Emer Gerrard | Contributing Writer
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has released a ten-point plan outlining the steps they believe should be taken “in order for Ireland to get back on its feet post-bailout”. The plan focuses heavily on student-related issues, while also discussing ideas to improve society in general. The Union summaries its vision as a path to “lasting and sustainable economic development” and “social equality”.
Vision is a path to “lasting and sustainable economic development” and “social equality”.
Among the issues raised is Higher Education funding; the Union underlines the value of third-level education, stating that the benefits from investment in education are “unquestionable”. Student loans and deferred payment schemes are not an option according to the Union, pointing to the “crippling student debt” acquired in other countries.
The Union also argues for efforts to deal with youth unemployment, describing the government’s recent attempt to overcome the 30% youth unemployment rate as “at best inadequate and at worst measly and derogatory”. This relates to the €14 million which the government allocated to the Youth Guarantee scheme in the recent budget. The Union believes that an investment of almost twenty times this amount is necessary.
Government efforts to tackle youth unemployment have been “at best inadequate and at worst measly and derogatory”.
USI President Joe O’Connor states: “We may not have brought about the economic difficulties this country finds itself in, but we want to play our part in helping to resolve them.” The broad range of issues addressed in the vision includes reforming the political system, relieving mortgage debt on hard-pressed families and scraping the waste in public spending.
Issues of social justice are raised in the plan with the Union advocating legislating for collective bargaining in all industries and improved social housing. USI urge for a “living wage” to be introduced in reaction to an “erosion of workers’ pay and conditions” during the recession. Furthermore they call on the government to end the current embargo on public sector recruitment and criticise its “JobBridge” scheme, arguing that it has led some young people to be “forced to work 40-hour weeks for less than €4 an hour under the guise of an internship.”
“We may not have brought about the economic difficulties this country finds itself in, but we want to play our part in helping to resolve them.”
The plan also acknowledges the psychological impacts resulting from the recession, “particularly on young people”, and calls for a €50 million investment in mental health services in Budget 2015. It also appeals for action on the recent “accommodation crisis” for students, “particularly in Dublin”, and endorses legislation to curb the cost of rent prices.
USI believe that their vision could accomplish “economic growth, job creation and the creation of a great society”, while a “return to recession” would be avoided. O’Connor maintains: “Now that we as a country have regained our economic sovereignty, it is time that we put an end to short-term thinking and start working towards shaping the future we want for Ireland.”