“He’s a tough nut to crack, that Enda Kenny fella.”
Photo credit: David Egan, senior researcher at the University of Limerick, UL president Prof Don Barry, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of the €86m Bernal Institute of Science and Engineering at the University of Limerick yesterday. Picture: Sean Curtin/ True Media
Killarney engineering graduate, Donal Foley gave this frank assessment after a face-to-face with the Taoiseach on third-level funding, when Mr Kenny visited the University of Limerick yesterday.
As the Taoiseach dodged media interviews, he agreed to meet UL graduates, Donal and Caolan O’Donnell on the issue of third-level fees.
During the meeting over 100 students protested outside the Bernal Institute building which the Taoiseach officially opened.
Donal, aged 21, and Caolan, aged 23, from Limerick did a ‘doorstep’ with Mr Kenny for over five minutes during which they gave their views on third-level funding and handed the Taoiseach a letter from the student body on the topic.
Donal, a student officer at UL, said the Taoiseach turned the tables on them during the five-minute encounter.
Donal said: “He questioned us as much as we questioned him. We gave him good enough points which he can take on board. He’s a tough nut to crack, that Enda Kenny fella. We didn’t expect to get much change out of him. He had answers to the points we put to him.
“He said what we proposed would be unfair on people who pay income tax and we said if corporate tax was raised to 15% this would raise a lot of money towards what we proposed. We were mandated by students at UL to tell him we wanted publicly funded third-level education.”
The students said there are three options for funding in the Cassells Report — publicly funded, an income-based loan or to let it remain as it is.
“Option two, income-based loan seems to be most likely, but we don’t feel like that,” said Donal. “Our students don’t want it. Look at England. They brought in the loan and fees went from £8,000 (€9,416) to £11,000.
“We would turn into the US where it’s money, money, money. But we want publicly funded third level and to then pay taxes when we get employment to fund third-level education.”
Mr Kenny was officially opening the Bernal Institute, an €86m research centre which will progress the creation of new products ranging from lighter long-life batteries, electric vehicle components and nickel titanium wires used in heart stent procedures.
Some 260 researchers will work at the Institute on themes ranging from formulating new advances in materials, along with manufacturing and process engeneering. Prof Don Barry, president of UL, said the new facility will be a ‘game changer’ in the field of research and will make “a real impact in the real world that generates real benefits for real people and helps build the future for us all”.
“This new institute will enable UL to enhance key disciplines in the faculty of science and engineering and to advance UL’s reputation for research excellence, while continuously developing research that has a real impact on industry, society and the local, national and international communities we serve,” he said.
The science and engineering zone at UL, where the new Bernal Institute is sited, comprises a cluster which includes the Analog Devices Building gifted by that company to the UL Foundation.
Prof Barry said a key aspect of the new institute is the recruitment of researchers as Bernal professors. Already seven of the 10 new professional chairs have been filled.
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