The creation of a university in the Southeast is about stroke policy, not education
The Italians had Machiavelli to explain their political culture, France had Richelieu and we had Paddy O’Carroll, the great sociologist of the UCC.
His article ‘Strokes, cute hoors and sneaking regarders’ is still the best user manual for Irish politics.
It exposes the deep weave of Irish politics, which calls politicians or “pretty hoors” in Paddy’s technical parlance, who fire shots on behalf of a community full of sneaky onlookers.
He argued that Ireland was not a democracy because the weaving of community, the need to shoot for your territory was so strong, that it shut down any real debate or political choice.
You need Paddy’s advice on how we arrived at this week’s announcement from Southeastern Technological University.
It is important to say that this has nothing to do with education, and everything to do with how our national policy works.
Every Irish university founded after 1980 was a political project for regional development.
Since then, university degrees have become essential for having a good life.
The average income without a diploma is of the order of twenty thousand, with an average closer to fifty thousand.
Certainly, it is difficult to buy a house without a degree income.
Indeed, Ireland Inc’s magic bullet is higher education, as much as it is about low corporate tax or EU membership.
Until the 1990s Irish labor was cheap, and IDA sold us as diligent, hardworking and cheap; since then IDA has commercialized talent, which is the code for quality higher education and research.
Cork’s rebirth from the dark and damp lows of the 1980s, marked by the shutdowns of Sunbeam, Ford and Dunlop, is largely an achievement of UCC.
The University of Limerick, established in 1989, has more than anything else swept away theto the “stab city” atmosphere of Limerick.
Beyond Charlie McCreevy’s subtle political patronage, not much is known about how and why Maynooth became a university in 1997, but it is now making a dent in the economic malaise of the Midlands.
It was therefore a surprise when the Cabinet rejected the 2005 application of the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to become a full-fledged university.
Rationally, it didn’t make sense.
About 10% of the Irish live in the South East, or nearly 500,000 people; around 3% of Irish attend university at any given time, so you would expect a student population of 15,000, a lot for a university.
Instead of a university, a national review was launched – the Hunt Report – which essentially asked the Irish higher education system to solve the problem.
From this process, ideas from Universities of Technology (TU) emerged to explicitly address the Waterford problem by creating a new middle category and streamlining the Institute of Technology (IoT) sector.
Between 2000 and 2020, the university sector grew by 40%, while the IoT / TU sector only grew by 3%. ; this growth followed the public investment policy.
In power, they retracted that promise, and attention turned to the leadership of WIT; careers were abruptly interrupted, investigation after investigation into WIT generated a lot of smoke and no fire.
During this time, the region began a gloomy economic malaise.
In fact, it had entered a recession a few years before the Celtic Tiger expired, which prompted the initial application to college.
The national recession doubled the regional recession. As the national economy recovered, the region’s recovery was sporadic and anemic.
Regional GDP has now reached 70% of the national average, incomes are low, unemployment high. PAYE tax returns represent 48% of the national average.
The IDA overrun is miserable.
Voters have fled the government’s traditional political parties.
These young people flock to the university towns of Dublin, Cork and Limerick with their parents’ money, but end up earning a living and settling far from home.
With the state now spending € 10 billion this year on investment projects, it would be reasonable to expect the South East to absorb € 880 million.
The government refuses to release figures on capital spending, but it is difficult to get a rudimentary calculation above 200 million euros.
Indeed, the government has frustrated all strategic issues in the South East – most symbolically, 24/7 cardiac care, but more generally hospital, university, M24, airport, North Quays, Trinity Wharf and Abbey Quarter are all in stalled development.
It is against this background that the announcement of the establishment of a Southeastern Technological University was greeted with a groan.
In truth, few people in the region believe that Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, their parties and their ministers, because to us they look like cute hoors pulling for Dublin and Cork, each has been intimately involved in stopping progress. economic and social life of the region with every chance they had.
The ball is in their court to prove us wrong.
- Dr Ray Griffin is Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management at WIT. His opinions are personal