Plans for upgrade of Athlone IT to university is in deal
A pathway for Athlone Institute of Technology to become a university has been included in the Programme for Government, Independent Alliance TD Kevin 'Boxer' Moran has said.
It is understood that the programme was finalised last night and could be published as early as today.
The draft 'Programme for Partnership' document that Fine Gael provided to Independent TDs at the end of last week had promised to support the creation of "Technological Universities" in the regions.
Now Deputy Moran says that the wording in the Programme for Government includes the route for the upgrade of Athlone IT.
"We changed wording in the document to allow colleges such as Athlone to become a university and it's a huge move in terms of allowing it to happen," he told the Irish Independent.
It is understood that the document mentions that ITs won't be required to merge in order to gain university status, which would benefit Athlone's ambitions.
He added: "There's still a bit of work to be done to make it happen but I don't see any problems in relation to that. I won't be found wanting to make sure that it does happen."
Mr Moran - a Longford-Westmeath TD - denied that the inclusion of plans for Athlone amounted to parish-pump politics, saying the change in wording "benefits an awful lot of other ITs around the country".
The draft document presented to Independents had pledged that the regional institutions "will have greater links to industry and will have an enormous impact on our capacity to create and retain jobs in the regions."
Meanwhile, Waterford TD John Halligan has received further assurances on increased cardiac services for Waterford University Hospital from finance minister Michael Noonan.
A copy of the letter, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, confirms that the development of a second cath lab at WUH is in the programme for government, "subject to a favourable recommendation from an independent clinical review of the needs of the region".
That review is to be carried out within six weeks. In the interim the hospital will be asked to review the resourcing necessary to extend the existing lab hours.
"I can confirm that capital and revenue funding will be made available for this development, as will funding for the extension of hours, subject to the favourable recommendation from the independent clinical review," Mr Noonan writes.