By Aishling Phelan
Labour DCU believes Young Fine Gael is merely “cheering on” its parliamentary party and is failing to come up with its own independent policies.
Chairman of DCU Labour Youth, David Healion, said: ‘‘It does seem that Young Fine Gael are just cheering on their senior party members which is a bit ridiculous, they really should be coming up with new ideas for students.’’
DCU Young Fine Gael recently announced that it firmly supports the abolition of postgraduate supports announced in Budget 2012.
‘‘The state is already providing you to get your qualification. We believe if you want to further your education, you may want to see your own means to do that,” said Ryan Hunt, chairman of DCU YFG.
‘‘Personally I think that there should be ways that, if there are people who don’t have the financial means to do a (a postgrad) course, there should be provisions put a side,” he added.
A survey carried out by The College View found that almost half of final year DCU students who responded and are not applying for a postgraduate course next year had intended to do so before the scrapping of the grants.
‘‘It’s definitely a Fine Gael policy. If Labour were in government on their own I believe that wouldn’t be the case,” Healion said. He added that the youth wings of Ireland’s political parties should challenge their senior party members.
‘‘I know ourselves, with Labour Youth nationally, we’re always arguing with the senior party members in Labour. A lot of what Labour is doing at the moment is not acceptable, cutting the SNAs [special needs assistants], cuts in the grant, increasing the fees. We’ve no problem going against our parties on the issues.’’
However, YFG, like many rebel Fine Gael backbenchers, is calling on the government to scrap the Croke Park deal and introduce pay cuts for public servants (including public representatives) earning over €80,000 annually.
‘‘It’s obviously not competitive enough and very expensive to run. If you look in line with other European countries our civil servants are very highly paid in comparison and it’s something that has to be revisited and negotiated,” Hunt said.
Labour DCU remains undecided on the Croke Park Agreement. Healion admitted that he personally didn’t know enough about it to cast judgment.
Both parties are in favour of the government holding a referendum on the EU Fiscal Compact Treaty.
‘‘It’s such an important topic, I think that we should have a referendum because it gives the people their opinion on it all,’’ Hunt said.
When asked whether the coalition was trying to avoid putting the decision in the hands of the Irish public, Hunt said: ‘‘The way they’re looking at it is that people will use the referendum as a bit of a platform to express their views on other issues. Pperhaps they’re not talking about the real issue at hand.’’
Healion is confident the treaty will eventually pass. ‘‘If it doesn’t pass, it will be the same thing that happened with Nice and the Lisbon Treaty, we’ll vote until they get the right one,’’ he said.
Both parties also defended some of the recent public hiccups made by Fine Gael.
In relation to Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s claim that young people were leaving the country for ‘lifestyle choices’, Healion said, ‘‘My understanding [is that] he was taken out of context, still in the media that was terrible. It’s shocking that he would even say something like that. It’s throwing it in the face of all the families and a lot of people who have left the country.’’
Hunt agreed the comments were taken out of context but said, ‘‘there’s a lot of ill-feeling at the moment from people who have to emigrate.’’
Commenting on Enda Kenny’s remarks that “people went mad borrowing”, Healion stressed that there was a lot of other elements in the Irish economy that triggered the financial crash.
‘‘[Kenny] was blaming the banks recklessly handing out the money, people thought that they could keep getting this money. To a certain extent he’s right, people were borrowing money recklessly but you don’t blame the Irish people,’’ he said.