Students march as Gilmore refuses to rule out third-level fees hike

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has refused to rule out a hike in university fees.

Students march as Gilmore refuses to rule out third-level fees hike

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has refused to rule out a hike in university fees.

Under fire in the Dáil over third level education costs, Mr Gilmore would not reveal Budget plans for registration fees and maintenance grants.

The Tánaiste would only say a full review was under way to introduce a funding system to students that would ensure access is available to all.

“No Government is going to announce matters which are appropriate to the Budget in advance of the Budget,” he said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin accused the Tánaiste of being dishonest and reneging on his party’s pre-election promise to protect students.

“That’s deeply dishonest politics,” said Mr Martin. “It really represents cheating on the students, cheating students to win votes before an election.

“And you haven’t got the guts or the honesty to say here on the floor of the house what you’re going to do when Budget comes.”

However, the Tánaiste claimed the Government has taken every action to bring the economy forward.

“The Government is acutely aware of the difficulties that are faced by students and their families over the cost of third level education,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said a full review of third level funding, which does not impact on access for students, is being carried out.

“The Higher Education Authority has recently furnished a report on the sustainability of the existing funding framework for higher education,” he said.

“That was submitted to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn on Monday. The report examines inter-relationships between funding levels, the scale of growth and the maintenance of quality in the system.

“He just received that report and it’s something that he is considering. That will obviously help inform the consideration by Government.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the Government should be committed to keeping costs down to make sure it is open to all, given the importance of third level education to the recovery of the economy.

“If you agree, you should make it clear there will not be any increase on college fees and there will not be any additional cuts to student support,” the Louth TD said.

The Tánaiste responded that Mr Adams could not comment on possible hikes in fees considering the role his party plays in the North, where annual university fees are nearly €4,000 – more than double the registration fees in the Republic.

Meanwhile up to 20,000 students were to take part in a protest in Dublin this afternoon to oppose college fees and cuts to maintenance grants.

The Union of Students in Ireland is accusing the Government of rowing back on pre-election promises to ringfence the third level sector.

There were violent scenes when Gardai and protestors clashed following a similar march last year - but organisers are confident today's event will be peaceful.

This afternoon's Stop Fees protest was to march from Parnell Square to Government Buildings in Merrion Square.

The Government revealed earlier this month that an adjustment of €3.8bn will be made in order to meet the country’s EU/IMF targets to tackle the deficit.

Some €2.2bn of those savings will be made in public expenditure cuts and €1.6bn on taxation.

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