[Sinn Fein]

26 February 2002

Adams calls for the creation of an `Alliance for Irish Unity'

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP speaking today in the course of a hectic round of meetings at three Dublin universities - DCU, UCD and TCD - has called for the creation of `an Alliance for Irish Unity' - a coming together of likeminded individuals and organisations who seek an end to partition and a united Ireland based on equality and justice. The Sinn Fein leader also addressed the key issues of student poverty, grants, access to education and student accomodation.

Mr Adams said:

``A united Ireland, an end to partition and Britain's presence are a means to an end - the creation of a national republic in which equality and the empowerment of people are central.

``Our goal of a united free and independent Ireland is not an aspiration or a pipe dream. It is real. It is achievable.

``Emancipation and empowerment are the key principles of Sinn Fein's policies. We envisage not only the political independence of our country but the social and economic liberation of all citizens within it.

``But none of this will happen unless Irish republicans and others grasp the challenge, take the lead and make it happen.

``The reality is that Sinn Fein cannot bring about on our own all the changes in politics and society that are required. Consequently we want to link up with likeminded groups and individuals in other parties, in campaigning groups and beyond, to put together an Alliance for Irish Unity. One which is free of corruption and characterised by equality and social justice.''

Addressing priorities for students today Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams MP supported student campaigns on access to third level, increase in student grants and the need for the greater provision of student purpose accommodation. He said:


``Third level education must be open to all. There are many young people who do not wish to attend college or university and this is a perfectly reasonable position. However, many are still denied the chance to further their education. Sinn Fein has consistently argued that Colleges must be open to all and not based on an inability to pay. The under-representation of students with disabilities and members of the travelling community in our colleges also highlights the need for reforms. It is not enough for the Government to simply recite the rhetoric of equal access. Political promises must be matched with adequate resources.


``The Housing crisis has been felt strongly by students. We have called on the government to improve Ireland's abysmal levels of student purpose accommodation. So far they have failed. At present, the proportion of students in campus accommodation is just 6%, compared with the European average of 19%. Some students are forced to travel four or five hours a day this just to attend college because of the accommodation shortage. Years of bad planning and Government inaction have led to this disastrous situation for third level students.

Grant levels:

``The third level student grant levels are wholly inadequate. Many students are unable to attend university in the first place as a result of lack of support that I have highlighted. Others who do go to college are working up to 40 hours a week on top of study time simply to make ends meet. Grant levels must be increased. The proposal to increase grant levels to the rate of social welfare payments is one that I support and believe to be fair. There is also a need to increase income thresholds so that more students qualify for a grant.

``Providing resources to third level education and students is an investment in the country's future. It is time that the government had faith in Ireland's youth.''

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