Local TDs slam ‘inaccurate’ USI list

Local TDs Mary O’Rourke and James Bannon have slammed a list published by the Union of Students of Ireland this week, which they say does not accurately reflect their positions on third level fees.

The full page ad taken out by USI in Monday’s Irish Times detailed what the union says is each politician’s position on the proposed reintroduction of fees, and claimed that Deputy O’Rourke is ‘in favour of the reintroduction of fees’, and that Deputy Bannon had not responded to the USI’s questions despite several attempts to contact him.

However, both TDs say the list is innacurate.

Deputy O’Rourke told the Advertiser this week that while she had replied to all correspondence from various students’ unions, she had at no time said she was in favour of the reintroduction of fees.

“I took great care with my replies, but from what I sent to them they got that I was in favour of fees,” said Deputy O’Rourke.

In her replies to students, the Fianna Fail TD refused to be drawn on her position on fees, as she said no proposals have yet been brought to the Government.

“The Parliamentary party has not yet seen any proposals as yet which Batt O’Keeffe has brought to the Cabinet - we have only read what is in the newspapers, so therefore I simply cannot comment nor answer the questions which you have asked me,” she wrote.

“I can say to you with full clarity that there will be no such schemes in place come next September, therefore the students whom you presently represent will not be part of whatever the ongoing proposals will be,” she added.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael’s Deputy Bannon, who is strongly opposed to the reintroduciton of third level fees, rejected USI claims that he had refused to respond to their questions. He is adamant that he received no correspondence on the issue.

“They didn’t have my constituency office or home address, had the wrong phone number, and no post came to my Dublin office,” said a frustrated Deputy Bannon.

“I am totally opposed to the reintroduction of college fees. There is no such thing as free education as it is. There should be a level playing pitch for all students.

“I don’t see how the Government can introduce fees when they are not providing jobs for students after they leave college.”

While Labour’s Deputy Willie Penrose was listed as being opposed to fees, the USI also claimed that Deputy Peter Kelly (FF ) had not responded to their questions. However, Deputy Kelly was unavailable to comment on the issue.

While welcoming Deputy Bannon’s stance against third level fees, president of AIT Students’ Union, Gary Cassin, yesterday urged TDs to continue to voice their opposition to the Government’s “short-sighted proposals”.

“Supporting these proposals would place a mortgage on the future of students in Longford and Westmeath. Tuition fees or student loans would present a major barrier to education, at a time when the Government needs to introduce improved access routes,” he said.

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