Sunday 21 December 2014

Kenny lobbied to get grants fast-tracked

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 23/01/2013 | 05:00

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny personally intervened to get student grants fast-tracked for constituents, as thousands of others waited months under a controversial new system for third-level grants.

Mr Kenny, in a personal email, asked senior officials at Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), to prioritise some cases above others, the Irish Independent has learnt.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is accusing Mr Kenny of showing favouritism while the system was clogged by delays.

Mr Kenny's spokesman said that as an elected representative the Taoiseach receives a lot of requests.

"As a matter of course, he passes them on to the relevant department or organisation. Being Taoiseach does not preclude him from that."

SUSI is a new system set up to administer college grants, which used to be controlled by local authorities and VECs.

It has been plagued by delays. It is being phased in and was only dealing with first-year students and a small number of other groups this year. But, as of last week, one in three people of the total of 33,000 who are expected to get grants were still waiting for their first payments.

SUSI is run by the City of Dublin VEC, and Mr Kenny personally emailed Kay Cullinan of the VEC and Phillip Connolly of SUSI.

The closing date for SUSI was August 31, 2012, but Mr Kenny's personal email was sent on Halloween. He was rebuffed by Mr Connolly, who acknowledged SUSI had received his constituent's application on October 22.

The records released under Freedom of Information to the USI blanked out names and other personal details.

Mr Kenny said he had been contacted by a constituent "in respect of his application for a student grant. I understand... his parents are experiencing financial difficulties, and he is anxious to have his application processed, as soon as possible".

On another occasion, Mr Kenny's staff wrote on his behalf to SUSI on November 7, saying: "I write to you on behalf of the Taoiseach in respect of (name deleted).

"I understand that ... has for some time submitted all the relevant documentation in respect of his SUSI application. I would appreciate if you could kindly advise the Taoiseach as a matter of urgency as to when you expect a decision will be made regarding his application."

Irish Independent

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