Labour should not continue in government, according to outgoing Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan.
The Labour TD from Limerick City barely hung onto her seat in this election. She gained the final seat on the sixth count, failing to meet the vote quota and scraping by on transfers.
“We were in government and were offering to continue fighting for equality, for those services we think are important, and people decided they didn’t want us,” she told the Irish Examiner Thursday.
Election 2016 ended Labour’s time as the country’s second biggest party. The number of seats they occupied dropped from 33 to 7, making it the worst election in their 104-year history.
When Jan O’Sullivan was appointed Minister for Education and Skills in 2014, she faced an uphill battle to regain the trust of students.
Ruari Quinn, who preceded her as Minister, signed a pledge that the government would not continue to hike fees in 2011. Ten months later, €250 was added to cost of education in the new budget.
Jan O’Sullivan’s short time as Minister oversaw two budgets. In the 2015 budget, there were no cuts to the maintenance grant and €25m was restored to higher education funding. However, the fees rose to €3,000 and rent prices had risen by 17 per cent in Dublin that summer.
There was no mention of third-level funding except for €3m towards the Student Assistance Fund in Budget 2016. The SAF is a form of financial aid for disadvantaged students in third-level. Another €2m was added for developing Technology Universities in Dublin and Munster.
With the main focus falling on primary and secondary schools, the USI surveyed students and said that “80 per cent of students would not vote for the current government after the new budget.”
The Higher Education submitted a report to the Dept. of Education calling for tax breaks on the Local Property Tax and zero VAT to ease the cost of building these sites. As the College View reported, The Department rejected these proposals, saying they were unjustified.
In February she refused to rule out more fees. She said: “We are not ruling anything in or out. We want to have that debate, but I want to stress again that Labour will not have barriers to moving forward in education.”
Student loan systems were recently suggested in leaked reports, something the USI has insisted will cause ‘crippling debt’. Labour’s poor showing in the election suggests students were unimpressed by these proposals.