Sinn Féin’s attempt to school us on investment in education is hypocrisy at its worst. That’s according to Fine Gael TD for Sligo-Leitrim, and member of the Oireachtas Education Committee, Tony McLoughlin, who compared the policy of school closures and cuts in third level funding during Sinn Fein’s time in Government in the North, to the significant investment in education here.
Deputy McLoughin said: “Sinn Féin cannot be trusted on the issue of education. Trying to make a political football out of university rankings here and criticising investment in higher education, is hypocrisy at its worst when you consider they held the Education portfolio in Government for so long in the North and stood over drastic cuts to the sector.
“Both Ulster University and Queens University Belfast faced critical cuts in funding during Sinn Féin’s years of Government, leading to reductions in staffing and cuts to student places. Sinn Féin also stood over a drastic policy of school closures when they were in Government in the North. Now of course there is no Government to stand up for the education sector in the North.
“Let’s look past the Sinn Féin spin and assess the facts about investment in education here.
“As part of a major programme of reinvestment in education, the Fine Gael led Government has allocated significant funding to the Higher Education sector.
“The National Development Plan has committed over €2 billion in additional capital funding in the sector between the years 2018-2027.
“This additional funding will allow for increases in core funding, strategic building projects and for targeted initiatives in higher education including skills programmes, performance and innovation funding, technological university development and apprenticeship costs in the sector. It will also allow for places to be provided for 2,100 additional full-time students in 2018.
“Thanks to our recovering economy, we are now investing €100 million more in higher education than we were two years ago. This is a sign of the priority places on education by this Government.
“The Action Plan for Education, developed by my colleague, the Minister for Education Richard Bruton, targets Ireland’s having the education system in Europe by 2026.
“The QS World University Rankings 2019 actually reflect a strong performance overall by Irelands Higher Education system.
“However, we do have to be cautious about how we interpret the results of these commercial, unregulated global rankings. University rankings do not consider the quality of teaching or the quality of learning. Nor do they measure how Universities support access or tackle educational disadvantage, or how they support students with special educational needs to fulfil their potential. The Government will continue to fund such supports and ensure we invest the fruits of our recovering economy in the future generations of this county, through quality education.”