A Green education
In yesterday’s Irish Times, the Green Party spokesperson on education, Paul Gogarty TD, described the commitment in the revised programme for government not to introduce tuition fees as being the result of a Green ‘veto’. What are we to make of this? It seems that this particular commitment, which according to Mr Gogarty was ‘agreed readily and without any difficulty by Fianna Fáil Ministers’, was the key demand by the Greens in the coalition re-negotiations. The reason for this was apparently as follows:
‘Mr Gogarty said new tuition charges or Australian-style “study now, pay later” loan schemes could lead to a “brain drain” of students. It would also act as a barrier to those from lower-income groups concerned about building up debt.’
I cannot help feeling that we should have a better basis for settling national policy on this vital topic than a Green Party ‘veto’, which appears to owe little to close analysis of the situation, but is probably more connected with the need for Green TDs to be re-elected in middle class constituencies. In this setting the fees issue appears to have taken on a highly symbolic role for the Greens. The party claims that its policy is based on a desire to protect ‘lower income groups’, but the evidence does not back this up.
But I suppose what I might really be inclined to question is whether a very small minority partner in a coalition government should be allowed to assert that one particular national policy has to be subject to their ‘veto’. If this position is accepted, as Mr Gogarty claims it readily was, by the larger coalition partner, it suggests that higher education is not getting the kind of serious attention that it needs.
It is time, perhaps, to explain to the Green Party what the impact of their decision is and will be. It is time to point out that what we are creating is a middle class education system, but with inadequate resources, and that the necessary supports for the disadvantaged will be neglected if money for the middle classes has to be priotised over the needs of the disadvantaged. It is time to explain that ‘free fees’ have been wholly unhelpful to the poor, while at the same time they have created an unhealthy dependence of the universities on the increasingly unreliable taxpayer.
The Greens appear to be proud of this particular ‘veto’. They shouldn’t be.Explore posts in the same categories: higher education, politics comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.