The Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin has described as ‘deeply cynical’ the Government’s refusal to state openly and honestly what their intentions are in relation student charges and third level fees.
Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, Deputy Martin reflected on the anger of the thousands of students who marched in Dublin today in protest at Fine Gael and Labour’s betrayal of pre-election promises.
Deputy Martin commented, “These students are deeply concerned about their future, about the Government’s plans, its commitments and promises. They need answers and they need clarity. In advance of the general election the Tánaiste and his party made very clear commitments. The Minister for Education and Skills Deputy Ruairí Quinn brazenly went to Trinity College four days before the election to sign the USI pledge on fees as did the Tánaiste. During the election campaign, Minister Quinn promised to reverse a €500 increase in the student services charge. The Labour Party was opposed, he said, to third level fees either by the front or back door.
“Minister Quinn and his colleagues made these pledges having been given full access to the books at the Department of Finance and having held their own meetings with the Troika. The only thing that has changed between them making these promises and breaking them is an improvement in the fiscal situation due largely to the tough measures taken in the last budget – a budget they voted against.
“It would be a very negative and retrograde step if the Government were to increase these charges, given the economic importance of participation in third level education. What we witnessed in the last decade was a dramatic and significant expansion of third level participation and a transformation of the research landscape. If we are to achieve recovery we must maintain that.
“This Government claimed to be a Government for jobs and education. Just eight months on, they have shown themselves to be far from that. The combined moves to cut research funding, increase students charges, abolish grants and remove all support for post grad students are extremely short-sighted and will damage economic growth and job creation in the long-term.”