Northern Ireland

Barry McElduff says US trip plans are 'waste of public money'

Barry McElduff
Image caption Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff said he will not support a "public waste of money".

Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff said he sees no rationale or business plan for an assembly committee trip to San Diego in the United States.

The chairman of the assembly's employment and learning committee, Basil McCrea, said all 11 members would be invited to travel.

He said the trip's aim was to examine how research and development linked to universities could help create jobs.

However, Mr McElduff said he would "not support a waste of public money".

He added that his Sinn Fein colleague Michelle Gildernew who also sits on the DEL committee shared the same view.

"To say that the 11 members of the committee would be invited is ridiculous," he said.

Mr McCrea said all would be invited to travel, although some may not wish to go.

The committee chair defended the plans and said they were "no junket" and the trip was vital for NI which was facing "the depths of unemployment."

"People do need to understand that youth unemployment is soaring and will get worse.

"Even more devastating for NI is that our research base - the PhDs in our cancer centres, for example or the people in our economics departments in our universities - are being annihilated.

"There are no jobs coming, there are massive redundancies. We need to convince the electorate that this is the right thing to do," he said.

Image caption Basil McCrea defended plans for a US trip

The cross-party committee, which advises Employment Minister Stephen Farry, said it was investigating a possible study visit to the US. However, at present no definite agenda or site has been agreed.

Mr McCrea said the trip was under consideration for February next year and that San Diego in California was a possible destination.

The visit will be paid for from the assembly's travel budget.

Mr McCrea said he was prepared to argue that, in principle, the whole committee making the trip was the right thing to do, even in the present tough economic climate.

He added, however, that a final decision had yet to be made by all the parties involved.

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