“The far-sighted decision by then Minister for Education, Donogh O’Malley in 1966 to introduce universal free post-primary education should be remembered for not only its impact on improving the opportunities for  generations of Ireland people, but also for changing the face of Ireland for ever,” said Fianna Fáil TD, Thomas Byrne.

“That decision, allied with the provision of free school transport to ensure that those living in rural communities could access schools, paved the way for the social and economic transformation of Ireland.”

“Generations of Irish people have availed of free secondary education, and latterly free third level education. The new opportunities that became available to them ensured that living standards rose dramatically and that Ireland became a sought-after destination to locate new businesses as a result of a more highly educated workforce.”

“Donogh O’Malley’s vision, supported by Lemass’ determination to improve the lives of all Irish people in meaningful ways, has changed Ireland forever.”

“While the reforms of the Irish education system since O’Malley’s time have been expansive, there are still many communities who are not fully participating in the benefits of education”

“Many challenges remain in our education system. There can be no end point when it comes to improving education quality, and access in this country.”

“In the last five years, many retrograde decisions were taken that have damaged our education system. The removal of post-graduate grants, reduction of career guidance and counselling services, and the chronic under-funding of our higher education system are all causing challenges for the education system,” added the Fianna Fáil TD.

“I’m proud of O’Malley’s foresight and vision. More vision is needed in Irish public policy. In 1966, major stakeholders across politics and education said that it couldn’t be done. It was possible, and our country is better for it,” concluded Byrne.