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Quinn refusing to back down in student means test row

EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn remains on a collision course with farmers as he promises to include assets in the new means test for student grants.

Mr Quinn's insistence will also increase the pressure on Fine Gael TDs attending the biggest farming event of the year -- the National Ploughing Championships.

The current test for third-level grants is based on income only, but Mr Quinn has declared that he is going to include "certain capital assets" in the means test next year to make it fairer. Last night he refused to give any assurances that farmland and business premises would not be included.

Farmers will be able to lobby Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who has been a vocal opponent of including farmland and business assets in the student grants means test, when he arrives at the Ploughing Championship tomorrow. And Taoiseach Enda Kenny is due to visit on Thursday.

Fine Gael TDs are far more dependent on farming votes than Labour TDs, who are mostly concentrated in urban areas.

But rural Labour TD Willie Penrose has become the first backbencher from his party to come out against the proposal.

"If you have a small farm of 45 acres with some sheep and tillage, you can't sell that. Without the asset you can't generate an income," he said.

"It's important to acknowledge there are difficulties in rural Ireland that may not be readily apparent to people in urban Ireland," he said.

Irish Independent