Cowen vs. Gilmore in the Dáil

Here is a report from the Irish Times on Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s exchange with Labour leader Eamon Gilmore in the Dáil (lower House of Parliament) earlier this week:

‘THE TAOISEACH criticised the rainbow coalition’s decision to abolish third-level fees during sharp exchanges with the Labour leader. Brian Cowen said the decision was made to eliminate all fees, regardless of income, when Labour was in government.

“That was not the most socially progressive thing that ever happened, since it allowed those who were well capable of paying fees to pay nothing, thereby limiting the number of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds accessing education,” he added.’

While I fully acknowledge that there are differences of opinions amongst readers here about tuition fees – and while I would for much of my adult life also have favoured a non-fee based system – I am pleased that the Taoiseach has referred to the socio-economic aspects of this issue. Tuition fees are not just about higher education funding, and it is useful to have the social element included in the discussions.

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8 Comments on “Cowen vs. Gilmore in the Dáil”

  1. copernicus Says:

    The dawn of reality at least!

  2. Eve Says:

    Oh please. Since when has Brian Cowen or anyone in his shameful party been concerned with those in the lower socioeconomic backgrounds accessing education. That is such a red herring. They did nothing about improving primary or secondary education when the country was awash with money and now it suits them to pretend that they are concerned about access to third level education? Give me a break!


  3. 1. “The decision was made to eliminate all fees, regardless of income, when Labour was in government.” TRUE.

    2. “That was not the most socially progressive thing that ever happened.” TRUE BUT IT WAS SOCIALLY PROGRESSIVE.

    3.”It allowed those who were well capable of paying fees to pay nothing”. TRUE BUT THERE IS A REMARKABLE RELUCTANCE TO STATE THE APPROX. INCOME OF THOSE THOUGHT WELL CAPABLE OF PAYING FEES.

    4. “… thereby limiting the number of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds accessing education.” GROSSLY UNTRUE.

    • kevin denny Says:

      And your definition of progressive is? We went from a situation where only the relatively well-off paid fees to one where no one paid. Higher education is a redistribution towards the well-off from the less well-off. This is what regressive means. The abolition of fees exacerbated this and this is presumably what the Taoiseach had in mind. No amount of waffle or dissembling will change these facts.

      Whether the abolition of fees actually reduced the number from disadvantaged backgrounds at university is doubtful. It certainly did not increase them. It did change the relative price against them: prior to the reform the one advantage the disadvantaged had was the university was cheaper for them than for the well-off. The reform removed that. But basically it made no difference. Its Leaving Cert points that matter: fees are a side-show.


      • “We went from a situation where only the relatively well-off paid fees …” Kevin, may I ask your age? Talk to someone who put kids through college in those days what paying fees meant. I accept that anyone who could find the money was well off relative to the poor. However, my recollection was that, say, a technician just on or slightly above the average industrial wage paid fees – and perhaps paid fees for more than one student. “Free fees” removed a great burden and dreadful worry from many people who could not be described as rich.

    • Perry Share Says:

      Cowen claims that ‘free fees’ “limit(ed) the number of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds accessing education”. I would be interested to know how this bizarre and counter-intuitive outcome occurred.

      If Cowen means that ‘free fees’ might have led to a failure to develop a more sustainable and equitable financing system across 3rd level, that might be possible. And who has been in government, in charge of education, since ‘free fees’ were introduced?

      Basically an opportunist and malicious remark that will only serve to reinforce the dubious notion that only by making education more expensive can we make it more accessible!

  4. Jason Michael McCann Says:

    and he says this like a red rag to a bull.

    Spot the red herring! If indeed An Taoiseach, Mr. Cowen, was interested in the welfare of the great unwashed (myself included) then we would have seen more evidence of this over the past decade or so, and we most certainly would not be in the mess that we are in now. In response to the great big dirty red herring, there is but one response: cheese anyone?


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