Madam, - Mr Noel Dempsey proposes to reintroduce third-level fees for those who "can afford to pay". These fees will be up to €6,000 a year depending on the course being studied. In addition, annual maintenance costs of €6,000 will still have to be met by those who "can afford to pay".

But who will pay the restored third-level fees? Let us look at the current situation. At present 37 per cent of students in universities and 47 per cent of students in institutes of technology are eligible for means-tested registration fees and maintenance support (Department of Education press release, July 18th). The gross income threshold to qualify for full registration fees and maintenance support begins at €21,629.

But only 12 per cent of students at third level come from the lowest socio-economic group (who are certainly eligible for grant support).

Who makes up the bulk of those getting State support at present? It is not the PAYE sector, whose gross incomes are known to the Revenue, but the self-employed and farmers. The Data Protection Act ensures that the names of those actually obtaining grant support are not disclosed. Otherwise there would be many red faces among the business community.

If third level fees are restored by Dr Dempsey, who will pay even if the income threshold is raised? The answer is clearly the PAYE sector yet again. This is the sector that already contributes the majority of revenue to the State. A sop in the form of tax relief is not acceptable.

The abolition of third-level fees has served our people very well. It is very disappointing that our Education Minister is proposing to limit access by the sons and daughters of many PAYE workers to third level education and also to impoverish them.

I ask him to end consideration of this very retrograde step. - Yours, etc.,


Blackcastle Estate,


Co Meath.