UCCSU have joined others in coming out against the recent actions of Clare County Council. It was revealed last week that Clare County Council have taken the decision to require proof of payment of the Household Charge with all Maintenance Grant applications.
Speaking on the matter, Students’ Union President Eoghan Healy stated that “It is completely unacceptable for the grant to be withheld from students if their parents haven’t paid the household charge.” He added that the action, which has been blasted by student representatives nationally “is essentially withholding financial assistance from the most financially vulnerable.”
The move, which has sparked national debate has been further condemned by the Union of Students in Ireland. After the announcement, the USI in released a statement likening the new policy with “holding student grants to ransom”
USI President John Logue stated “students will not accept this”. “Never have I heard of a grant being refused until proof of payment is offered for a completely unrelated tax owed by another person. Students are being punished for the decisions of their parents and their education is being put at risk.”
President Logue, has written to members of Clare County Council encouraging them to come out against the measure. He warns that if they do not, “then USI will mobilise its membership and we will protest until the Council backs down.” A protest outside the County Council offices in Ennis attracted students from NUIG and LIT. Logue promises that “If other Councils follow the example of Clare, then they too will see protests.”
The decision has been leapt upon nationally and has proven divisive. Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has called the charge “unfair and possibly illegal”. While maintaining that the decision made by Clare County Council had nothing to do with his department, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, he has stated that the Council’s actions are reasonable.
His Cabinet leader An Taoiseach Enda Kenny however stated in the Dáil that the withholding of grants by Clare County Council based on Household Charge payment would be illegal “but as a matter of course, they are entitled to have as much information about the numbers who have paid the household charge as is a requirement in law.”
The Students’ Union who have also sought legal advice on the issue have been lobbying all Cork City Councillors. Mr. Healy says that the SU have “received support” from the City Councillors in ensuring that a similar stance is not taken in Cork. A motion was also brought forward to Cork City Council on Monday in an attempt to ensure that such a policy will not be adopted here.
At the time of publication, South Tipperary and Cavan County Councils were considering requiring proof of payment before grant applications were approved.