Education faces cuts of €100m, says Quinn
EDUCATION cutbacks in the 2014 Budget could be two-and- a-half times greater than the €44m predicted.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has warned that up to €100m could be cut with student grants, allowances, class sizes and small schools now "on the table".
He admitted his department faces "a worrying time."
The former Labour leader said hard decisions still have to be taken though he refused to speculate on precisely where the savings might be achieved for the Budget on October 15.
However, Ireland's 4,000 primary and secondary schools face a fifth round of cost-cutting since 2008.
He pointed out that Ireland's third level registration fee, which will rise to €3,000 by 2015/16, remains lower than in Northern Ireland and the UK.
Student Union officials are worried that, from 2016, there will be a spiral in registration fees to bring them into line with EU norms.
Mr Quinn was greeted at University College Cork (UCC) yesterday by a student protest including banners warning "Enough Cuts" and "Students Cannot Afford to Eat."
UCC Student Union deputy president, Anne Hoey warned that third level students cannot afford any further cuts to grants and allowances.
"For some students it is now a choice between paying the rent or being able to eat.
"Cutbacks to education have had a huge impact over the past five years and young people are being left with no alternative other than the ferry or plane abroad."
Mr Quinn admitted that the education sector faces challenging times.
"We are all worried. Every household is worried about the situation because of the economy ... we are not out of the woods yet," he said.
"I don't want to frighten anybody, that is why I don't want to respond to individual questions because a tentative answer to a question can become a forecast that it is going to happen."
Mr Quinn insisted his department still don't know how severe the cuts will be.
"The budgetary difficulty for the Department of Education is that we don't have final figures and we won't have final figures until early in September.
"Everything has to be put on the table. We have to regain our economic sovereignty and balance our budgets. We are borrowing more than we are raising in terms of revenue.
"They range at the moment, and I am being quite frank, from €100m back down to €44m. We will have clarity in the next four to five weeks in relation to that."
Teaching unions including the INTO, TUI and ASTI warned that an education sector reeling from five years of austerity cannot sustain further cuts.
Mr Quinn said everything possible is being done to minimise the impact of cuts.