After last year’s embarrassing U-turn on DEIS schools, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn was determined to avoid any similar controversy in this year’s Budget.
His officials “politically proofed’’ every detail to ensure there were no political landmines. Quinn did well. In the circumstances, a cut of €90 million from an education budget of close to €9 billion is just about acceptable, even to those awkward teacher unions.
Significantly, relations between Quinn and the powerful INTO have rarely been better, after the Minister backed away from any increase in class size in primary schools.
Inside the Department, much of the credit for this “trouble free’’ Budget is going to an official who “discovered’’ extra payments to teachers over and above those paid to other public servants. This change alone will yield savings of €20 million-plus.
* The Budget underlined how the third-level sector continues to be marginalised. The additional €25 million cut in funding may be a bridge too far for many university presidents. But it also underlines their failure to lobby the department effectively on the funding crisis.
* The decision by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to deliver her landmark human-rights address at DCU was a terrific coup for the university and for its increasingly influential president Brian MacCraith.
The Helix event was a classy affair as DCU students and children from local schools in Ballymun and Glasnevin entertained the great and the good with a series of human-rights-related songs.
The highlight? A stunning ensemble version of Labi Siffre’s Something Inside so Strong.
A striking feature of the day was the sense that many of those present were making a rare foray to Dublin’s northside. One wag suggested it was the first time many had been on the northside since the rugby international ended at Corke Park.
The inspriring Clinton event was a reminder that DCU has strong claims to be the most dynamic and innovative university in the State.
The number of applicants for every teacher-training place in State-run colleges.
* What gives at the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Ireland (QQAI)? The name may not be familiar but it’s the quango which replaces – wait for it – Fetac, Hetac, NQAI and IUQB. The new body faced its first real test when Flan Garvey, the chairman of Tralee IT, was accused by 26 academic staff of plagiarising sections of a master’s thesis.
Remarkably, the QQAI refused to make any comment on the issue. Worse still, the new body could not be contacted on the phone due to technical problems and its website could not cope with email queries.
At his Budget briefing last week, the Minister expressed his concern about the allegations which, he said pointedly, were a matter for the QQAI.
Garvey, a former Fianna Fáil councillor, has expressed confidence the “truth will emerge’’ about the allegations.