Galway County Council has denied claims that third-level students could be denied access to education grants if they or their families have not paid the contentious household charge.
It was revealed earlier this week that Clare County Council had issued letters to families of students asking for confirmation of payment of the €100 charge before grant instalments would be paid for the first semester.
The move sparked major outrage among student groups and a busload of students from NUI Galway travelled to Ennis yesterday evening to protest the decision, amid fears it could be rolled out across the country.
In a statement, President of NUI Galway Students’ Union Paul Curley condemned the actions of the local authority and said the aim of the protest was to highlight the “anger and disgust” of students who will be affected.
He said the decision was “short-sighted and ridiculous” and a reaction to the local authority not being able to “get its house in order”.
“The payment of third level grants, which have already suffered massive cuts, is already late and this terrible attempt at efficiency is only going to make things worse,” he explained.
“Students don’t own houses and, linking the payment of the household charge to their grants is a cheap shot. It’s on the same level as requesting proof of payment of the Household Charge before dispatching the fire brigade to a house fire.”
When contacted yesterday, a spokesperson for Galway County Council, which handles all payments of grants in the city and county, confirmed that it had not issued similar letters to Clare County Council and had “no plans to require confirmation of payment of the household charge prior to issuing payment of student grants”.
Furthermore, the Department of Education and Skills told the Galway Independent yesterday that it was “neither consulted nor informed” of the letters being issued by Clare County Council and confirmed that the Student Support Act 2011 “does not provide for withholding of the payment of a student grant on foot of non-payment of the household charge”.