Re-introduction of university fees in Ireland seems imminent

In a series of frantic developments over the past couple of days, it now seems that Ireland is on the verge of re-introducing fees at third level institutions, including the country’s seven universities.

The move was precipitated by an interview which appeared last night on This Week in Politics during which the Irish Minister for Defence, Minister Killkeen, gave a very unconvincing answer to when pressed on whether or not the State was planning to reintroduce paid tuition in the upcoming Budget.

The Minister told the weekly politics program that: ‘We have a very difficult challenge [in balancing the Budget]; no areas is exempt from consideration, the challenges are very very difficult.’

The Minister’s comments have meanwhile been interpreted in the media as a sort of sign that the fees will indeed be introduced this December, and the timing of the comments, just three days before a major student march on Dublin, seem far from coincidental.

No sooner had headlines turned to talk of the impending registration fee, than the Presidents of two Cork third-levels, Dr Michael Murphy of University College Cork (UCC), and Brendan Murphy of Cork Institute of Technology CIT), issued a joint statement stating that they were in favor of the fee.

This announcement from the two Presidents couldn’t really have come at a worse time, at least not so far as the colleges’ PR is concerned, and it’s fairly amazing to think that these two men thought that two days before a massive anti-fee student march, and a few hours after that interview, was a good time to announce to the world their advocacy for introduced tuition fees.

It’s fairly frustrating that there are seemingly going to be college fees re-introduced in the upcoming budget, but I share the opinion of several other writers for my website, CorkStudentNews.com, that the Government has to raise money from somewhere, and to expect it to provide Irish students with free education forever borders on the delusional.

What I do find really annoying is that if the Government does indeed introduce the fees - as we’ve every reason to expect they will - then they’ll immediately be breaking a promise they made just a few short months ago, and if even your Government can break promises, what sort of justice is there in general in a country?

Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan issued a statement just this August promising that there would be no third levels fees introduced during the lifetime of the incumbent Fianna Fáil led coalition Government.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Minister’s words turned out not to be worth the paper they were written on.

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