Education Minister Batt O'Keefe has revealed that third-level fees may be reintroduced despite the Government's previous promises to the contrary.
The Programme for Government agreed between Fianna Fáil, the Greens and the PDs vowed that college fees would not be reintroduced.
However, reports this morning say Mr O'Keefe has indicated that the promise may be abandoned due to the economic downturn.
He says his department will be conducting a "forensic audit" of third-level spending before making any decision on the matter.
The minister also says any changes will specifically target better-off families and those with incomes well above the national average.
Mr O’Keefe’s comments follow an intense lobbying campaign by university heads calling for the return of fees to help them compete internationally.