Local Independent councillor Michael O’Brien had his proposal for free travel for third level students raised in the Seanad last week in the form of a commencement debate by Senator Brian O’Domhnaill.
Senator O’Domhnaill raised the proposal on Cllr O’Brien’s behalf, and spoke of the merits of such a proposal. The Social Protection Minister, Leo Varadkar, was in the Seanad to respond to the proposal. He said that Cllr O’Brien’s proposal was an innovative one, and while there are many demands on the public finances around Budget time, it was something that could be explored in conjunction with the Department of Education.
Cllr O’Brien, who attended the debate, said he was happy with the level of cross-party support he is receiving for his proposal and that his colleague, Longford-Westmeath Deputy Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran had brought the proposal to the negotiating table during Budget talks.
“It’s early days,” Cllr O’Brien said. “I appreciate there are many demands on the public purse, but I feel something has to be done to ease the burden of the rising costs involved in third level education. If it continues the way it’s going it will only be the privileged who will be able to afford third level education. This is not acceptable in my view.
“Extending the free travel scheme to full-time students would be a creative way for Government to help students and their parents meet the costs of third level education. I will continue to campaign for this and indeed more affordable access to third level education.”