Seanad debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

10:30 am

Photo of Lynn BoylanLynn Boylan (Sinn Fein)

I agree with Senator O'Reilly that this legislation is the most disingenuous I have seen produced and it is not compatible with EU law. It will not get past the Attorney General.

I want to offer solidarity to students throughout the country who are staging three days of protests as part of their Cost of College campaign. Students are being squeezed at every point due to the lack of affordable student accommodation while they struggle to pay their college fees. My party's position is that third-level education should be accessible to anyone who wants to access it. As a State we should see it as an investment in the future of the country. Accessing training and education should not be about how much money someone’s parents have or whether they own a property one can stay in. Instead it should be about the skills, abilities and the interests of the student and about lifelong learning.

When students take to the radio to tell us they are living in homeless shelters, attending lectures in the back of pubs to avail of free Wi-Fi, or getting up at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. to travel to college because they cannot afford to live close to it, or that food banks being set up on college campuses are running out of stock, alarm bells should ring in every Department if this is the state of our third-level sector. We should listen to the students who protested outside these Houses yesterday and who are protesting in Galway today. Education must be free at the point of delivery and it cannot be about a declaration of wealth.

I would like to raise another issue related to third-level education to share my concerns with the students of Dublin City University, DCU, of which I am one, regarding the most recent controversy surrounding a lecturer on the DCU campus. I recognise third-level institutions and the right to freedom of expression but I had direct experience of this individual back in 2014 and 2015 when I was targeted online by him and subjected to disinformation about a campaign I worked on. The things he said then and the things he is saying now would make any student of colour or of the Islamic faith deeply uncomfortable about attending DCU. His campaign against me led to me getting death threats, getting abused and trolled online until I blocked the individual because he was feeding the trolls and directing them in my direction. I want to offer my solidarity to the students of colour and of the Islamic faith in DCU knowing that there is an individual there who carries out his business publicly. He can hold whatever views he wants privately but he targets individuals and campaigns against them.

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