Party time: Sinn Féin
Continuing with my posts examining higher education proposals by political parties in the Irish general election, let us have a look at what Sinn Féin has to offer. In fact, there is not very much of substance which we could assess. The main policy objective relevant to universities – actually, as far as I can tell the only one – is part of a more general policy of reducing or eliminating the cost to parents, students and families of education. This ambition is expressed in the party’s election manifesto as follows:
‘Every parent aspires to the best start for their children. We are committed to ensuring that is more than an aspiration – we are committed to delivering the best start for our children. Free primary, secondary and third-level education is a top priority for Sinn Féin. This will mean eliminating the growing parental contributions and other costs that have undermined the entitlement to free education.’
Sinn Féin makes 19 election promises relevant to education as a whole, only one of which relates to higher education specifically; this states that the party will ‘oppose the reintroduction of third-level fees through any guise and reform the grants system to take into account the real costs of going to college.’ This is also repeated verbatim in a separate election leaflet entitled Time to Return to Free Education: 6 Simple Steps.
In a report by the Irish Independent on the launching of Sinn Féin’s education policy for the election, outgoing TD Aengus O Snodaigh is quoted as saying that the party is ‘committed to making free education a reality, with its plans to make the wealthier pay more towards the public purse.’
It seems clear that Sinn Féin has not so far given much thought to higher education, and that for the moment its priorities lie elsewhere. In the brief references to this area the impression is created that there is an easy path to a free and well funded system of higher education, but this is simply too vague to allow any kind of critique.
In order to get some more detail that could be assessed here, I have contacted the party with some specific questions on higher education. I shall report here what answers I get, if any.