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Dublin: 5 °C Sunday 8 December, 2019

Greens to draw Reg Fee lines at €2,500

The fractious discussions on a new registration fee may lead to compromise within the government parties.

Paul Gogarty of the Green Party:
Paul Gogarty of the Green Party: "We're going to fight for that increase [in the third-level registration fee] to be as small as possible."
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE GREEN PARTY are to agree to raising the third-level registration fee to a maximum of €2,500, forcing a compromise from Fianna Fáil, it is reported this morning.

The Greens, who have previously expressed fundamental opposition to increasing the fees, are reported to now be in agreement with Fianna Fáil about the need to increase the fee as the government tries to prepare a full package of financial adjustments, according to both the Irish Times and Irish Independent.

Fianna Fáil ministers had been keen to double the current €1,500 fee to a full €3,000 a year – a figure defence minister Tony Killeen had refused to rule out on Sunday night’s The Week In Politics.

On this morning’s Morning Ireland, the Greens’ education spokesman Paul Gogarty refused to offer a concrete figure as to what his party would consider an acceptable increase, admitting that there would “have to be an increase, [but] we’re going to fight for that increase to be as small as possible.

“We know that some areas in the education budget are going to have to be hit – we’re not playing fantasy politics here, but at the same time education is crucial and it needs to perform than other sectors because it is the engine room of our recovery.”

Last year we managed to stop any increase in registration fees; this year I said to the USI [Union of Students in Ireland], ‘Look, with the economy the way it is, there is going to be an increase, but as far as I’m concerned not to the extent that it’s going to be seen as fees through the back door.

What’s being touted in the print media at the moment [a proposed fee of €3,000] certainly would be fees by the back door.

Alternative methods of funding for third-level like a ‘graduate tax’ where students repay the value of their education in the years after they graduate could not be afforded, he added, because it would require a capital outlay of €160m to begin with.

The prospect of a full-blown return of third-level fees is seen as a non-starter, with a commitment not to introduce “any new scheme of student contribution to third level education” safeguarded in last year’s renewed Programme for Government.

USI is to hold a national protest march in Dublin tomorrow, complaining that introducing new barriers to third-level education will lead to a renewed wave of emigration.

The government is also understood to be planning a new €500 registration fee for post-Leaving Certificate courses as well as an increase in class sizes.

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Gavan Reilly

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