Simon Harris has been failing upwards all the way to the top spot – Mairéad Farrell TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Mairéad Farrell TD, has said that Simon Harris’ ministerial track record has been one of failing upwards all the way to the top to be Taoiseach.

She stated that Minister Harris’ track record needs to be put under the microscope, particularly if he is the next leader of government.

Teachta Farrell said, “Simon Harris became the first ever Minister for Further and Higher Education following his troubled stint as Minister for Health, which had helped to bring down the previous government.

“During his time as Minister for the Department of Further and Higher Education, the student accommodation crisis has gone from bad to worse.

“What the Minister doesn’t like pointed out is that the main delivery stream for purpose-built student accommodation is now vulture funds, which own more student accommodation in Dublin than all the Dublin universities combined.

“The same goes for Cork and it will soon be true of Galway too.

“These funds charge astronomical rents. For example, one in my home county of Galway just announced a 30% hike in their rents. To make matters worse, many have now requirements for 51-week leases, despite the academic year generally being only 39 weeks.

“Minister Harris and O’Brien had given commitments to examine the relevant legislation, but will there be any follow-through? I would be very doubtful.

“The area of apprenticeships is arguably what Minister Harris most likes to point to as evidence for his success. It should be acknowledged that he has introduced new consortia apprenticeships in areas such as accountancy and cyber security.

“However, when it comes to craft apprenticeships, for careers such as electricians and carpenters, i.e. the type we need to tackle the housing and infrastructural crises, then we appear to be going backwards.

“We have over 9,000 apprentices waiting for off-the-job training who are very angry. These are people who are often being paid below what they should be receiving because they cannot complete the training which takes them to the next pay scale.

“If his time as Minister for Further and Higher Education is any kind of guide to what his time as Taoiseach will be like, we can expect a lot of spin, smoke and mirrors, designed to maximise the media moment, but with little detail or policy development worked out.”

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