The new Minister for Education’s claim of what amounts to widespread fraud among agricultural communities during an interview on Newstalk Radio today will raise fear of an anti-rural agenda, according to Fianna Fáil TD for Co Clare Timmy Dooley. Minister Quinn accused farming families and the self-employed of manipulating their incomes to secure third level grants, vowing to change the grant system in favour of those not in these communities.
“I am reforming the way in which the student grants is going to operate … Up until now there has been a bias towards the self-employed and the agricultural community who were able to quite frankly manipulate their income in a manner in which they could, or their children could, avail of grants” – Education Minister Ruairí Quinn, Newstalk Breakfast, 31 March 2011
Deputy Timmy Dooley has described the comments as extremely worrying and has called on Minister Quinn to clarify his position.
“Ruairí Quinn’s sweeping accusation will cause great concern and anger among thousands of honest farmers and self-employed workers who are dependent on State support to send their children to college,” said Deputy Dooley.
“It is simply unacceptable for a Cabinet member to go on national radio and tarnish the entire agricultural community with ill-informed, misguided accusations. It raises serious questions about the agenda of our new Education Minister, who many already feared had a complete lack of understanding of the needs of rural communities.
“A worrying pattern is developing with the new Government’s education policies and what appears to be an urban agenda. The threat of rural school closures looms, with Ruairí Quinn admitting that he intends to “rationalise” the primary school system by “clustering” smaller rural schools. Today’s outburst will do nothing to ease those concerns.
“Fianna Fáil consistently raised concerns about this Labour agenda during the election campaign and we will robustly challenge any policies that discriminate against our rural communities,” concluded Deputy Dooley.