Government Party Manifestos: What Are They Promising Students?

Kevin O'Leary outlines the elements of party manifestos which hold particular relevance to students ahead of the general election[br]With the general election scheduled for Friday the 26th of February, the political parties have been publishing their manifestos in a bid to outline to citizens their objectives if they enter government.There are approximately 180,000 undergraduate students studying in colleges across the country. Political party policies’ on third-level education and Ireland's youth could have a significant impact on their success in the election.In order to aid students with information on their options before casting their vote, this list has been compiled highlighting the various policies supported by the parties that will affect students. FINE GAEL The party intends to double housing output to 25,000 a year by 2020 to contain the cost of housing, which should have a positive impact on future students seeking accommodation. They also intend to boost the affordable housing supply to stem the tide of low-income families becoming homeless and relying on emergency accommodation.Fine Gael wishes to double the number of apprenticeships to 31,000 by 2020, as the number of people going into trades is currently declining at a sharp rate. A core policy proposed by the party is to abolish the Universal Social Charge (USC) while simultaneously raising the minimum wage gradually over the life term of the next government. Both of these would have an impact on young people in employment in particular.A draft of Fine Gael’s education manifesto has stated that they will introduce a student loan system for third level education. FIANNA FÁIL Fianna Fáil are considering introducing a student loan system for young people who don't have access to the student maintenance grant to access third level education.An increase in spending on third level is part of their manifesto as well, with a particular emphasis on research and development. Providing more apprenticeships is also contained in their policies. An increase in the supply of social housing is mooted to address the issue of an overheated private renting sector. The introduction of rent control in Dublin is a policy they hope will prevent further price hikes in the city's property market, which has been a serious problem for UCD students in recent years. SINN FÉIN Sinn Féin have pledged to reduce student fees by €500 if they enter government. They also intend to ensure that 20 per cent of new housing developments go towards the affordable housing and social housing sectors.They also seek to establish rent certainty, introduce a tenant's rights charter as well as considering a capping of rent subsidies, which are moves that would have particular relevance to UCD students.A move towards raising the minimum wage to the living wage is also a promise from the party. LABOUR Joan Burton has announced Labour's intention to reduce student fees by €500 if re-elected.Similar to Fine Gael, they support the abolition of the USC, but unlike their current coalition partners' plans, the abolition would not apply to those deemed to be high income earners.Notably for students, Labour aim to gradually raise the minimum wage to €11.30 over the lifetime of the next government. Labour have also pledged to hold a referendum on the Eighth Amendment if they are re-elected, supporting the right to termination for reasons such as risk to health, life, rape or fatal foetal abnormality. RENUA Like Fine Gael, the party supports the introduction of a student loan system, with students expected to repay the loans once their salaries exceed a certain threshold (likely to be in the region of €25,000 per annum).Renua supports a Public-Private Partnership to increase the rate of housebuilding in the country, to tackle the present shortage in supply. Increasing access to Job Bridge is also a policy of Renua, as is support for water charges. SOCIAL DEMOCRATS In the run-up to the election, the Social Democrats published their ten-year manifesto which outlines the policies people can expect if they enter government after the election.Most notably for students, they wish to reduce the student contribution fee to €2,000 and cap it at this figure.The party wants to extend rent caps and use fiscal policy to bring vacant homes onto the market, moves which should assist students in finding affordable accommodation in a tight market. They intend to build 10,000 units of social housing per annum if they enter government.The party strongly supports removing the Eighth Amendment from the constitution and are committed to holding a referendum on the issue within the first 18 months of the next Dáil.If they enter government, they promise to abolish the water charges.The party proposes increasing investment in Dublin Bus in order to reduce fares.Furthermore, the Social Democrats intend to raise the minimum wage to the living wage and also to ban zero-hour contracts; two employment-related issues which affect thousands of students. AAA/PBP The Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit (AAA-PBP) was established to maximise the presence of left-wing TDs in the next Dáil. Both the AAA and the PBP retain their individual organisations and will publish separate election manifestos. They have ruled out coalition with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour.The alliance is unified by its opposition to water charges and the Job Bridge scheme, which disproportionately affects college graduates. It is their intention to abolish the USC and support raising both income and corporation tax.A millionaires' tax has been proposed by the alliance and they support the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment, as well as a referendum on abortion to allow women the right to choose. GREENS The Green Party believes third-level institutions should construct more on-campus accommodation to take as many students as possible out of the private rental market, and also therefore make the college itself more attractive to prospective students. They propose the setting up of a housing body or housing trust which would be linked to local authorities and therefore be outside the general government sector and provide a combination of affordable and social housing. The party also prioritises energy efficiency in new housing units constructed in the state. INDEPENDENT ALLIANCE The Independence Alliance has no defined policies and a party whip will not be enforced in the Dáil, enabling their TDs to have a free vote on any Dáil motions.Students may be enticed by the freedom these and other independents will have in the Dáil to vote without instruction from a party hierarchy, though students should note that one IA candidate may have views that differ from another. If more than seven IA candidates are elected, they will have extra speaking time in the Dáil which could allow them to focus on issues of minority groups, which may include students.High profile candidates include Shane Ross in Dublin South and Finian McGrath in Dublin Bay North.