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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 24 Jun 1980

Vol. 322 No. 9

National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, Bill, 1980: Fifth Stage.

I move: "That the Bill do now pass."

We have debated this Bill at length. The Bill, as it stands, is not exactly acceptable to me. At this point in time all I can do is wish the National Institute for Higher Education in Limerick good luck in the higher education sphere. I hope they will be more successful in getting funds from the Government than our university colleges have been in the past year or so. They are doing excellent work especially in the technological sector, much needed in a fast developing economy. Certainly they have the best wishes of the Fine Gael party. I hope the Government will back up their words by ensuring that adequate funds are made available for its continued development.

The major reaction of most people concerned with the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, was one of disappointment that the Minister has been so receptive. This is the opinion not alone of the people immediately involved with the institute, such as the governing body, staff and students, but also professional bodies, such as the Irish Federation of University Teachers who see in this Bill some very dangerous precedents for university colleges.

I am glad to see that the Minister has effected substantial amendments. Whether or not they are sufficient time alone will tell. The Minister paid tribute himself to such NIHE graduates who have gone abroad. In Ireland the institute has a better percentage placement record for their graduates than any of the traditional universities and the CAO first choice applications for 1980 illustrate that the parents and school teachers of Ireland are rapidly recognising this fact. Whereas the first choice applications this year for all of the traditional universities are down significantly on last year, with the exception of Trinity, which is up 4.1 per cent and UCD which is up by 1 per cent, the number of applications for the NIHE are up by 35.8 per cent on 1978 and considerably higher on the year 1979. The Minister and his predesessor emphasised the need for this type of graduate in Ireland taking his proper place in the world of the 1980s.

The Minister is to be commended for his decision to make money available for the retraining of commerce graduates in engineering and science. But if the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, is to maintain its present rate of progress it cannot afford to be shackled. They must have power to hire the personnel they deem most suitable for their needs and to dismiss them if necessary subject of course, to the provisions of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977. Above all they must have the resources necessary to allow them fulfil their role. This role, although exercised in Limerick is a national one and not alone Limerick but the nation will hold the Minister accountable if he refuses to allow it develop its full potential by keeping too tight a grasp on the purse strings.

The Minister and indeed other people involved in education have said that the NIHE, limerick, should be as good as other universities. I can tell the Minister that the NIHE, Limerick, is as good but will be better. It is at present the envy of a lot of universities. If the Minister is fair with it I believe the NIHE Limerick has fantastic potential. We in Limerick and in that region are very proud of it. We are monitoring very carefully what the Minister and his Department are doing for the institute. We are very proud that it is located in Limerick. We know it is the envy of a lot of other areas. We hope that the Minister and his Department will not in any way shackle its progress.

As spokesman for the Labour Party on Education all I want to do is to wish the National Institute of Higher Education in Limerick the best of good luck in its now statutory existence, to wish it the best of luck in the annual fight for allocations and to urge the Minister, on the basis of this Bill which we have now trimmed and fashioned very effectively in this House, to bring the Bill for the establishment of the NIHE Dublin before us at an early opportunity so that we can deal with that problem as well.

I thank Deputies for their contributions during the course of the debate on this Bill at all Stages. I want to thank Deputy Collins and Deputy Horgan particularly. I regret that Deputy Lipper did not come in earlier. I am sure, based on my judgment of his contribution, he could have helped us a great deal earlier on.

I want to assure Deputies and the House that this baby has been from the very beginning a Government baby, that the Government intend to nurture this baby, so that it will grow to manhood with the finances made available by this Government so that all the wishes and all the hopes that Deputy Lipper has expressed for it will be realised. As Deputy Lipper said, it has already its own niche in third level education. I can tell the House and Deputy Lipper, who mentioned this in particular, that I will be held accountable for its progress or lack of progress. I will be prepared to be judged by the people on the amount of attention devoted to and the funding that will be made available to the institute.

I want to thank Deputies and the House for their aid during the passage of this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.