“In the interests of smooth and efficient running of the Northern Ireland school system, the need for a single authority by whatever name, be it ESA or something else, really is self-evident.
“I would suggest that it is up to the Minister to open a discussion with all the parties on this most important issue.
“I put it to the Minister that instead of waiting for parties to knock his door that he should pro-actively lead a five party discussion to tease out the remaining problems, to enable the Department to frame legislation which is acceptable to all.
“I will also challenge the other parties to give a commitment that they will not, if a reasonable level of agreement is evidenced, hide behind the iniquitous mechanism of a petition of concern when the time comes for debate.
“Does anyone seriously think that if we were designing a system now to fit the needs of a population of 1.6m that it would look anything like what we have? Does anyone really still believe that we would not benefit, both in terms of cost efficiency and the education of our children from the installation of a single body.
“Much has been made of the costs of ESA to date, but it believe that in the overall scheme of things that expense will have been worthwhile, the work will not have been wasted if we can now agree to move forward.
“I ask you what could be achieved by a resolute Department, led by a determined Minister, and whether you agree with him or not we certainly have one of those, acting in concert with a single education authority. The possibility is there and it is in our hands and MLAs can get the show on the road.”