Mr McCrossan said:
“It’s no shock to rural communities across the North that so many young people are leaving our shores to find a life elsewhere. We have towns and villages that have been decimated by the brain drain that sees our best and brightest leave their home in search of somewhere new to learn, live and set up a new life.
“The latest figures show that over 1 in 3 of our young people going to university will choose to leave this island. Even more worrying, last year’s statistics from the Department for the Economy show that over two thirds of those who leave won’t come back.
“It is a shameful reality that the North’s most precious export is now our young people.
“A home where marriage is denied to some. A home where hospitals are in crisis and schools are struggling. A home where we are locked in a constant battle of competing cultures.
“And a home where our communities are retreating from rather than reconciling with each other. It’s little wonder people choose to leave.
“We need to build a society that encourages young people to explore their horizons, to travel, learn and live with other communities and cultures but then to feel comfortable bringing that experience home and using it to improve this place.
“The life blood of this place is haemorrhaging. And with no government, no agreement and fleeting hope, how can we attempt to stem that?
“All parties need to come together to make this a place that people want to live and work in. A place that our best and brightest want to come back to.
“That means expanding our higher education product, investing in infrastructure and communities west of the Bann and pioneering cutting edge new technologies. But it also means reforming our society to match the needs and expectations of today’s generation.”