| 6.1°C Belfast

What happened to SF's plan for Ireland of equals?

The 'Ireland of Equals' that Sinn Fein talked about in the days before the ministerial cars and special advisers has taken an awful bashing in recent times, forgetting anything to do with welfare reform.

Given that we are a nation which includes a quarter-of-a-million people between the ages of 16 and 64 who are unable to read or write, it would seem that the last thing the Assembly should cut would be funding for Early Years and other projects which are directly reducing the number of children who are leaving school with no qualifications.

However, it seems we are well under way to ensuring that children from socially disadvantaged families leave school without basic skills - even to read simple instructions such as those on a prescription packet.

Moving to the other end of the spectrum, there are the young people who might have expected a place at our universities to gain qualifications relevant to the demands of potential employers in high-tech industries.

These young people have been toppled as they seek to ascend to the third level, where skills and qualifications are critical.

Both the Minister for Education and the Minister for Employment and Learning have set back seriously two of the most critical objectives we must achieve to get the 'Ireland of Equals' emblazoned on advertising hoardings a few years ago.

Over the next few weeks the DUP and Sinn Fein - ably assisted by the Alliance Party - will battle it out about welfare reform and a phantom budget, but day and daily they have all turned their backs on ordinary people who felt they had won an equality battle when Ireland endorsed the Good Friday Agreement.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

Once again it is ordinary people - many at serious disadvantage economically and socially - who will take the brunt of the setbacks. Education, the most powerful weapon for change, has been taken away from them.


MLA for East Londonderry