A claim from the Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn that farmers and the self-employed manipulate their incomes to secure student grants has caused anger and concern among rural communities, according to Donegal North East TD Charlie McConalogue.
Speaking on Newstalk Radio, Minister Ruairí Quinn said: “I am reforming the way in which the student grants is going to operate … Up until now there has been a bias towards the self-employed and the agricultural community who were able to quite frankly manipulate their income in a manner in which they could, or their children could, avail of grants.”
Deputy McConalogue has described the comments as misguided and ill-informed, and says they add to fears that the new Education Minister has an anti-rural agenda.
“As a farmer myself, I am shocked and insulted by Ruairí Quinn’s claim of what essentially amounts to widespread fraud among agricultural communities. His foolish comments have caused anger among the honest farmers and self-employed workers in Donegal and across the country, who are dependent on student grants to help put their children through college,” said Deputy McConalogue.
“There is a real fear that rural communities will be discriminated against under the new Government’s education policy. Our small schools are under threat of closure and it appears that the student grant system will be in changed in a way that does not favour agricultural communities and the self-employed.
“Throughout the general election campaign, I repeatedly expressed my concerns about the impact of about the Labour party’s education policies on rural communities. I will continue to challenge Minister Ruairí Quinn on any agenda which discriminates against these communities,” added Deputy McConalogue.