Education Minister Batt O\'Keeffe.

Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe.

New Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe has been advised to take a decisive course of action on WIT’s submission for university status.

In a letter to the Minister dated May 12th, Senator Paudie Coffey has asked Minister O’Keeffe when he “proposes to advance the application” as well as when the recommendations of the Port Report would be put to Government.

Writes Senator Coffey: “Your predecessor, Minister Mary Hanafin gave an undertaking in Dáil Éireann that proposals based on the recommendations in the Port report would be put to Government shortly. ‘It will happen in the coming weeks’ – that was on Wednesday 9th April 2008, over one month ago.”

“I understand with the changes of Taoiseach and Cabinet that this decision may have been delayed somewhat.

“However, I now ask that the issue be refocused upon because this is a very important matter for the entire south east region especially in the context of the delivery of the National Spatial Strategy and balanced regional development as outlined in the Programme for Government.”

Senator Coffey feels that a swift decision on WIT’s submission is now long overdue.

“The previous Minister for Education consistently fudged on this application and was reluctant to progress University status for WIT, a decision on this application is long overdue,” he said.

He questioned: “Will Minister O’Keeffe have the political courage to judge the WIT application on its merits and progress it to the next stage in the statutory process?”

Upon the appointment of a new Minister to office, Senator Coffey has re-iterated the importance of WIT’s gaining university status for the region.

“The key issue on which he must decide is whether to allow the Waterford application, which was made in 2005, to be independently assessed under section nine of the University Act, as it currently stands.

“As Fine Gael’s policy document on this issue shows, a policy that is endorsed by the FG leadership and Education spokesman, Brian Hayes, Waterford should be independently assessed and, we believe, in that situation, it would be granted university status. The south east deserves it.”