Protest at Department of Finance

Ireland“Up to 40 students are holding a demonstration outside the Department of Finance in Dublin in protest at the education cutbacks announced in the Budget and the reintroduction of college fees. Some 15 protesters from the Free Education for Everyone (FEE) group have entered the building in Merrion Street and staged a sit-in on the main stairwell. A Garda spokesman said several officers were at the scene and there were no traffic diversions in place. One of the protesters Julian Brophy, a student from UCD, said: ‘This protest is taking place in order to highlight the shameful action on the part of the Government in its recent budget, the implications of which will see unbearable strain placed on young people, students and college workers …’” (more)

[Eoin Burke-Kennedy, Irish Times, 16 April]

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One Response to “Protest at Department of Finance”

  1. Stephen Says:

    You asked for education stories.

    I was unemployed and a new father when the offer of a place in University finally came through my letterbox.
    I had prepared for five years for this opportunity, taking night courses in computers and return to learning programs, and here was my chance.

    With a baby boy to provide for I was in a bind, should I take this chance?
    I was told by a very experienced educator that the only way to ensure my son had a third-level education, was to have one myself.
    I resolved to take the course, a degree before I was 40 was the goal.

    I started in September 2005. I qualified for the education grant (€3,420 465per week) as I had earned just under €10,000 (€200per week) in the previous year.
    I was unemployed when taking up the course but not for the full year as required to qualify for social welfare.
    I knew it would be a struggle, and I would have to borrow, but the alternative, to spend a year on the dole just didn’t sit with me.

    It was after a month in college I heard about the Special Rate of Maintenance Grant (Top-Up Grant), I phoned to inquire believing it was for people like me who missed out on the dole in college (BTEA). I was asked if I was receiving BTEA, I said unfortunately not. I was then told that I could only get the top-up if I was getting the BTEA.
    This sounded crazy to me but it turns out to be true, the social welfare will only help you if they are helping you.

    They would give me an extra €3,420 if they were giving me €10,000 BTEA! This is not including the €5,000 per year rent allowance of the cost of education grant €500 per year.

    I sat down and added it up. Because I had worked in 2004, even though the wages were not great and it was only temporary (painting an office block), I had lost out on €85,000 over the four years of my degree and postgraduate course.

    The government would have paid me more (€20,000 dole) in 2004 than I earned working. I would have qualified for Back To Education Allowance (dole) €20,000 per year for four years, that makes a €100,000 government scholarship and the only thing you must not do if you want to qualify is work.

    I graduated in 2008 with an honors degree two days before my 40th birthday. My son was there to share this proud moment.

    I borrowed €5,000 (€100 per week) to pay the rent each year. My grant, €65 per week, went to my sons maintenance. I am now hoping to finish the postgraduate course this coming August 2009.

    My fear is that I cannot borrow any more; (€5,000x4yrs=€20,000+interest@9%=€27,790), and I will be jailed for not being able to pay child support. The last grant cheque was before Easter.

    Please see attached for a full breakdown of the amounts of money involved.

    My sin was to take up the offer of a few months work to get me over the winter in 2004.

    Please tell anyone who has lost their job and see education as a way forward; Whatever you do, do not work.

    Yours sincerely,

    Stephen Stewart.

    Smart Economy my backside.

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