Do We Really Care? – Hannah Popham

hannahAs the morning of the Budget announcement progresses, all three national broadsheets have run with the same story as their online headline.  The chosen story has nothing to do with the prospect of the impending taxes and cuts, which will affect each one of us every single day. The Irish Times, The Irish Independent and The Examiner have chosen to headline with pictures of gangland member John Gilligan, who was this morning released from Portlaoise Prison.

When you consider that the recent Union of Students in Ireland (USI)-led budget protest this day two weeks ago created a meagre crowd of only 800 students in Dublin, it is worth posing the question: do we really care? The USI organises a nationwide protest against fees increases and student grant cuts. It seems that these numbers are diminishing annually. Why have both the media and the youth of Ireland shown apathy in relation to their role within political change?

I hate to be cynical, but despite the USI’s effort in avoiding further increases to the student contribution fee, the cost of students’ registration has risen incrementally each year. Not only this, but the budget of 2012 brought a significant cut in postgraduate student grants, further increasing the risk of graduate emigration, even if only to pursue post-graduate courses.

President of DIT Student’s Union, Glenn Fitzpatrick has expressed significant concern in regards to the impact of this particular cut: “As regards to postgraduate funding, this is a major issue. The removal of the post graduate grant was a terrible short term decision made by the Department which even the HEA said was counter-productive.”

He added: “The real impact of that is now being seen, with some courses not having enough registered students to go ahead.” For example, the Masters in International Journalism Course in Dublin City University had to be cancelled this year, as the college did not have enough post-graduate students to warrant the creation of a class for this year.

Unfortunately, part of the lack of student motivation in dictating their needs in the Budget has to stem from those who simply intend to emigrate upon graduating. Fed up with competing against those with masters degrees and doctorates for high-paying jobs, a friend of mine has decided that the only option is to use his best attribute (fluency in Spanish) to move to Argentina.

The equally low turn-out of voters for the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad (estimated at below 40 per cent) also casts light on the lack of connection that exists between the public and the government in recent weeks. Has the financial crisis and how it came about destroyed our faith in politicians and authorities? Is it only when the government directly involves us with their decisions that we become galvanised to speak out against them?

As the details of the Budget 2014 become clear, it is time to reconsider our interaction with the government and at least attempt to remedy our nationwide apathy.

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