Student Niamh Buffini works hard and plays hard. As Ireland's No 1 taekwondo martial arts practitioner her ambitions include winning Olympic gold for Ireland.
But by the end of this month her future will have been decided by forces not just beyond her control but seemingly those of her government also. Ireland is on the cusp of insolvency. Some economists argue that it already is. Buffini will soon learn if her fees at the Institute of Technology in Tallaght, south Dublin, have climbed beyond her means.
Her father is a self-employed builder, which has recently become a euphemism for "unemployed".
“My class size will have dropped by 50% by next year,” Buffini said. “Even lecturers took part in the recent student protests over fees because society here is going to be left with very few educated people. My best friends have already left – they're doing bar work in Spain and Australia.”
Last week was not a good week for Ireland. Speculation about a EU-backed bailout pushed its borrowing costs to unprecedented heights.
At Buffini's college on Friday, the day began with a protest by construction workers who were supposed to have been working on a new wing. Their paymaster Michael McNamara had been put into receivership under the weight of debts of €1.5bn, leaving them jobless.
So far the workers' demonstrations have been largely peaceful. Indeed, many Tallaght students seemed shocked by the violence they witnessed in TV reports from London involving their British counterparts. But that may change. GNS