Citizens are extremely angry about the €16K Super Junior Minister Pay Rise while so many on the ground are struggling. The deviousness in which it was introduced sneakily on the back of the Bill to establish a dedicated Higher Education Department is abhorrent.
Over a million social media views of the Dáil video of my outrage, and the many thousands of messages that I have received since, accentuate how irate people are at the misuse of taxpayer moneys and disappointed to see that this department is getting off on the wrong foot.
It is heartening that people are expressing their outrage. All this highlights the complete disconnect between this government and ordinary people.
As the Sinn Fein spokesperson for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, I welcome the setting up of this new Department. I truly hope that a dedicated ministry will mark a step-change in how 3rd level education is delivered. People want to see a better and fairer 3rd level education system.
Our aim must be to provide the educational infrastructure to enable people of all abilities and ages to fulfil their full potential and contribute to a prosperous and progressive Ireland.
There is a lot of work to do. Further and Higher Education have seen a decade of underfunding. We spend 50 percent less per student than we did in 2008
It is not just the institutions that are buckling under pressure, students and their families are also struggling as we have the highest fees in the EU.
To give students and their families some breathing space, the government should reduce the Student Contribution Charge by €500. With the aim of phasing out fees completely including for apprenticeship and PLC courses.
All forms of education should be equally valued and everyone should have the chance to follow the path that best suits them.
Equality of access needs to be improved. The SUSI system needs to be reformed as a matter of urgency. Income thresholds are too high; the amount of support is too low. Adults, sometimes with their own children, who live at home with their parents due to the ongoing housing crisis are excluded from applying based on their own income.
The needs of students and their families should be our sole focus but at the 11th hour the government tacked on a €16,288 pay rise for a Super Junior minister who already earns €2,384 per week.
The government making this a priority at such a time is repugnant to the hardworking people of this state. It’s even more disgusting when you consider the people who barely survive on the minimum wage or less, such as health care assistants and family carers who continue to be left behind.
Sixteen thousand euro is the yearly salary of an apprentice, the annual stipend of a PhD student and 5 times the full maintenance grant for a year that is supposed to cover accommodation, food, and travel.