Saturday 3 December 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.

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