Just when you thought Ulster University could not possibly be any more blatant as regards its disinterest in Derry, it goes and lowers the bar yet again.

For the past fifty years, in one of the last great 1960s double acts, UU and Stormont have taken turns at blaming one another for the failure to develop an adequate third level institution west of the Bann.

We are all sick and tired of their two tired mantras: 'they won't give us the money' versus 'we can't tell them how to spend the money we give them.'

The medical school, which has been dangled like a carrot in front of us for almost 15 years now, will cater for 200 students when completed. If that. Even if it were to open next year, it is nowhere near enough. It is a fig leaf, it is becoming a distraction from more serious issues and, frankly, it doesn't impress anyone any more, if it ever did.

Derry needs another seven thousand students - immediately - just to bring it up to the very basic level we were promised by UU itself.

It is unacceptable that after managing to deliver an entire new £300m campus in Belfast - a campus that we all know would have come to Derry but for politics - UU is now attempting to hide its current failings in Derry by blaming Stormont again. If the will had been there, the Springfield Campus would be on Duncreggan Road.

The shameful truth is UU was deliberately constituted outside this city as part of an anti-Catholic agenda in 1965 and it has never been able to recover, despite some valiant attempts - including those of the current UU administration. The student numbers for Derry - our per capita third-level provision is fifty percent lower than the next lowest town or city on this island - sadly do not lie.

The city must urgently start considering alternatives to UU. The Derry University Group has, for the past five years, argued strongly that the lands and finances at Magee should be handed back to the city to allow it start its own third level institute.

This proposal should certainly be given by serious consideration at Council level. Support and advice should also be sought from the Southern government - who, at last, seem to understand the need to deliver an equality agenda for Northern nationalists.

Interestingly, for many years, before joining the New University of Ulster, Magee was a campus of Trinity College Dublin. It is, perhaps, time that Derry consider lobbying to become a constituent college of the National University of Ireland.

A big hat-tip to Derry traders

It was a thing of beauty to watch the city centre thriving over the past couple of weeks.

Shoppers came from all over Ireland and beyond, many staying overnight, to savour the shopping experience.

The strength of the euro obviously helped - but the warm welcome provided by our tourism and commercial sectors is what will have our many guests returning.

Initiatives such as City Centre Initiative's Christmas Windows competition, and the animation of shop windows by Council and In Your Space performers, also contributed to the very positive seasonal experience.

The Chamber of Commerce has, rightly, praised the resilience and resourcefulness of Derry businesses, as it faces the challenges posed by Brexit.

One thing is very clear, though. The success enjoyed this year would not have happened had there been any form of a border outside Derry.

Freedom of movement, and of trade, on this island cannot ever be restricted again.

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