‘STUDENTS ARE STRUGGLING’ Sinn Féin TD, Rose Conway-Walsh.
Castlebar students stage walk out over accommodation shortage
OVER 100 students walked out of Atlantic Technological University Mayo last week in protest at government inaction over the shortage of student accomodation.
They were among thousands who walked out across campuses nationwide at 11.11am last Thursday morning as part of protests organised by the Students Union of Ireland.
The walkout in ATU Mayo’s Castlebar campus (formerly known as GMIT Mayo) was not endorsed by the college’s Students Union branch.
The Mayo News understands that many students did not attend the protest, as they did not want to be absent for important laboratories and practical classes.
Thomas Ganley, a third year social care student in ATU Mayo, told The Mayo News that the cost of going to college had been an ‘ongoing issue’ for several years.
Mr Ganley said that the rising cost of living was causing ‘massive issues’ for students and called for greater financial assistance for students.
Earlier this year, the Government announced the annual Susi (Student Universal Support Ireland) maintenance grant would increase by €200.
Income thresholds for all grant rates except the Special Rate were increased by €1,000, while the qualifying distance for the non-adjacent rate of maintenance grant was reduced from 45km to 30km.
Affordable, dedicated accommodation
Mr Ganley described the student accommodation available in Castlebar’s Hawthorn Village as ‘quite expensive’.
He said that monthly rent in the apartment complex currently currently starts from €400.
“That’s quite expensive when you take into account the SUSI grant is maybe €600-odd,” he said.
“You’ve maybe €200 for the month, and that’s before you take into account food and travel.”
The Longford native said that affordable dedicated student accommodation was required that would be in close proximity to the ATU Mayo campus.
Mr Ganley added that many students were living in accommodation that was Monday-to-Friday only, an issue that has been highlighted previously in these pages.
ATU Mayo is currently exploring the possibility of acquiring or building it’s own purpose-built student accommodation.
“That’s the key thing, that it actually is affordable. There’s student accommodation that’s been set up in Dublin that is wildly outside the price range of most individuals that would avail of a grant. That’s unacceptable,” Mr Ganley said.
“It should be that there will be a student accommodation here closer to our campus here in Castlebar that is within the price range, that is affordable for people that are availing of the Susi grant.”
Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh accused the Government of ‘abject failure to stand up for students’.
The Sinn Féin TD urged Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to reform the rent rebate measures in the Budget to ensure that students whose parents pay their rent are not excluded from the scheme.
Deputy Conway-Walsh also called for an €81 million capital investment in purpose-built student accommodation.
“Students are struggling to get by day by day. Students are sleeping in cars, on sofas or commuting exhausting journeys because there simply isn’t enough housing,” Deputy Conway-Walsh stated.
“PhD researchers are pushed to the brink of their finances, without a living wage or decent conditions. Susi grants are in dire need of reform.
“Today in the Dáil, I told the Tánaiste that the student housing crisis should shame his government,” she added.
“It is not good enough for Government ministers to act surprised every September.”