Dermot Looney, Labour's candidate in June's local elections in Tallaght Central, has joined with local students and their families in opposing the re-introduction of third-level fees. He was speaking as about 15,000 students marched on the Dáil to demand the retention of the free fees initative. Looney, 26, began his political career as a student activist in UCD and played a part in the campaign which defeated proposals to reintroduce fees in 2003.
Looney has written to the officers of IT Tallaght Students' Union and the Union of Students in Ireland expressing his solidarity and has pledged to do all he can, if elected to the Council, to support students. The Greenhills-based candidate, who works as a primary school teacher in Tallaght, noted that the County Council retains control over student maintenance grants, while Councillors are also involved at VEC level and as members of governing bodies in higher institutions.
"I agree with USI when they point out that education is the only way out of this economic downturn for our young people - be they at primary, secondary or third level - or beyond," said Looney. "The Labour Party opposes the reintroduction of fees and wants to see investment at all levels of education be the fundamental basis for economic recovery."
"Labour was correct to bring in free fees in 1996. It enabled me and thousands of others from working class backgrounds the chance to go to college. As a socialist, I believe in free education across the levels because it is a basic human right and because it is the most liberating tool we as a society have."
"It is entirely dishonest to portray the reintroduction of fees as the rich paying and all others retaining a waiver of some sort. Instead, the very rich will continue their advantage while everyone else will be hit with costs running into tens of thousands of euro, the likelihood of crippling debt and the reality that many will simply not be able to afford it.