Sunday 15 September 2019

Ministers under fire over cost of living comments


'Ladder has been pulled up': Fianna Fáil's Thomas Byrne. Photo: Tom Burke
'Ladder has been pulled up': Fianna Fáil's Thomas Byrne. Photo: Tom Burke
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

Two Government ministers are under fire for "alarming" comments on the cost of living for students.

Craig McHugh, Union of Students in Ireland vice president for the Dublin region, said young people face huge obstacles to university due to rising rents and stagnated student grants.

Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor said earlier this week they could use the Susi grant to pay for accommodation.

Education Minister Joe McHugh said families who couldn't afford to send their children to university should consider regional colleges.

"The comments by the two education ministers were alarming," said Craig McHugh. "[They] do not reflect the barriers to higher education in Ireland which have never been as high.

"There was an attempt by two Government ministers to sugarcoat those barriers but those issues are very real.

"We have among the highest rents in Europe and the second highest fees but the message the ministers are sending is if you can afford to go to college, good on you, if you can't, good luck.

"[Mr McHugh] said people should look at regional options - which are excellent - but he shouldn't be telling young people if they can't go to university in a city due to huge rental costs, they need to study a course they might not want to study."

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne said he agreed, adding: "Through neglect and omission, the ladder has been pulled up and that's wrong."

A Department of Education spokesman said: "The Government's commitment to higher education is clearly demonstrated by the increase in current spending of almost €350m since 2015, an increase of almost 25pc.

"Current investment spending on higher education is now more than €1.7bn."

Irish Independent

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