After a blogobreak of quite some months, it seems apposite that these online musings should resume on a day when higher education – at least tangentially – dominated the media headlines. Unfortunately, the coverage was not of a hue that would be desired less than one week after the government’s strategy for the internationalisation of Irish education was published. The choreography of the day is by now well-rehearsed, so there is no need to replay here any of the crucial scenes.
It does seem, however, short-sighted by Fine Gael to refuse a pairing to the Tánaiste on this occasion, especially when the presence of senior government ministers has proven so crucial in the past to education and trade missions. In equal measure, we could question what the government was attempting to do by suggesting that Mary Coughlan would be in the Dáil on Wednesday to answer questions about Fás and a host of other matters. If, as it seems, this trade expedition was in planning over the past 18 months, then surely it should have been possible to reschedule her time in the Dáil hot seat. Whatever their personal merits, it should not have fallen to a junior minister to answer those particular questions. On this – as on so many other topics – one cannot look past Seán O’Rourke’s interviews on the News at One with Enda Kenny and Batt O’Keeffe. His probing of the politicians – ‘Haven’t you gone a bit far?’ and ‘It looks like there’s a bit of a dodge going on’ – captured the frustration of the man and woman on the street.
Now that the Minister has decided that she is going to travel to the US after all, let us hope that the controversy does not follow her across the Atlantic. The Education Ireland brand is still being nurtured in international territories; it needs supportive action from all of our politicians and other stakeholders, if it is to thrive and survive.