Fuck You Very Much, Ireland.

Dear Ireland,

Ireland. A place of culture of heritage. A place well-known for its artistic ability, its musical talent. Ireland. The land of saints and scholars. The land of musicians, green flags, Guinness and good craic.

But beneath Ireland’s proud and talented exterior, there lies fraud, injustice and false awarding. You see, as a student in Ireland, I have felt the pinch more-so than I dare to admit. I’m from Roscommon, and there aren’t any third-level institutes there. There is Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), but not many courses there appeal to me. There is National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), and Galway-Mayo Instititute of Technology (GMIT), an hour’s drive from my home. There is Sligo Institute of Technology an hour away from my home. But without the aid of Dublin Bus services in the west, it is impossible to commute from one to the other as a Student. This leaves no choice for students in the west but to rent accommodation near their selected Institute, which usually costs about €300 a month.

In the end, I decided to pursue my talents and interests, and applied to Ballyfermot College of Further Education to study Television and Digital Film. Although there is a Film and Television course in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, I decided to go to Ballyfermot. The course I am studying is a one-year course, and I thought it was best to get a taster of the area before I plunged straight into an intense degree.

Not that it would make much difference if I studied a one-year course in this area in Galway, as I would also have to rent accommodation there, which costs more or less the same as accommodation in Dublin.

Now, as a Student in Dublin, my living costs are extortionate when you take into account I am forced to rely on my parent’s income, when they are struggling financially as it is. I pay €90 a week on accommodation; (this is in a ‘digs’ arrangement, so I get meals, too) I pay €25.50 on a Student Return ticket from my hometown to Dublin, and back again, every weekend. I pay €16.50 a week on a Student Weekly Bus Ticket. €136.50 is spent already, only for the essentials, only in one week. Then, I’m usually given a further €8-€15, (depending on that week’s finances), on spending money. Normally, I’m given €150 a week for everything.

€150 a week, for the right to an education? €600 a month, for the right to an education? About €4,200 a year, for the right to an education?

You may have stopped reading right about now, as you’re sick of my pointless rambling and complaining. But I have a point, I swear!

Since beginning my course in Ballyfermot, I have encountered other students who are entitled to Back to Education Allowance. When I found out I had gotten a place on my current course, for a brief moment, I was naive enough to think that I was entitled to BTEA.

The conditions of Back to Education Allowance strictly state that the individual applying for this financial aid must have been out of education for at least 2 years. I was out of education for almost one year in 2010-2011; I was therefore not applicable for the financial aid I so desperately need.

Furthermore, students who, quite frankly, do not deserve or need this financial aid are being granted it without any hassle whatsoever. I have encountered students who spend their Back to Education Allowance on drugs and alcohol, not even appreciating what they have. Aside from this, there are students in their early to mid 20’s getting Back to Education Allowance when they live in walking distance from their college, which means they don’t have travel expenses. And what about the Grant? Students living at home, who don’t have to pay rent, are being entitled to this financial support, without trouble also. I’m not entitled to either. My parents have been struggling financially for a lot of my upbringing, they still do struggle. But still, their income is ‘too high’ for entitlement to a grant for myself, my brother or my sister.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone deserves a chance. Everyone SHOULD have the right to an education, but we live in an Ireland that has, quite frankly, fucked us over. We have returned to a time where education is becoming a luxury, a thing offered to students with rich parents.

We live in an land of culture, of music, of art, of fun. But all of this heritage has been smothered by the clear injustice going on in our Ireland. I used to be so proud of you, Ireland, but lately, I struggle to see anything you’ve done right for me. You haven’t looked out for people like me, you’ve ignored us, you’ve used us, you’ve abused us.

Aside from BTEA and the Grant aid, what other financial aid is offered to Students? It is expected that parents on a minimum wage can afford to send 1, 2, 3 or more students off to college? How unrealistic is this? How unfair is this? But most importantly, how corrupt is this?

Get a part-time job, I hear you say. It seems I spend my life applying for some sort of part-time employment, both online and through handing in CV’s. The majority of employers seem to not even have the decency to contact me back.

So, fuck you very much Ireland. You’ve wronged me, left me out, betrayed me. But, maybe someday I’ll forgive you. Only if you stop throwing our wads of cash, earned by the working Ireland, to imbeciles not even appreciating their education, not even appreciating their chance. You’re handing out money to support drugs and alcoholism, from what I can tell.

Perhaps a better system would be checking what these students are spending their ‘free money’ on. Perhaps then, people who need the money will get first preference, and these students wont be rewarded for laziness any longer.

But, in a corrupt Ireland, I’ll be waiting, and waiting, and such a skill of logic will never come by…

Yours faithfully,

Aisling Kelleher.