On Tuesday, in his first major act as the Speaker of the Assembly, Mr McLaughlin made a decision which will have wide-ranging implications for education in Fermanagh.
The speaker refused to accept a DUP petition which asked that his party colleague and Education Minister John O’Dowd’s decision to amalgamate Portora Royal and Collegiate Grammar schools be referred to the full Executive.
The Speaker ruled that it was not a “matter of public importance”, despite the widespread public opposition to the move.
Commenting, UKIP Representative in Fermanagh Fred Parkinson said;
“This decision has rightly caused outrage amongst many people here in Fermanagh. I think you will find Mr Speaker that this is very much an issue of public importance. The forced closure of the Collegiate has left many families in a terrible situation. It leaves vastly less places for unionist children in this part of the world at a time when places cannot be lost. The Education Minister’s decision has caused a lot of unnecessary stress and hardship for many families in the area at this time.”
“We had hoped that common sense would have prevailed, but sadly, yet unsurprisingly, the narrow minded, political agenda at the heart of Sinn Fein decision making is once again evident for all to see. By throwing the DUP Petition out in the manor in which they did, the speaker has already set the tone for his time in office. Is this ‘Neutrality’ in action Mr McLaughlin?”
Mr Parkinson added:
“This happened once again on the DUPs watch in the Assembly. By failing to deliver on their promise to force reconsideration of the ridiculous decision to close the collegiate, they appear weak and have let the people of Fermanagh down. This happened in front of them and the decision was underwritten by a Speaker which they one by one walked through the lobby to vote into office this week.”
“What does the DUP now have to say about the actions of the very man they chose to vote in?”