Northern Ireland news

Student leader calls for involvement of civic society in political talks

Fergal McFerran, the president of NUS-USI
John Monaghan

THERE can be no suspension of devolution "for the sake of many thousands of students", a union leader has urged.

Fergal McFerran, president for the NUS-USI students union, said politicians needed to reflect carefully on their responsibility to provide mature and effective leadership.

He called on civic society to be allowed to play its part in attempts to get a deal to save devolution.

"Throughout our history, individuals and groups from across civic society have played an important role in contributing to our politics in a meaningful way," he said.

"In the vacuum of leadership that we're currently experiencing, there may well be an opportunity to be creative in allowing civic society to once again step up and play their part."

He called for a repeat of the "brave, bold politics" which led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

"As far as I'm concerned there is no alternative to devolution and whilst there are clearly substantial disagreements amongst some parties I believe those gaps can be bridged," he said.

It comes days after business and civic society representatives delivered an open letter to politicians at Stormont calling for the restoration of power-sharing.

Following the Assembly election in March, Mr McFerran said political stability was critical to demonstrate to young people that there was a future for them at home.

About 16,000 - one in four - students from Northern Ireland are enrolled at universities in Britain.

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