Sinn Féin MEP criticises government for treatment of students

by Colin Gannon

According to Ni Riada, the decades-old “pendulum swing of power between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael” that the current coalition carries on, is to blame for deprioritizing education funding. Image Credit: Banteer National School

A Sinn Fein MEP has slammed the Government for treating students like commodities and called for a scale-back to third-level funding cuts.

Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada was speaking at a hearing on the EU’s Youth Strategy in the Culture and Education Committee, on which she sits, when she made the comments.

Speaking to The College View, Ní Riada made clear her feelings that the current education system is faltering and criticised the State for inaction, which she says will result in a legacy of inequality and students being saddled with debt post-education.

“Their worth to the institution they are in is measured only in the fees they pay. Cuts to education budgets as well as cuts to and in some cases the removal of bursaries, funds and other schemes designed to help less well off students have pushed people out of education.

“This is an equality issue. When any young person decides not to pursue their education because they feel they cannot afford it the state has failed them.”

The Oireachtas Education Committee tasked to compile recommendations for a new higher education funding model is still considering the Cassells Report which detailed the systematic, chronic under-funding of the third-level sector.

The decades-old “pendulum swing of power between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael” is to blame for education funding not being prioritised, despite the government bailing out the banks during the financial crisis and turning a blind-eye to large-scale corporate tax evasion according to Ní Riada,

Sinn Féin have long called for an education system which promotes free and equal access for all. Ní Riada admits that while it is certainly an ideological position of the party, it is by no means unfeasible financially, name-checking free-education pioneers in Finland, Norway and Germany.

Last October, Budget 2018 revealed a €47.5 million increase in funding for higher education. Ní Riada claims that this announcement failed to combat years of under-investment and radical reform is required.

“What is required to address this crisis is the same thing that is required to address the housing crisis,
the trolley crisis and the mental health crisis; political will.”

Colin Gannon

Image Credit: Image Credit: Banteer National School