BUDGET 2019: Education

Emily Sheahan

USI criticizes Rainy Day Fund in Budget 2019

Higher Education, Further Education & Training, and Research will receive an investment of €150 million, said Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in his Budget 2019 speech on October 9th. 

The Department of Education and Skills will be allocated a total of €10.8 billion in 2019, said Donohoe. This is an increase of 6.7 per cent.

Union of Students in Ireland President Síona Cahill said: “What we’ve seen today is a complete lack of serious commitment from government when it comes to Higher Education funding”.

“Essentially, what we saw today is a meager €57 million in additional funds” she said. Cahill told The College View that this doesn’t reflect the bulge in student numbers.

“I don’t think this is a Budget for students and I think they will rue the day that they made that decision.” Cahill said the USI was “extremely disappointed” with the outcome.

She added that they saw no measures in terms of accommodation that would alleviate the crisis. “This is a landlord’s Budget and not a student’s Budget”.

The Budget speech contained a Rainy Day Fund of €1.5 billion, which will come from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. A further €500 million is to be added to the fund annually from 2019. Donohoe said the Rainy Day Fund is intended to strengthen Ireland’s “ability to withstand economic shocks”.

USI said that “the rainy day is now” for Higher Education in Ireland.

“As public finances have improved, [the] Government have continually ignored the plight of young people, students, and educators,” said Cahill.

Donohoe’s speech revealed that an additional €196 million will be allocated to capital in Education in 2019 to support the creation of up to 18,000 additional permanent school places and 5,000 replacement places. This is also intended to facilitate the further upgrade of ICT infrastructure in schools.

950 Special Needs Assistants are to be recruited in 2019, bringing the total to over 15,900.

In regards to the previously pitched ‘Granny-flat Grant’, Cahill said: “I think we shouldn’t have to, at this point in time, be relying on anyone’s granny to be fixing the accommodation crisis”. Cahill described it as a small attempt in patching up something that should have been dealt with in planning  many years ago.

“We won’t be giving up until we have a publicly funded Higher Education sector that is accessible to as many students as possible,” she said.

General Secretary of the Irish Federation University Teachers Joan Donegan said the specific amount intended for universities within the €150 million allocated to Higher Education, Further Education & Training, and Research needs to be clarified.

DCU Students’ Union VP for Education and Placement Craig McHugh said: “It’s really worrying to see that government are basically, totally ignoring students”.

“I think the government think that Higher Education is something that a government down the future will have to deal with,” McHugh said. “If they really want to stay in power, they need to start thinking long term about Higher Education, and they’re not.”

By: Emily Sheahan

Image Credit: USI