The Workers’ Party have said that the suggestion by some local authorities that they could withhold payment of student grants to children whose parents had not paid the Household Charge was a despicable act which scapegoated young people and families already struggling as a result of the cutbacks.
Workers Party spokesman Sean Walsh said that the threat was a form of blackmail and that comments supporting the move from the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn and other Labour Party representatives were beneath contempt.
Mr. Walsh reserved particular criticism for the Chairman of the General Council of County Councils, Cllr. Michael O’Brien. Mr. Walsh, who had served on Kilkenny Co. Council with Cllr. O’Brien, said the Labour councillor wanted to victimise people who had already been savaged by cutbacks and were struggling to get by while billions of euro was pouring out of the country and into native and foreign banks.
“Cllr. O’Brien claims that local government is competing with social welfare, health, education and other vital areas for public spending. He is completely wrong. All of these public services are competing with bankers, bond-holders and speculators and the government is giving the lion’s share of the public pot to these parasites every time. If he is so interested in making savings why don’t Cllr. O’Brien and his council colleagues forego their junkets which cost a damn-sight more than the pittance paid out in student grants”.
Sean Walsh continued, “Cllr. O’Brien, as chairman of the General Council of County Council is in a unique position to fight for proper funding for local government and to challenge the government’s spending priorities and cutbacks agenda. It is regrettable that instead of doing this he is supporting a mean-spirited attack on students and a completely unjust form of double taxation”.
The Workers’ Party representative said that the move to target student grants was more to do with putting the squeeze on the huge numbers of people still resisting the household charge than with council funding. “This government has no commitment to local government, it is simply too committed to its masters in the stock exchanges and banks”, said Sean Walsh.
Issued 18th September 2012