Seanad debates

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)

I raise a serious matter that was highlighted yesterday in the Irish language newspaper, Foinse, which is published with the Irish Independent. The headline that appeared in yesterday’s edition was, “Mic léinn ag dul gan bhéilí mar gheall ar chostais arda”, that is, students are going without meals because of high costs. This is a serious issue that shows starkly the pressure being exerted on third level students as a result of the economic crisis. The article reports that many students are going without food owing to the high cost of transport, the lack of part-time jobs and rising registration fees. This was an eye-opener for me, as I assume it would be for many Members. The article reports that many students are living on €1 a day as a result of being obliged to pay their registration fees of €2,500 per year, as well as significantly more expensive bus and train fares. I was shocked to learn that certain students from Trinity College Dublin were reporting they could only afford one meal a day. Consequently, I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Education and Skills to come to the House to discuss this important matter. Many students appear to be availing of welfare services and vouchers from student unions. I commend the student unions which are providing such services. However, it certainly is shocking if students are going without meals. Although this should not happen, it is and a number of student union officials were quoted in the article. I pay tribute to the iriseoir of Foinse, Ms Orla Bradshaw, for carrying the story in the newspaper. If the student registration fee is increased next year and in future years, as the Government has indicated, many students will be forced to drop out of education, thereby jeopardising the country’s future economic and social prosperity. Consequently, I seek a debate on the issue of students going without meals. Members should face up to the realities being reported in the daily and weekly newspapers.

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