Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science: Statements


4:30 pm

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú) | Oireachtas source

I was listening to the Fine Gael spokesperson on insurance a while ago. I was reminded of the sentence "an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea". Is the Minister with responsibility for higher education a part-time Minister? He is unable to attend the complete debate here. The Deputies left in the Chamber represent thousands of people in our constituencies and many of them are interested in this issue. For the Minister to hightail it before we have the opportunity to put our views to him is just not on, especially given that he was Minister for Health at the start of the year and he promised student nurses that he would pay them a wage for the work that they did on the front lines during the pandemic. What followed was a Minister who stiffed staff in this country who were working in the most difficult situations. It is beyond tight-fisted and actually cheap on the part of the Government not to pay the staff working in hospitals the income that the Minister promised.

Many students are being given a bad name by people in the Oireachtas. I know a Fianna Fáil Senator who wanted to use the Army against students in Galway because they were congregating in Galway in the summer. I want to talk about the fantastic students who are fighting for equality and campaigning. I think of one student, Sonia, who has been campaigning on the phone with Deputies and in media, trying to get proper salaries and wages for student nurses. I think of Cian Gallagher, another brilliant and driven student of politics in UCD, who is heading up a campaign relating to SUSI. I commend him on that. I would like to ask the Minister, if he was here, how many students who were promised a grant this summer have had that funding taken away or threatened to be taken away by SUSI.

Another student was in touch with me recently who has been orphaned. He was taking care of a guardian last year. The college in question failed to inform SUSI that he was not able to continue. He did not receive a cent of that grant but the university did. When he went back to college this year, he was not afforded that grant any more. Surely SUSI should ask the university for that money back and not the student himself.

In a time of recession we need to keep students in education in this country and we need a Minister who will follow through on the promises that he made to student nurses earlier this year. Gabhaim buíochas.


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