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Reintroduction of third level fees unacceptable

11 August, 2008

Responding to Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s acknowledgement that the reintroduction of Third level fees is on the government’s agenda Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty said “education is a right not a privilege and it is the responsibility of the state to ensure its provision.”

The Donegal Senator said:

“Sinn Fein is opposed to the reintroduction of third level fees. Education is a right not a privilege and it is the responsibility of the state to ensure its provision.

“Despite being one of the wealthiest states in Europe our educational expenditure is one of the lowest – it is below OECD average as a percentage of GDP. Sinn Féin has argued for investment in education should be based on a percentage of 6 per cent of GDP.

“The abolition of fees in the mid 1990s was a progressive move, but has been fundamentally undermined by successive Fianna Fáil led governments who have failed to invest the economic boom into the countries future. Now as we now face into fiscal uncertainty the government’s cash cow approach to the public purse over the last ten years is becoming acutely evident.

“With third level registration fees set at €825 and a lack of student supports such as childcare and accommodation supplements students and their families already shoulder a considerable financial burden. Mature students have in most instances to pay full fees when they seek to up or re-skill. 

“Education is the cornerstone of this country’s economic future. We face uncertain times and traditional employment sectors such as manufacturing and construction are in steady decline. Government regularly talks up the need for a knowledge economy but in real terms has never seriously invested in nor planned for it.

“Minister O’Keefe’s announcement today at least evidences that the reintroduction of third levels fees is on the government’s agenda. To propose in a time of economic decline to make third level education less accessible is politically, socially and economically inept.” ENDS

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