To help you make an informed decision on which party to vote for in the upcoming election, we have examined the policy proposals of each main party which may impact university students.
Fine Gael, who have been in government for the past nine years, appear to be focusing many of their policies on helping first-time homebuyers in the midst of a housing crisis. The party proposes to increase the amount that can be claimed under the Help-to-Buy scheme in the next budget. This will aid students contemplating the purchase of property in the coming years. Another key issue in this election highlighted by Fine Gael is the Brexit negotiations. Leo Varadkar has pledged to ensure that citizens’ rights will be protected and that the Common Travel Area will remain intact. Retaining the CTA is important for students wishing to study or work in the UK in the future. It means a Visa is not required and ensures that our neighbouring country is an accessible and inexpensive option for moving abroad.
Fianna Fail, who were last in government between 1997 and 2011, are proposing significant tax reforms which may interest students. These include reducing the Universal Social Charge (USC) and introducing a €600 Rental Tax Credit. They have pledged to restrict short-term letting platforms such as Airbnb to reduce the surge in rental prices, which is a familiar struggle for many third-level students living in rental accommodation.
Another party seeking to address the issue of high rental costs is Sinn Fein. Their housing manifesto includes a proposal to introduce an emergency three-year rent freeze, and the introduction of a tenant’s rights charter. The Labour Party have also proposed to introduce a similar three-year rent freeze, while Fianna Fail says it will not do so on grounds of unconstitutionality.
Labour recently launched its proposals on gender equality in the workplace. They have pledged to introduce legislation to force companies with over 50 employees to reveal any gender pay gap. Further legislative proposals would require companies to ensure their boards consisted of 30% women.
As part of their package to address the climate crisis, the Green Party have pledged to invest €475 million on sustainable transport. This would include updating the rail network and cycling network – something that would hugely benefit commuter students all over the country.
There are over 160,000 students in Ireland enrolled in full-time higher education, and each of these votes is crucial in shaping the country’s future political landscape. If politicians are to work to improve the lives of students and young people, we all need to get out and vote.
Blathnaid Corless – Politics Writer