Sinn Féin promise free education for all

Aoife O'Brien

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th December 2018 Sinn Féin hold special Ard Fheis to elect new Party President
 Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O'Neill, right, and Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald at the RDS in Dublin. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Sinn Féin will make free education a reality if elected on February 8th according to their general election manifesto.

They will abolish third level fees at the cost of €243 million and have said that they will increase the maintenance grant by 10 per cent.

They said that the SUSI maintenance grant was cut during the economic downturn and no sufficient attempts have been made to restore it.

“Our third-level education system…is becoming less accessible to many on the basis of financial means,” they said.

Despite this statement, they haven’t made any pledge to increase the threshold for accessing the SUSI grant leaving many students with no financial aid during their studies.

However, Sinn Féin has committed to expanding the DEIS scheme by 20 per cent to tackle educational disadvantage. The increase in funding would allow approximately 200 additional schools to avail of supports including additional funding under the School Books Grant Scheme, access to the School Meals Programme and a range of professional developmental supports.

Funding for the School Completion Programme would also be increased by €8 million under a Sinn Féin government to assist children through school and after school supports.

Subsidies to private schools would also be phased with the money instead being used to fund the reduction of class sizes in primary schools.

Sinn Féin has said that they will expand the apprenticeship system in Ireland which they say is vital to providing young people with greater alternatives in the tertiary education sector.

Currently, the rate of youth unemployment in Ireland is at 12 per cent and the National Youth Council of Ireland has said that access to apprenticeships could halve this number.

Sinn Féin also noted in their manifesto that in 2018 only two per cent of apprenticeships were undertaken by women. They have stated that this needs to be addressed but have not mentioned how they will do so.

However, with Sinn Féin only standing 42 candidates for election they would need all but one of their candidates to be elected in order to even be a dominant party in a coalition.

Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesperson Darragh O’Brien has said that this renders their policies moot as they have the “luxury” to say what they “really want without having the responsibility to deliver.”

Aoife O’Brien

Image Credit: Sinn Fein