WIT university application gets another council airing

With a change of Taoiseach on the political horizon, the issue of upgrading Waterford Institute of Technology to university status was again discussed by city councillors in City Hall on Monday night.

Two weeks ago, a large group from Waterford and the South East descended on the front gates of Leinster House to campaign for the upgrading of WIT.

However, coverage of the demonstration took a back seat in national curiosity, as Bertie Ahern had chosen the same day to tell the public that he was stepping down as leader of the country.

On Monday night, there were unanimous pleas from the councillors present to keep the issue to the forefront of the public consciousness.

Cllr Mary Roche said: “As the only locally elected body, it is important to make sure that this issue doesn’t go away. Up to now our efforts have focused on Bertie Ahern and the Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin. Ms Hanafin spins out the same argument no matter how many times it has been discounted.

“We must now show Mr Cowan that we are not going away. We must keep banging on the Fianna Fáil door that WIT needs to be upgraded to a university. We must set down a marker to show him that one eight of the population of this state will not accept lower educational opportunities than the rest of the country.”

Independent councillor Davy Daniels gave credit to the TDs and senators from other counties in the South East that turned up at the demonstration. He added that it was important that everybody continued in a united front.

He said: “Now more than ever the South East as a region must work together. We are the only region in Ireland without a university. It costs almost €15,000 to send a student away to university and so many boys and girls are being deprived of that chance.

“At the last election, voters gave their vote to Fianna Fail in particular. They now have a chance to honour their commitment for the people of the South East to allow them to compete on a level playing field.”

Cllr Davy Walsh said they were unlucky that the protest happened on the same day the Taoiseach resigned. He also called on the other councillors to start a strong email campaign to the Department of Education. Cllr Joe Kelly agreed that an email campaign could help keep pressure on the new Taoiseach’s office.

Deputising for the City Mayor on the night, Fine Gael councillor Hillary Quinlan finished off the discussion by stating that it remained an important issue on the agenda. He also hoped aloud by saying; “There will be a change of Taoiseach in two weeks and possibly a change of education minister, hopefully for the better.”

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