Come on you Boys and Girls in Green!

It’s a tough world out there.  But young people in green have been proving recently that sometimes difficult things just seem to be daunting or impossible.  And that a combination of concentration, commitment, and clarity of intent can deliver the goods.

Think Women’s hockey. Think Limerick hurling.  Think paralympics swimming and track gold for Ellen Keane and Jason Smyth.  In the past month alone these young people in green have done their communities and country proud.

We have another team wearing green that now needs to step up to the plate.  The key stars in this team are named Pascal, Richard and Mary.

Together it’s their job to get higher education back on track, by getting real funding and investment increases over the line.

They don’t have to do it this month.  Next month in the Budget will do.

They have been in training ground now for quite a while.  The problem is that, they may be talking the talk but, unlike the other teams in green, there seems to be a worrying and consistent lack of belief and commitment to delivery. 

In his Budget 2017 speech Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe said that “Education is the bedrock of our society and the desire for educational success resonates deeply with all of us.”

Last year for Budget 2018 he reassured both himself and the country that indeed “Education, at all levels, is the bedrock of Irish society.”

But instead of putting on the green jersey for education spending, it was more a case of Paschal in PJs.

Even worse, Minister Richard Bruton, with the backing of his Minister for Finance, decided last year that someone else should deliver the medals.

“Enterprise must have a greater role in shaping the type of education and training that is delivered,” he declared when announcing that the only real increases in third level funding would come from hiking the National Training Fund levy.  A funding process that the government intends to hide behind until 2020.

Far from being grateful for being handed increased control over our third-level courses and content, employers’ organisation, IBEC, strongly criticised the decision as “an inadequate ‘fix’ due to the absence of a credible and more sustainable solution” 

Let’s be blunt about all this.

The government is refusing to put in the hard yards for education, is dodging the ‘dirty ball’ and swimming in circles.  As far as delivering realistic higher education investment is concerned they may as well be taking a stroll.

The 2016 Cassels Report continues to gather dust while our colleges, staff and students suffer the consequences.  This despite the sacrifices of staff embargoes, wage cuts and soaring student numbers during the past decade of recession.

In short it is time for the government to start delivering the necessary funding for higher education!