Student teachers alongside the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Conradh na Gaeilge and other students’ unions protested outside the Dáil today, demanding the reinstatement of the Gaeltacht grant.
Students listened to a number of speakers and chanted continuously, “All I want for Christmas is my Gaeltacht fee” and “Last Gaeltacht I gave you my dough, now I can’t afford rent, I plead with you Joe”, in reference to the current Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh.
The Gaeltacht fee for student teachers stands at €750 per student and the original grant was cut in 2012. Speaking about the USI’s decision to demand the reinstatement of the grant, USI President Siona Cahill said: “The additional Gaeltacht fee is a huge burden for student teachers, aspiring secondary school teachers need proof of 2 months residency in Gaeltacht areas. This takes our students out of their own jobs for a long portion of the Summer, a time when most students save for the academic year ahead.”
The USI also claim that Richard Bruton, the previous Minister for Education and Skills, underestimated the number of teachers due to retire by two thirds. As Ireland is experiencing a teacher shortage in Physics, Home Economics and Irish, the USI believe the absence of the Gaeltacht grant does not help the matter and that students will be worse off. The Gaeltacht fee also does not include travel costs and costs of living on placement.
Students also protested the high cost of education in Ireland and pointed out that Ireland has the second highest third-level education fees in Europe. The USI say that the cost of reinstating the Gaeltacht Grant is €2 million per annum. The Government has previously twice stated during Minister’s questions that funding for reinstating the Gaeltacht grant is not available.