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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 14:53 GMT
Minister rejects jubilee medal plan
The Queen
Hundreds of UK events are planned to mark jubilee
Northern Ireland Education Minister Martin McGuinness has said his department will not pay for a souvenir Queen's Golden Jubilee medal to be given to school children.

On Tuesday the assembly supported a motion lodged by Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Maurice Morrow calling on the Sinn Fein minister to make money available to fund the proposal.

The move was passed by 26 votes to 11 after what was a heated debate.

It was the first time the assembly has debated any issue related to the Jubilee.

Martin McGuinness:
Martin McGuinness: "Departmental funds will be better spent"

Ulster Unionist sports minister Michael McGimpsey said his party would not participate in the debate or vote because it was "unseemly" given the death of the Queen's sister Princess Margaret last weekend.

Mr Morrow replied that his motion had been tabled before the princess' death and he accused the Ulster Unionists of "plumbing new depths" in avoiding the debate.

The nationalist SDLP abstained from the vote, but said it did not object to the proposal.

Mr McGuinness said the jubilee celebrations should not be divisive.

Maurice Morrow proposed Jubilee medal
Maurice Morrow proposed Jubilee medal

He suggested that schools which wanted to participate should apply for funds already set aside by the assembly's culture department.

But he said he could see "no justification for using funds which would be better spent in the classroom".

Speaking after the debate on BBC Radio Ulster, Mr Morrow said he hoped the proposal might be taken up by one of the other assembly departments or by the province's local councils.

He added: "I realise that the minister is autonomous and the assembly can't direct him what to do.

"But I think the members all realised that I was sincere in what I was trying to achieve and I am delighted that the majority of the assembly supported me."

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport reports:
"The assembly debate on a proposed Queen's Golden Jubilee medal was heated"
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