Batt O'Keeffe: you do the maths

Having been through a week where two economists told me that politicians don't know what they are talking about when it comes to numbers, it seemed karmic when a government minister who put his faith in a number cruncher was seriously let down.

The Minister for Education, Batt O'Keeffe, asked the University College Cork economist Dr Noel Woods to come up with the amount of money the government might make if third-level fees were re-introduced on a means-tested basis.

Dr Woods came up with projected figures, which he has since admitted were wrong – in fact they were miscalculated by a mere €400m.

The economist simply got his maths mixed up and used the wrong base number to reach his conclusion. Minister O'Keeffe refused to believe that his trusty maths genius was mistaken, until the man himself confirmed the error.

What is more worrying? The fact that an economist didn't know how to multiply the right figures and come up with the right answer, or the frightening realisation that the minister wasn't savvy enough to realise that he hadn't just found a way to skim another half a billion from the taxpayers' pocket?