Labour signs student fees pledge


Labour Party's education spokesman Ruairí Quinn has said the next government faces a "horrendously difficult task" and needs a strong broad-based coalition to help carry the nation as it seeks to fix the economy.

Mr Quinn was responding to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll which shows support for Fine Gael has risen by 4 per cent during the election campaign while Labour has fallen.

Speaking at a photocall at which he signed a pledge not to introduce third level fees, Mr Quinn said there had been quite a strong reaction against the prospect of a single-party government and that all was to play for during the final days of campaigning.

Mr Quinn said it was impossible to predict how many seats the party would get but that he expected Labour to achieve the highest number it had even gotten in an election.

He also defended the party’s two candidate strategy in many constituencies saying he did not believe it might endanger any seat and would instead strengthen the base and appeal of Labour in future elections.

Mr Quinn today signed the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) pledge that it would not re-introduce third level fees in or support an increase in the Student Services Charge if in government.

The Labour Party last week said it would abolish the €500 increase in the services charge which was introduced in Budget 2011.

Speaking this morning, Mr Quinn said the party would not roll back on its promises in government. However, he refused to say whether acceptance of the party’s education policies would be a deal-breaker in possible coalition talks.

“I wouldn’t say anything is a deal-breaker as such. It is critically important. Everybody is committed to our education system (and) we have to ensure that people can participate and stay in it,” he said.

Mr Quinn rejected claims by Fine Gael that he had “flip-flopped” on the issue of third levelfees.

“I recognise that people have been making a contribution through the Students Services Charge and that’s why we are freezing it at €1,500, instead of increasing it to €2,000 in September along with the €200 levy to do post-Leaving Certificate courses,” he said.

“We think that barrier at the entrance of education is simply too much. When students qualify, when they start contributing to the economy all of them are invariably high earners and they pay tax,” Mr Quinn added.