Mayo Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh has secured the frontbench position as spokesperson for Higher Education, Innovation and Science. This newly formed Ministry headed by Simon Harris has to ensure that Ireland prospers socially and economically in the years ahead.
Deputy Conway-Walsh said:
“I am thrilled to be given this new and challenging portfolio by Sinn Féin Party President Mary Lou McDonald. This is a brief that I am extremely passionate about. Equality of access to third level-education across the Island is a key driver of a prosperous, healthy and progressive nation.
“I will be holding the government to account on the commitments made in the Programme for Government including addressing the chronic underfunding of the sector. The Cassells report identified many areas of reform that have never been implemented. Now is the time to deliver.
“Covid-19 and Brexit present even greater challenges for Higher Education. Ease of access, affordability and sustained collaboration across the Island is vital to ensure that we develop the human capital necessary to meet the challenges of the future and maximise the opportunities presented by emerging industries and advancements in technologies.
“An urgent review of the SUSI Grant Scheme must take place. The financial barriers to third-level education caused by nonsensical criteria is impacting severely on students and their families. Why should adults, who sometimes have their own children, be assessed on their parents income if they are forced to live at home because of unaffordable rents. Many ordinary working families that I know are excluded from SUSI and pushed into poverty trying to send their children to college.
“I will be striving to identify clear pathways to higher education for people with disabilities and put in place the funding and supports to ensure people of all abilities can fulfil their true potential. The national opportunity cost of failing to invest in the education of young people with Autism and Asperger’s is one which must be addressed.
“As a party, we are committed to equal access and opportunity for all students without financial or geographical barriers to pursue higher education, training and apprenticeships throughout their lives.”