Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Reintroduction of third level fees a regressive measure

4 February, 2009 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Speaking at today's USI rally held in Dublin against the proposed reintroduction of third level fees Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty told the thousands of students gathered in protest that “Sinn Féin does not support the reintroduction of third level fees be it by the front door of government policy, the back door of increased registration fees or the side door of a graduate tax as proposed by Fine Gael.”

The Donegal Senator said:

"Budget 2009 was a black day for Ireland's education system. Primary school class sizes increased, school transport costs nearly doubled, youth supports for pupils from disadvantaged areas were reduced, adult education grants were also cut, as was investment in information technology, supports for summer courses in Irish colleges were reduced
and the student registration fees were increased from €900 to €1,500. All of this is set against a background of job losses and increased taxation for working families.

"Yet despite this short term approach government continues to tell students they are the economy's future. Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe tells us that higher education will be one of the key drivers behind economic recovery. Of course the Minister is correct in his claim but rather than support Ireland's education system nearly every measure contained within the governments Budget 2009 will undermine it.

"The reintroduction of third level fees as mooted by Minister O'Keeffe for some time now will act as the final nail in the coffin of free education if realised, particularly in the context of a litany of cutbacks, unmanageable registration fees and an education system ravaged by
underinvestment. It is incomprehensible that the Green Party are standing side by side with Fianna Fáil on this issue.

"The abolition of fees had been hugely beneficial to low income families who could not have accessed the grant system. It had given rise to an increase in third-level participation by lower
socio-economic groups.  The proportion of school leavers going on to third level had risen from 36% in 1992 to 44% percent in 1998 and to 55% in 2004. Participation rates by children in families of skilled manual workers had almost doubled from 32% in 1998 to 60% in 2004.
Likewise, the children of semi-skilled or unskilled manual workers had increased from 23% to 33 percent.

"The Green Party and Fianna Fáil are now telling our students that not only must they pay the costly registration fee but also possibly a fee of anywhere between €4,000 and €8,000. However Fine Gael must also come in for some criticism. Late last year the party proposed a graduate tax, similar to the Australian model and described by the Australian
Education Minister Julia Gillard as being "at best complex and at worst anomalous, inconsistent and completely irrational". Let's all be clear on this. We are all here today because we believe that education is a fundamental right and not a luxury for those who can afford it. Sinn Féin will not support the reintroduction of fees in any form.

"The government needs to put together a comprehensive plan to adequately fund third level institutions and pull Ireland up from its current ranking of 30th out of 34 OECD countries in terms of education expenditure as a percentage of GDP.

"I want to commend USI for its work in representing students across the country in this fight against the reintroduction of third level fees." ENDS

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