Irish dump fees plan to avert split

May 30, 2003

The Irish government has been forced to ditch plans to bring back tuition fees. Instead, it will invest more in schemes to help students from lower socioeconomic groups get into higher education.

The climbdown came at the weekend when it became clear the issue could cause the coalition government to collapse. The minority Progressive Democrats party strongly opposed the return of fees, abolished in 1996.

Education minister Noel Dempsey of the larger Fianna Fail party initially held his ground, insisting that he wanted the rich to pay fees to create funds for schemes for the disadvantaged.

After a week of political tension and student protest, a compromise was cobbled together that gets the government off the hook. Mr Dempsey will get extra funding this year from "savings" in a department run, ironically, by the Progressive Democrats.

The minister said he still believed the rich should pay but was satisfied he now had money from elsewhere to further his agenda.

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