Prioritise the elderly and third-level funding, say Fianna Fáil

Fianna Fáil wants third-level funding, and supports for older people, to be prioritised in the upcoming budget and will say so at its pre-Dáil conference this week.

Party leader, Micheal Martin, says next month’s budget will be the “first big test” for the partnership agreement between Fianna Fail and the Fine Gael-led minority government.

Writing in today’s Irish Examiner, Mr Martin says there must be a “major gear change” in third-level funding. His party wants cash-starved services restored, rather than tax cuts funded.

But Fianna Fáil’s demands for an additional €100m in third-level funding will raise questions about the possible return of college fees and whether it would support such a move by the Fine Gael-led government.

Mr Martin writes: “There is an acute funding crisis in our third-level sector, which is threatening the viability of the sector and undermining rankings. Fianna Fáil is clear that the forthcoming budget has to prioritise third-level funding. In addition, we want to see support for postgraduate students back on the agenda and an improvement in pupil-teacher ratios.”

He also defends Fianna Fail’s continued support of Fine Gael in government.

“The decision to be responsible, and facilitate the formation of a government, has been dramatically vindicated by events in the time since the general election. With the British vote to leave the European Union, and the EU Commission’s attempt to undermine Ireland’s tax autonomy through the Apple decision, it is clear to every reasonable person that the country needs to have a government in place.”

His remarks come after a poll yesterday showed Fianna Fáil continues to hold the strongest support.

The Sunday Times’s Behaviour and Attitudes poll puts Fianna Fail at 28% (-2), Fine Gael at 23% (-2), Sinn Fein at 18% (+4), Independents at 12% (+4), and Labour at 7 (+1).

TDs and senators at the party’s two-day think-in, which begins in Carlow today, will also debate the housing emergency and Brexit. Education will also be discussed, with a presentation from Peter Cassells, who recommended the need to reinstall third-level fees.

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