Thursday 29 September 2016

We need another O'Malley to open the doors of learning to all

Published 15/07/2016 | 02:30

Donogh O’Malley, who announced his free education scheme in 1966. Photo: Currach Press
Donogh O’Malley, who announced his free education scheme in 1966. Photo: Currach Press

Fifty years ago, Donogh O'Malley, who will be forever remembered as a dynamic Minister for Education (1966/68), opened the portals of knowledge and opportunity to the youth of Ireland by introducing fee- free post-primary education. O'Malley also launched the free school transport scheme and commissioned the building of new non-denominational comprehensive and community schools in areas where they were lacking.

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He introduced Regional Technical Colleges (RTC), now called Institutes of Technology, to areas where there was no third-level college in proximity, as well as National Institutes of Higher Education (NIHE) in Limerick and Dublin, now UL and DCU, respectively. He launched means-tested third level grants which gave easier access to less well-off students.

O'Malley's determination to withstand the conservatives and mandarins who either wanted to retain elitism in education or complained that the country couldn't afford it, has provided Ireland with the best educated and most productive workforce in Europe.

The beneficiaries of O'Malley's plan for equality of opportunity have repaid the country a thousand-fold through employment, taxation, volunteerism and non-dependence on welfare.

Some 30 years later, Niamh Bhreathnach abolished third-level tuition fees during her tenure as Minister for Education (1993/97).

She also upgraded the Regional Technical Colleges to Institute of Technology status. Ms Bhreathnach was cut from the same cloth as Donogh O'Malley and would undoubtedly have introduced further groundbreaking equality reforms had she not lost her Dáil seat in the 1997 general election.

The Cassells report on the funding of higher education has put three options on the table: 1) increase State funding and scrap the student contribution, 2) increase State funding but retain the student contribution or 3) an income-contingent loan system.

Options two and three are out, as they totally undermine the O'Malley/Bhreathnach legacy for equality of access to education.

Option one is the only one prioritising fairness, equity and inclusion in education.

When the British government attempted to impose fees on Scottish third-level students, Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and First Minister of Scotland was quick to remind it that "third-level education in Scotland is provided on ability to learn not on ability to pay".

In the subsequent British general election (2015), the SNP secured 54 of 59 available seats in the House of Commons.

We now urgently need another Donogh O'Malley to step up to the plate and bat for the youth of Ireland.

Billy Ryle

Tralee, Co Kerry

Leprechauns or tragic heroes?

Nobel Prizewinner Paul Krugman has had a go at us here in Ireland and at what he calls our current state of 'leprechaun economics'. He seems to have missed our past Celtic Tiger economics which bankrupted the country.

Given his support for the Greek government's actions, he seems to prefer Greek tragedy economics. Greece is on its third bailout since 2010.

Whatever about the past, we hope that at the present time there is a bit more to look forward to with our leprechaun economics than there is in the failed Greek tragedy version.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

David Cameron's early departure

The former British prime minister David Cameron wanted to wait until October before stepping down from the job - instead he had to settle for May in July.

Leo Gormley


Cost of keeping this Government

Enda Kenny's leadership is causing his party - and more importantly, the people of Ireland - untold damage every single day he remains in office.

It took over two months to put this Government in place after February's General Election, and it is abundantly clear that in spite of all the reasons for avoiding another general election, there is really no alternative as this Government just isn't going to work.

The majority of the TDs are so lacking in interest they don't even bother turning up at Leinster House for their day's work, as we saw last week.

The cost of NOT having another general election outweighs the costs of having one.

David Bradley

Drogheda, Co Louth

Using Brexit to our advantage

The recent Brexit vote, placing the United Kingdom outside the European Union together with it some 500 million consumers, gives Ireland a unique opportunity to attract foreign direct investment to its shores in the coming years.

As the only English-speaking country within the EU, it will have many advantages over its competitors, such as its low corporation tax and a well-educated workforce, to encourage those multinationals to relocate.

We must now grow and develop and sell on the world stage, our towns and cities like Limerick ,Ennis, Galway, Tuam, Castlebar, Ballina, Sligo, Tubbercurry, Carrick-on-Shannon, Longford, Athlone, Ballyshannon and Monaghan Town.

We also have Shannon and Knock international airports ideally situated to service these hubs. All of these locations have plenty of scope for development and would be ideal locations to avail of our new status as Europe's only English-speaking gateway to the EU.

Tom Towey

Cloonacool, Co Sligo

Reducing the speed limit

Dublin City Council's plan to reduce the speed limit reminds me of the day I was driving in a 30kmh zone in the capital and I spotted a friend of mine walking.

When I stopped to give him a lift, he rejected my offer with: "I'm in a hurry."

Mattie Lennon

Blessington, Co Wicklow

Ruling out TV match officials

Paraic Duffy, GAA director general, says 'No' to the introduction of TV match officials.

How democratic is that?

Do the other approximately 1.2 million members of our association and the officials who actually watch and participate in GAA, rather than American football, not see the problems?

Should they not get a viewpoint or an opportunity to voice their observations?

Pat Savage

Drogheda, Co Louth

Irish Independent

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