Jonathan O’Brien TD – Education - Ard Fheis 2012
Education is central to the egalitarian ideals of Sinn Féin’s political project, it is central to the egalitarian nature of Republicanism.
While Ireland’s education systems have in the past borne some of the responsibility for reproducing inequality, Sinn Féin believes an All-Ireland education system can be an essential instrument for the building of an Ireland of equals.
Equality of opportunity, access and provision is a basic entitlement. It was James Connolly who famously said
“Educate that you may be free” and that still holds true today.
As Republicans striving to achieve a 32 county socialist Republic, a Republic which cherishes the children of this Nation equally it is incumbent on us to formulate an education policy which does just as Connolly said
Therefore, through our endeavours in the 6 Counties and our work in Leinster House we have produced policies which will see the creation of an All-Ireland education system which is universally free, accessible and fit for purpose.
Education is a fundamental right, a right that is recognized as a human right but it is also an enabling right.
If people have access to education they can develop the skills, capacity and confidence to secure other rights.
We can no longer allow the quality of, or the accessibility to, our education system be dictated by finances or economic constraints.
Cuts to school budgets, attacks on rural and disadvantaged schools, the lack of investment in capital projects and the increase in class sizes only serve to deny our children the best possible opportunity in which to achieve the best education possible.
Equality of condition, access and provision in education is a basic entitlement – and this means supporting those who do not have the same advantages by virtue of how wealthy their parents are or where they are born.
That is why Sinn Féin fought against the disgraceful cuts to DEIS designated schools.
This is why we are opposed to school closures in rural Ireland and that is why we, along with parents up and down this state, will not stand idly by and allow this or any other Government trample on the rights of our children.
This is why Sinn Féin continues to campaign against the 3rd level fees and oppose any increases in registration charges or any other measure which does not ensure third level students have the ability to complete their education.
We want to see those students who do not have the financial means being able to complete their education through a proper grant system.
The right to education is not confined to our younger generation, nor should it be.
Individuals should be able to access education at any age and stage of their lives.
Such provision calls for adequate and sustained investment in our richest resource - our people.
Those who are unemployed – those who paid taxes all their lives and then find themselves made redundant as a direct result of the bad economic policies of this government, should be facilitated in returning to education and training so that they have opportunities – and are not consigned to a life of poverty.
Comrades, I urge you all here to get involved in local campaigns which aim to protect the right to education. Offer your support and the support of Sinn Féin to schools that are under threat from closure or cuts and ensure through your actions, that we sow the seeds to an education system which is truly egalitarian.