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Time for phoney budget war to end and for talk of real investment to begin

12 September 2018

Statement by Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
Spokesperson on Education and Skills, Gaeilge and the Gaeltacht

Labour Party Education spokesperson, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has called on the Government and their coalition partners, Fianna Fáil to deliver on tackling back to school costs in the upcoming budget.

Senator Ó Ríordáin said:

“As the phoney war between the Government parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Independent Alliance continues over the airwaves, the Government needs to shift their focus to delivering for children and families in the upcoming Budget.

“A relatively small investment would go a long way to easing the cost of living for struggling parents and alleviating back to school costs by introducing a free school book scheme in the Budget. This scheme would come to a total of €20 million, a small drop in the ocean when you look at the Department of Education’s overall budget allocation of €10 billion.

“Talk of granny grants, tax cuts and other such gimmicks are damaging political system that is in serious need of reasserting itself as being the art of the possible.

“It is possible to deliver a free book scheme, just look at our neighbours in Northern Ireland, who have been seamlessly providing a similar programme for many years.

"Parents shouldn’t be forced to pick up the tab for the failure of the Government to fund the actual costs of educating our children. Even in schools where parents have access to a book rental scheme, it still requires a payment of around €50 a year for an essential part of children’s education.

“Labour’s proposal is simple; a free school books scheme should be extended to all primary schools and in two years’ time roll it out in secondary schools. The details of how this would operate are outlined in our policy statement. We are also calling for voluntary contributions to be done away with. I have introduced legislation in the Seanad to ban these so-called 'voluntary' contributions, and as part of our alternative budget for 2019, Labour will outline detailed, costed plans to make primary education free.

“It is time for the phoney war playing out between the different factions of Government to end and for real, lasting, meaningful investment to begin.”

 

Details of the Labour Party Policy Statement on Free Education are available here: https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/making_prim_ed_free.pdf