Senator Pearse Doherty speaking on motion 165
A Chairde, I support this motion and first let me whole-heartedly commend the 6 county education minister Caitríona Ruane in her tireless efforts in developing an education system grounded in equality, inclusion and sustainability.
Contrast the achievements that Caitríona has brought about with the 26 county education system. Instead of a schools modernisation programme we have rotting prefabs and school buildings in which children are crowded out with many classes having over 30 children in them.
Instead of investment in ICT in schools we have a 29% reduction in school ICT funding.
Instead of a taskforce on the improvement of traveller education and on literacy and numeracy skills we have had the traveller capitation grant abolished and cuts on special needs teachers affecting 900 children with learning difficulties.
Education in the 26 counties has hit rock bottom. Successive governments are responsible for one of the most chronically underfunded education sectors in the OECD countries.
This government has been reckless with cuts and attacks on those most in need. They have launched a full scale attack on our education system and are robbing our children of their future.
Our children should not pay the price for this government's failures and incompetence.
The minister and this government are a failure. They have failed the students. They have failed the teachers and they have failed those who are most in need of help. Shame on them all.
It is clear that money talks when it comes to education in this state, now more so than ever with recent government announcements that they intend to reintroduce third level fees.
Despite claims that the abolition of fees did not result in an increase in third level participation rates by lower socio-economic groups the facts tell a different story.
But despite this success the government is now telling our students that not only must they pay the €1,500 registration fee but as well a tuition fee of anywhere between €4,000-€8,000 on top of that.
Fine Gael too must come under criticism. While telling students that they will be with them every step of the way in their fight against fees, the Fine Gael party in truth offer no real alternative and in affect are lying to their student followers. Instead they offer a process of introducing fees through the back door by way of 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".
Sinn Féin is clear on its position. We will not accept the reintroduction of third level fees by any means. We will not accept cutbacks to the education sector and we will not accept such blatant attacks shown by this government against those most vulnerable. We believe that education is not a commodity that can be bought and sold, nor is it a luxury reserved only for those who can afford it. In these times of economic hardship education is key and proper investment in education will pay dividends.
Comrades I urge you all to support this motion.