Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD says he is deeply disappointed in the manner in which Higher Education has been treated on the Taosieach’s first day in office.

Deputy Byrne made the comments after it emerged the Taoiseach decided at the last minute to assign Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor as Minister of State with responsibility for Higher Education after she took issue with being offered the Equality and Law Reform portfolio.

Deputy Byrne said, “I was upbeat yesterday evening when the Taoiseach announced in the Dáil that he was creating a Minister of State position for responsibility for Higher Education. I mistakenly believed that the Government had finally recognised the serious issues that have emerged in the higher education sector and the need to have a specific Minister of State in place to deal with these challenges.

“However as the evening progressed it became apparent that all was not well on the Ministerial corridor. Reports emerged that Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor was disgusted at the Taoiseach’s decision to offer her the position of Minister of State for Equality and Law Reform. The Taoiseach’s plans were thrown into chaos at the last minute and then suddenly the position of Minister of State for Higher Education was created out of thin air to calm the escalating situation.

“The Taoiseach’s speech in the Dáil highlighted that Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton was being given responsibility for the Technical Universities Bill and third level funding. These are areas which should fall under the responsibility of the Minister of State for Higher Education. The events of the evening clearly show that the Taoiseach had no intention of creating this portfolio and the decision was taken as an afterthought.

“It’s obvious that the whole third level sector has been thrown as a bauble to keep someone who is getting a demotion happy. It’s a farcical situation and is an insult to a sector which should be playing an instrumental role in rescuing Ireland from Brexit. No one seems to know who is responsible for the sector – including Minister Bruton and Minister of State Mitchell O’Connor.”