On Monday May 3rd, students woke up to yet another slanderous headline. A national newspaper insinuated that students are exposing a “loophole” in the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) scheme. Further, the same story reported that an unnamed minister said it is “astonishing” that “47000 students are lying in bed claiming PUP”. The paper claims students are draining the Irish state of up to 125 million euro.
This is just one of many aggressive storylines against students during the pandemic. Be it Newstalk’s Pat Kenny slamming students for drinking by the canals in Dublin, or faceless callers into Radio talk shows, who condemn students for not “just getting on with it” in terms of remote learning.
To insinuate that students simply claim PUP only to doss about drinking by canals, lying in bed all day, and throwing super-spreader events is nonsense. These writers, broadcasters and ministers seem to forget a few things: Students are as entitled to the PUP as any other adult out of work. Students in Ireland have an unemployment rate of 59% at the time of writing. The biggest employment sectors for students, being retail and hospitality, have largely been shut since March 2020. Students have not had any easing of rent costs or university fees. It’s also worth remembering student nurses worked on Covid-19 wards during the height of the pandemic, for free.
The reality is that students have faced immense challenges since the pandemic hit Ireland. A complete absence of campus activity since March 2020, a summer spent scrambling for accommodation, only to be told they could work remotely, and a distinct lack of rent protections. On top of this students have suffered job loss and separation from family and friends.
It is doubtful that any student wants to be “lying in bed” in sub-par, overpriced accommodation that was paid for 12 months in advance under the guise of universities being back on campus in the year just gone.
These scandalous headlines and unfounded comments from news outlets and ministers alike are just another aspect of unfair treatment students have endured over the last year or so. If such commentary continues, I don’t believe it is a far reach to say students will look abroad to study and seek out a career. After all, what use is a country that vilifies students for being students?
Luke Murphy, Co-Editor