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Government attacks on education must end now

22 October, 2008 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Fein Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty will be speaking at the Union of Students in Ireland demonstration outside Leinster House which is being held today in protest against proposals by the Minister for Education and Science Batt O’ Keeffe’s to reintroduce third level tuition fees.

Speaking from Leinster House in advance of the event the Donegal Senator said:

“It is now accepted that Budget 2009 has been a slash and burn affair. After squandering the boom years by treating the public purse as a cash cow and then deepening the long term impact of this policy by failing to invest in the states future Fianna Fáil and the Greens now appear intent on deepening the current recession.

“This government has no plan to turn around the economy. Rather than invest in key public services upon which the economy is dependent it is choosing instead to cut them right back to the bone. Education has been hit badly with an array of cuts, increases in primary school class sizes, cuts in supports for pupils from disadvantaged areas and a massive hike in third level registration fees.

“Having failed to win public support over the summer for the reintroduction of third level fees government’s plan B is clearly to over time increase registration fees to the point that they will effectively equal third level fees. Fianna Fáil and the Greens should be delivering education policy that takes down barriers to education access not policy that puts them up.

“The government has not only failed in its commitment to deliver reduced class sizes but astonishingly has now chosen to in fact increase them in Budget 2009. Nearly a quarter of all pupils remain in super sized classes of 30 plus. Prior to the 2002 general election Fianna Fáil made a commitment to reduce class sizes. According to the INTO there are now two percent fewer Irish children in the target classes of less than 20 than there were when the initial promise was made in 2002. It is simply wrong that our children continue to be educated in over crowded badly resourced schools and it is a bad policy that will continue to bite the economy in its derrière.

“Equitable access to a high standard of education from the very start of the school cycle is the foundation upon which this economy is built. That Fianna Fáil with the support of the Green Party continues to employ such disastrous policy decisions to this area is a massive issue of concern for families and also importantly the business sector of the future. I am calling on families and businesses throughout the state to make there voices heard. Access to a high standard of education is a right not a privilege and our economy depends on it.” ENDS

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