. There was no threat or danger at any time and Assembly proceedings were suspended for less than three minutes.

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