Thursday, 14 January 2021
Covid-19 (Higher Education): Statements
I wish the Minister and the Minister of State the very best in this dynamic and interesting portfolio. Sixth-year students of last year and those in first year this year have had a very traumatic time. Their families have had a traumatic time. It has not been easy on any of those in the third level sector either. There are difficulties arising from non-return of fees. Parents have been put to the pin of their collar trying to pay these fees. I have experience of this, with a first year student myself this year. I know the difficulties arising in trying to study at home. They will rise to the challenge. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.
I strongly support a university in the south east and we badly need it. There is also an application before Tipperary County Council for relocation and development of Limerick Institute of Technology in Tipperary to a new campus in the old Kickham Barracks. It must be progressed as well.
I would also like to get a list of apprenticeships, as the area must be broadened. We need these apprentices badly in the building, farming and agricultural and plant hire industries. I spoke to the Minister of State, Deputy Niall Collins, about this a minute ago. As those areas are finding it difficult to get skilled operatives and people with degrees, we must enhance and broaden the scope of apprenticeships.
I welcome the review of SUSI and thank the officials there. I also thank Geraldine Kelly in my office for dealing with them, as we are trying to assist so many families. There must be a review of the 45 km rule, as it can be very cruel. I heard a Deputy earlier speaking about a student who would have to give ten hours travelling to a college for four or five hours of work. This affects rural areas where there is no public transport.
I promise the Minister and Minister of State the support of the Rural Independent Group in helping students from rural Ireland in particular but all across the country. Those in rural Ireland are handicapped because of poor broadband and rural transport. Will the Minister and Minister of State answer some of those questions? Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí. They need our support. They will be the leaders of tomorrow and into the future. While they will not forget this time, I believe they will rise over it.