Fianna Fáil Leader Asked What Govt Dept He Wants To Abolish For Education Demand

Fine Gael has asked Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin which government department he would like to abolish to pay for his demand for a new portfolio for higher education.

Criticising Mr Martin, Fine Gael Senator Maria Byrne, who sits on the Education Committee, said she was surprised and confused to hear that the Fianna Fáil leader told an Irish Universities Association conference that he would like to see a dedicated department for higher education and research.

Senator Byrne said: "I was surprised Deputy Martin seemed unaware that higher education is already treated as its own portfolio within the Department of Education with a dedicated Minister who sits at the Cabinet table. The sector also benefits from ringfenced funding.

"I was also confused as to which department Deputy Martin would like to abolish to allow for the creation of this new entity as he didn't say how he would achieve a new higher education department. Perhaps the most recent ones created, the Department of Children or the Department of Rural and Community Affairs? Or maybe one of the other 15 departments?

"There cannot be new departments created without implications for Government. Please, let's hear further or is this just another rash proposal with no thought or planning?

"Deputy Martin and his party colleagues were very vocal in 2016 on their opposition to changes made to existing departments.

"Would he forsake the dedicated portfolio on the welfare and protection of children or the targeted division to promote rural and community development to establish a department which is already catered for," Senator Byrne asked.

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