Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Brendan Smith has said the Government’s pledge to protect front-line education services is the latest election promise to be discarded. It joins a long list of cynical u-turns from Fine Gael and Labour who now appear set to cut teacher numbers and increase class sizes.
“There is no excuse for cutting teacher numbers,” said Deputy Smith. “The National Recovery Plan published by the previous Government in November 2010 outlined an overall increase of 2,500 in the numbers working in education over a four year period from 2011 to 2014. The allocation for the Department of Education was maintained to allow it to protect class sizes. Fine Gael and Labour have chosen to scrap this plan and seem to have instead opted to significantly reduce teacher numbers.
“Labour and Fine Gael themselves committed to protecting front-line education services in the Programme for Government. This commitment was made following a full examination of the books at the Department of Finance and in the full knowledge of the fiscal situation. They could not have been clearer in their understanding of the financial situation or the promises they made.
“Later, two months after taking up office, Fine Gael and Labour supported a Fianna Fáil motion calling on the Government to prioritise education in upcoming Budgets and to protect education services. Now it seems that these commitments, like so much from this Government, meant nothing. A Government that claimed it would prioritise jobs and education has systematically abandoned pledges in both areas.
“The education sector will have particular justification for feeling betrayed by Education Minister Ruairí Quinn. Students around the country feel let down by Minister Quinn, who just days before the General Election signed a pledge not to increase the college registration fee or introduce third level fees. Again, he made this promise having been fully briefed about the fiscal situation. Students, teachers and voters were cynically misled.