The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has denied allegations that its recent housing campaign has pushed its stance against fees to the sidelines, and that it had a weak response to Budget 2019.
In an email to Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union President Shane De Rís and other SU sabbatical officers from USI affiliated unions, USI President Síona Cahill outlined that their “campaign on housing at no point replaced [their] campaign and efforts regarding publicly funded education”. She noted that any reduction in the student contribution charge, which currently stands at €3,000 per year, would be “negated overnight” by increasing rates of rent and a shortfall of student accommodation.
De Rís criticised USI earlier this for week for what he termed a weak response by USI to the funding measures for higher education that were outlined in Budget 2019. De Rís said that USI was overly “reserved” in its campaign approach and called on USI to mobilise students as a matter of urgency.
In response, Cahill stated: “We did nothing but slam the Government throughout the day on media along with dozens of other organisations in key positions of influence.”
“We are clear and on the record that this budget shows a lack of ambition for Ireland and a missed opportunity to invest in education, and social inequality, and grasp the opportunities of economic growth.”
Budget 2019 allocates an additional €150m towards investment in higher education, further education, and research, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue announced on Tuesday.
The budget for the National Training Fund (NTF) is also set to increase by 0.1% next year. Donohue detailed that part of the NTF’s surplus funds are to be allocated to a multiannual human capital initiative which is to increase investment in higher education courses across the country, including during the Brexit time period.
USI openly condemned the setting aside of €500m in the budget as a “rainy day fund” in case of a chaotic Brexit, arguing that the funds should instead be directed to students. USI, joined by De Rís, protested against the rainy day fund outside Leinster House on the morning of the budget announcement.
Students and academic unions have expressed disappointment in the budget, including USI, the Irish Universities Association (IUA), and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT).