Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Minister should intervene in cross-border fees issue - Ó Caoláin

21 July, 2006

The  arrangement  whereby  students  from  the  26  Counties  can  avail of
education  and training in the six colleges of Further Education in the Six
Counties  without  paying fees is under threat. Up to 5000 students, mainly
from   the   Border  counties,  avail  of  this  educational  facility  and
Cavan-Monaghan Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has urged the Minister for
Education   and  Science  Mary  Hanafin  to  intervene  with  her  Northern
counterpart  to  ensure  that  students are not forced to leave courses and
that a proper all-Ireland scheme is put in place.

Because  of  education  budget  cuts  imposed  in  the North by the British
government  students  may  now  be  denied  places.  They may have to prove
residency  in the Six Counties or be required to pay full fees if they live
in the 26 Counties. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“Thousands  of students take up full-time and part-time courses in colleges
such  as  Fermanagh, Newry and the North West Institute. Courses include IT
and  skilled  trades, including construction. The cost to the Department of
Education  in  the  North  is  estimated  at €9 million per year which is a
relatively  modest  figure,  given  the  importance  that  both governments
rightly attach to training and education.

“I  understand that up to now the education authorities in the Six Counties
were  not  applying  ‘residency  status’ criteria for students applying for
places  in  these colleges. Students from the 26 Counties who are living at
home in this jurisdiction have been able to avail of education and training
in  these  institutions  on  an  equal footing with their counterparts from
across  the  Border.  A  British  government  budget cut of €13 million now
threatens this arrangement. Teaching posts are also at risk.

“Urgent   action   is   required  and  my  colleague  Sinn  Féin  Education
spokesperson  in the Six Counties, Michael Ferguson MLA, has called for the
Education Departments North and South to meet and to ensure that no student
loses  out. We need to work out arrangements which will harmonise access to
education  and  training  on  an  all-Ireland  basis.  Nowhere is that more
important  than  in  the  Border  counties and I am urging the Minister for
Education and Science Mary Hanafin to intervene directly. No student should
be  at  a  disadvantage  because  of partition and we should be pooling the
considerable educational resources we enjoy on this island.” ENDS

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