Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has dismissed suggestions that changes to the means test for student grants amount to an attack on rural Ireland.
Minister Quinn was responding to criticism of a new Capital Assets Test which could make it more difficult for the children of farmers or the self-employed to receive grants.
In the Dáil this morning, Fianna Fáil's Timmy Dooley said means testing should be concentrated on actual income, rather than the value of assets.
"This decision will put third level education beyond the reach of many people in those particular sectors," Deputy Dooley said.
"Regardless of an individual's background, be it self-employed or farming, his or her income is based on the returns submitted to the Revenue Commissioners.
"This is the only fair and equitable method and is the approach taken in respect of PAYE workers.
"I do not accept that we can have a different set of rules for the self-employed.”
But Minister Quinn accused the TD of scaremongering.
"There is no attack on rural Ireland," he said. "There is no attack on the farming community. There is not attack on any self-employed group.
"What we are looking for is fairness, and the way in which you are protesting so much suggests to me that you yourself perhaps realise that the present system is not fair," he told Deputy Dooley.
"This will be done objectively, the conclusions will be published, we can have a debate in this house - and you can then look and see whether it's an attack on rural Ireland, or whether it's fair."