The Seanad Chamber in the House of the Oireachta, where a recent student loan proposal was rejected. 

On July 12, the Seanad, the upper house in the Irish legislature, rejected a proposal that called on the government to change Ireland’s student loan system in a number of ways.

The motion proposed on the floor of the Oireachtas, the Irish legislature, was defeated in the Seanad, a house similar to the U.S. Senate, in large part due to a coalition of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, the opposition parties in the country.

The bill was proposed by the Labour Party and called on the Irish government to oppose any income-contingent loan scheme to fund higher education in Ireland. Additionally, the Labour Party sought to end any existing tuition fees necessary to attend college in the country. Finally, the motion aimed to implement a higher education system in Ireland that was truly funded by public resources.

None of those ideas passed through the Seanad after legislators voted to support a Fianna Fail and Fine Gail amendment to the motion. The amendment called for a consensus on how higher education should be funded. It is worth noting that there was no mention of any income-contingent loan scheme or free college in the amendment.

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Various student unions in Ireland, such as Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union, supported the motion proposed by the Labour Party. The President of the Union of Students in Ireland Michael Kerrigan stated his disappointment in the fact that the motion was rejected by the Seanad.

“The message is loud and clear to future students: take your €20,000 debt, your degree, and get out,” said Kerrigan.

A leading Irish senator, Aodhan O’Riordain urged the Seanad to remove financial barriers that impede one’s ability to go to an Irish college or university. He also believed that an income-contingent loan scheme would spell disaster for Irish students.

In addition, O’Riordain pushed for the country to invest more federal money into education, while also urging Irish employers to make a more significant contribution to fund higher education. The belief being that businesses will benefit more from a better-education workforce.

A previous report called for the need to increase Ireland’s higher education budget by €600 million from the 2015 budget. That extra money would be needed by the year 2021. Employers would be expected to contribute significantly to that budget increase.

Image Copyright © House of the Oireachtas