Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD has said the Government must accept responsibility for the chronic housing crisis that desperate third-level students now face, and also offer all possible State support to them.
Deputy Byrne added it was wholly unacceptable that Minister Mitchell O’Connor would seek to shift the responsibility to parents, in an interview on the News at One earlier today.
Deputy Byrne said: “The Minister must stop talking down to students and parents as if they were naughty school children. Students and their parents need tangible immediate help, not chastisement and website tips.
“The student accommodation crisis is a powder keg that continues to ignite year on year, and is now at its nadir. Minister Mitchell O’Connor’s comments were patronising and insulting to parents and students alike. Parents are deeply involved in assisting their sons and daughters to find a place to stay so that they can take up a college place.
“To suggest parents are not engaged, or not doing ‘their homework’, on the issue is completely outrageous and fatuous. Parents have been sacrificing a lot of time and a lot of money to be able to send their children to college in the first place.
“Minister Mitchell O’Connor’s appointment to her position has been controversial, and her public comments and inability to offer practical reassurance regarding student accommodation now casts another shadow over her newly-created ministerial role.
“I am now calling on the Department of Education and Skills to immediately institute a dedicated student accommodation taskforce within the department to help effectively target the house supply shortage in the coming days and weeks, so that students around the country are not deprived of the college place that they have worked so hard for.
“The Minister and the Government appear devoid of any realistic answers to cope with the scale of this crisis. The Government has not been able to offer practical solutions that will help students who are planning the extremely stressful and frustrating search for somewhere to live.
“Parents and students need urgent action and not the tired advice trotted out by the Minister earlier today. Accommodation officers in higher education institutions also need to be provided with all possible resources to help these students,” concluded Deputy Byrne.