Paschal Donohoe welcomes President Higgins’s speech on economics teaching

Minister for Public Expenditure said ‘any social science always merits constant debate regarding how it is taught’

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe has said that President Michael D Higgins’s speech about the teaching of economics was welcome as it created a debate regarding teaching styles of the subject.

“I think it’s brilliant to see a debate underway regarding how it’s taught, and what is the framework through which it is taught,” said Mr Donohoe.

“I’m a lifelong student of it. And any science, and any social science always merits constant debate regarding how it is taught.”

In a reception at Áras an Uachtaráin on Friday for Tasc, a think tank dedicated to social change, the President delivered a wide-ranging speech that featured a strong critique of economic policy that seeks to prioritise growth, a condemnation of “neoliberalism” and an evaluation of the shortcomings of the teaching of economics at universities.


Mr Donohoe would give no comment on President Higgins’s intervention in the debate, or if he agreed with the content of the speech.

“I think the President was raising some very interesting points regarding the teaching of economics. And I think all those in the economics community here in Ireland, I’m sure will engage with the substance of the claims that he’s making,” said Mr Donohoe.

“I was a student of economics in the 1990s, when we were taught to believe that financial markets were rational, and that they were able to process all information that was available to them at all times. And I think we’ve all learned, and I’ve certainly learned that that kind of theory and that kind of framework bears little resemblance to the real world.”

He said that economics needs to evolve and to reflect on what people have learned in the last few years.

Mr Donohoe said he believes economics is taught well within many of our universities. “Because it’s taught well, that doesn’t preclude the need for a debate and a discussion of these matters,” he added.

Asked if he agreed with University of Limerick economist, Stephen Kinsella, that Mr Higgins’ views were out of date, Mr Donohoe remarked: I think the President is well up to date on this. And I think if you look at the reading, and thoughts of our President, I think it is pretty obvious he is on top of many of the different themes and trends in economics.”

Mr Donohoe was speaking at the new UCD Student Village where he launched the Government’s Transformation Strategy; Better Public Services. He also met secondary school students participating in the School of Education’s Cyber Resilience Education outreach initiative.

Asked about Tánaiste’s Micheál Martin’s remarks on The Ditch website, Mr Donohoe said that Mr Martin raised “really important issues last week regarding some of the political claims that have been made”.

Speaking in the Dáil last Thursday, Mr Martin described the investigative website as “a political organisation” that wants to attack and undermine confidence in the Government.

“(The Tánaiste) is member of Government. And he is raising issues regarding this that are also in the public interest. And I believe it’s entirely appropriate for him to do so.”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times