Westmeath Independent

Published: Friday, 25th January, 2013 4:21pm

OPINION: A society with mixed up priorities

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A society with mixed up priorities

Sometimes it's the little things that reveal the true structures and instincts of a society.

And this week, the revelation that political offices are exempt from commercial rates while charity shops are not is an example of how lopsided Irish civic life can be.

The Irish Independent revealed this week that a lucrative perk introduced some years ago as part of the national valuation regulations meant TDs' offices were exempt from rates.

However charities such as St Vincent de Paul and Oxfam have rates charged on their premises at the same rate as other commercial premises.

Somehow in Ireland, it's always the little person who suffers.

Government must let Athlone IT continue to flourish

Athlone IT deserves great praise for its ongoing development and growth.

The college has become synonymous with sporting excellence and the opening of its pristine new indoor athletics arena can only add another string to its bow.

The indoor track will host its first event this weekend - and the glistening glazed structure which now sits adjacent to its astroturf facility is a real jewel in the midlands' sporting crown.

The college will later in the year host the Sigerson Cup for the first time; and it is the ongoing host of the National Community Games finals.

Spectators going to Athlone IT this weekend can look forward a spectacular opening Sunday with competitive fields assembled by Athletics Ireland in a large number of track and field events.

Events such as this, and the Sigerson Cup and Community Games, bring visitors to the town, help to improve the midlands' reputation, both in sporting and business terms, and continue to cement the institute's status in the country.

It's with relief therefore that many people would have read that the Higher Education Authority, in a key report published last week, has provisionally recommended that Athlone IT remain as a standalone institution.

The recommendation, in what the HEA is stressing is only a discussion document, comes as the report also proposes that the country's 39 third-level institutions be reduced to 24.

However, aside from a proposal that Athlone IT enter into a formal partnership arrangement with the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, the college is spared the potential axe.

Given Athlone IT's significance regionally both as a magnet for industry, research and development capacity and business, as well as its obvious educational importance in a region which traditionally has low third-level take up rates, it's vital for the region that the HEA and the Government ensure Athlone IT continues to flourish.

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