Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has called for an urgent statement from the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn after he said it was ‘reasonable’ for County Councils to use the threat of withholding education grants as leverage over families unable or unwilling to pay the Household Charge.
Deputy McConalogue commented, “This casual response from Minister Quinn is a cause of grave concern. It is disgraceful that the Minister responsible for protecting and improving our education system would casually defend a threat to withhold education funding. While the entire Government has shared responsibility for the Household Charge mess, I find it very worrying that a Minister for Education would so easily surrender a funding entitlement within his department in an effort to defend a cack-handed attempt to clean up that mess.
“The third level grant system was hard won by the Department of Education over many years and defended by successive Ministers. It plays an important role in access to third level education for many thousands of less well-off families across the country. The funding for grants and an individual’s entitlement to apply for a grant has absolutely nothing to do with the Household Charge or indeed the local authorities.
“By ceding the right to decide who can or cannot get a grant to local authorities on the basis of who has paid the Household Charge, the Minister has opened a very dangerous door. This letter has no basis in law and an Education Minister focussed on his actual responsibilities would be writing to Clare County Council to demand immediate withdrawal of the letter.
“Minister Quinn must immediately clarify what new precedent he is establishing, what consultation he has had with his ministerial colleagues and what advice he has sought from his Department.”