Lisburn Councillor Robbie Butler has issued a challenge to local people to help to protect schools in the Lagan Valley area.
Nr Butler, who was recently selected by the Ulster Unionist Party to run for the Assembly election in May, is urging everyone in the local community to write to the Education Minister, John O’Dowd, lobbying him to protect schools in the Lisburn and Lagan Valley area.
“I am urging the community from across Lagan Valley to make it their New Year Resolution to bombard the Sinn Fein Education Minister O’Dowd with letters and petitions challenging him to protect schools in the constituency,” said Mr Butler.
“This is a real opportunity to do something positive to save schools in the constituency which are under threat. We need this vehicle of communication to let the Sinn Fein minister know the depth of feeling in the constituency.”
Mr Butler said that he believes Sinn Fein will agree to the Fresh Start document and that it is essential that local residents make their voices heard with regard to the protection of education services,
The Fresh Start document was produced following intensive talks at Stormont aimed at breaking the deadlock over the budget agreement.
It agreed to move forward on the full implementation of the Stormont Agreement and to deal with the impact of continued paramilitary activity. The agreement is said to ensure the sustainability of the Northern Ireland budget however, decisions will have to be made by Ministers on budget cuts,
“There can be no doubt that Sinn Fein will now have to agree to implement the Fresh Start document as part of welfare reform and Minister O’Dowd will be determining the future make-up of our schools and I urge people in affected communities to make their voice heard,” continued Mr Butler. “As a constituency we need to let the Sinn Fein Education Minister the depth of feeling in Lagan Valley to save any schools which are under threat by his department.
“Across our constituency, I urge local residents, pupils, parents, schools, stakeholders and community groups to actively involve themselves in telling the Sinn Fein Minister their deeply held concerns. It is vitally important that we take the initiative and we must let the minister hear our concerns, views and problems as this is the only way we can save our schools,”