TOP QUESTIONS TO ASK A PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVE Does the TD think that the increases in the Student Contribution he has outlined to 2015 are sustainable for families above the grant threshold? Does the TD accept that the government is laying the foundation for the introduction of student loans by virtue of the increases in Student Contribution Minister Quinn has outlined? Does s/he appreciate the huge negative impact this has had on students with a similar system in the UK, which showed a 17% drop in participation? Does the TD realise the negative implications of cutting the maintenance grant for students who need financial assistance to stay in college? Does the TD realise that while Jobseeker’s Allowance is the lowest amount of money society has decided a person can live on each week, the maintenance grant is significantly less each week and has been cut more since 2008? Does the TD believe it is acceptable that no calculations have been made by higher education institutions in Ireland as to what their funding requirements are in order to maintain quality while accommodating increased participation? Will the TD vote for a Budget that cuts maintenance grants? Will the TD vote for a Budget that increases the Student Contribution when there are so many savings to be made in higher education without having to increase fees?
WHO TO TARGET Name
Party Member Organisation
Sen. Mary Moran *
Colm Keaveney *
NUIG SU/GMIT SU
NUIG SU/GMIT SU
NUIG SU/GMIT SU
NUIG SU/GMIT SU
IT Sligo SU/STACS
Donegal North East
Ruairi Quinn *
Dublin South East
Aodhan Ó Riordain *
Dublin North Central
Kerry North/Limerick W
ITCSU/Carlow College SU
Ciara Conway *
Potential Allies Name
Cork North Central
Sen. Kathryn Reilly
Donegal North East
Sen. Averil Power
Dublin North East
Dublin South West
People Before Profit
Dublin South Central
*USI representatives have already met this member of Oireachtas as of 19th October 2012.
Once you have found the TD or Senator prioritised to your college, e-mail that person and ask for a meeting or attend one of their constituency clinics (most TDs or Senators hold events called constituency clinics in the local area open members of the public to ask questions of the public representative).
Getting the most from meetings with your TDs/Senators for students, families and local businesses It is important to note that most – if not all – TDs and Senators are public servants of the highest standard, who are willing to proactively help constituents from all backgrounds on any issue. Some parts of this document show how to deal with the few negative individuals that exist in politics, as in every sector of Irish society.
Keep the pressure on your local representatives. After a meeting in their constituency office, follow up with an email, phone call or twitter. Contact your local Students’ Union for support and advice. Encourage classmates, friends and family members to visit their local TDs/Senators. Provide feedback to your local SU or to USI (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Essential Tips & Advice RESEARCH
Before you meet a TD or Senator do some background research. Find out their stance on issues affecting students, their biography, what they said in their election manifestos, etc. Wikipedia is actually a very useful resource in this regard and can provide a lot of information on the public representative. Other helpful sites include electionsireland.org (which allows you to see how they got on in the last election) and KildareStreet.com (which allows you to see what they having been talking about in the Oireachtas).
Do not be afraid to challenge a point of view or debate your point. In some circumstances politicians may try to pass the issue to a party spokesperson/Minister. Make sure you point out that as a constituent you are asking for their personal support/opinion/action. In the past representatives have tried to present the situation as past and dealt with – written in stone. Public representatives are legislators and by and large, can change what they will. Even if you feel you have lost a point of debate you are still entitled to your views, so make them known.
ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL
Be sure on the day to put forward local issues about your constituency. Use the opportunity to comment about good or bad aspects of your local constituency. This shows that we are not single issue ideologues, and ensures we are not brushed off with a “that’s a national issue for the Minister/Party Spokesperson.”
“YOU’VE LOST MY VOTE”
This phrase should never be used while talking to a representative. It belittles your point and you can come across as childish. If they believe there is no chance of getting your vote they can dismiss all your issues and concerns out of hand, and not even address them.
NEVER BE AGGRESSIVE Be sure to introduce yourself, letting your representative know where you are and where you are from, if you have contact details [e-mail, mobile, business card], pass it on.
While every point put to a politician must be put firmly and with resolve; you can never get aggressive. Getting aggressive plays into the hands of negative politicians because it allows them to dismiss you and your arguments as malcontents or ideologues.
SET OUT YOUR STALL
IT IS A TWO WAY STREET
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Some of the major financial issues students face prior to Budget 2013 include: Increase in Student Contribution Decrease in Maintenance Grants Introduction of Inequitable Postgraduate Loans Lack of Funding for Student Assistance Fund Graduate Unemployment & Emigration
the follow up This is very important; ensuring your representative follows up with your concerns is a vital way of keeping the issue alive. There are a number of ways your local representative can pursue your issues, the following are just some examples.
PRIVATE MEMBERS’ MOTION
This is a Dáil motion put down by a political party (usually the opposition) and is discussed in the evening usually over two days. This generates a lot of press attention and raises the profile of your issue in the Dáil. Opposition front benches decide what issues to put forward and it may take time. The government of the day will usually vote to amend the motion to say “the government is super, etc” and then it is passed. However the debate will put the Minister under pressure.
If a member of a government party says that he supports your position why not ask her/him to say so publicly. Members of the opposition should be encouraged to highlight the issue in their local press.
Political parties are always running campaigns on issues of concern whether it is Sellafield or College Fees. Why not ask them if they are willing to do more than moral support.
WHO TO TARGET ELECTION ISSUE
When canvassing at the next local, European, general election, politicians will face our issues/concerns and we will ensure that this happens. We will also highlight to our members, people who support us. We must ask politicians to help us, so we help them. Will they make our issues an election issue?
RAISING THE ISSUE AT A PARLIAMENTARY MEETING
For a member of a government party the parliamentary party meeting (a meeting of Senators and TDs) is very important. Often the government would set out the “party line” at this meeting and briefs TDs and Senators about new policy and discuss issues. Ensuring that your local representative puts forward your point of view at these meetings is vital. This can be the most effective course of action you can ask your local representative to take.
In the lead up to the Budget in December USI has selected a number of TDs and Senators that each college should focus their time on. Members were selected based on: Electoral Vulnerability Representing a Constituency which includes a USI member organisation Statements made prior/subsequent to Feb 2011 election that ran counter to current Govt policy on higher education Education Spokespersons Fellow Constituency TD of Strategic Importance (Example: Kevin Humphreys, Labour TD for Dublin South East, was selected as he is politically vulnerable, represents a constituency that includes TCD, has spoken in favour of protecting maintenance grants and is in the same constituency as Minister for Ed & Skills Ruairi Quinn)
STAY IN CONTACT
You can contact your local TD’s office by calling the Leinster House switch on 01 6183000. You can also email all your local representatives by sending an email to: FirstName.SecondName@oireachtas.ie [Remember that Ministers emails are different and can be contacted through their department] Example: Enda Kenny would be Enda.Kenny@oireachtas.ie
Will your concerns/issues be passed into party policy? Will it feature in the party’s next manifesto? You should be seeking all of the above.
We must always be willing to listen to our local representative and give her/him our contact details, if she/he would like to raise issues with us, we should be willing to listen. This may mean hearing about candidates in the local and European elections or arguments against our concerns. We must be willing to extend every courtesy to them that we would expect from them.