The Union of Students in Ireland launched their General Election manifesto outside the Dáil last week, which emphasises the deciding impact young people will have on the makeup of the next government. The manifesto focuses on areas such as accommodation, Higher Education Funding and Repealing the 8th.
USI President, Kevin Donoghue, stated that “The 32nd Dáil has the opportunity to introduce real and lasting change for our citizens. 100 years on from 1916 and we can build an Ireland our children and parents will be proud of”.
The USI are campaigning for an Ireland where workers are paid the living wage and there is a right to full bodily autonomy. Donoghue continued to say that the Dáil will have an opportunity to create an Ireland where “every person is treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve”.
“Ireland has gone through significant change in the last five years. The impact of harsh and brutal cuts must be accepted and those responsible must now ensure that it is our most vulnerable who see the fruits of our recovery. In the past two years alone, USI has registered 80,000 students to vote. USI and Students’ Unions will be making sure that young people vote in the next election”.
Former UCC Student and current USI Deputy President, Annie Hoey, agreed by saying “Young people want candidates and political parties to demonstrate leadership that befits the positions they seek and to map out a clear path to a strong, sustainable future”.
“Education from early years to post-doctorate is not just a right but key to economic growth. A highly skilled and well-educated workforce is a benefit to everyone in Ireland. The next Government should seek to follow the example of most of our EU partners and introduce free, publicly-funded education”.
In their manifesto, USI urges the next Government to reject any proposal to increase third-level fees and/or the introduction of an income-contingent loan scheme. This proposed scheme fails to bring state and enterprise contributions to a sustainable level. Income-contingent student loan schemes have failed to deliver the promised efficiencies in Australia and the UK. Donoghue commented on this, stating that “USI wants an education system that is free of both financial and societal barriers. Failure to adequately invest in education is a failure to invest in society”.
USI also focuses on repealing the 8th in the General Election Student manifesto, and urges the next Government to commit to holding a referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment of Bunreacht na hÉireann. USI requests that the new Government repeal the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 and replace it with laws that ensure safe and legal access to abortion, at a minimum, in cases of rape, incest, risk to health or severe and fatal foetal impairment. USI also urges the next Government to repeal the Regulation of Information Act 1995 and any related censorship laws.
Student accommodation is also a topic of the manifesto, as USI urge that the Government should prepare a short-term solution, such as the use of NAMA-owned properties to temporarily address the student accommodation shortfall; and to amend part three of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 to include a provision that allows for students’ unions or other representative bodies to have legal standing to challenge on behalf of their membership the introduction of new rents in purpose-built student accommodation centres, where those rents are raised outside of term time.