Campaign group ‘Youth Fight for Jobs & Education’ has called for protests against cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance proposed by Ministers Stephen Farry and John O’Dowd. The cuts would see the £10 and £20 weekly payments abolished, with approximately 4,500 students losing EMA entirely. The main protest will take place in Belfast at 4.30pm on Thursday 14th March, as part of a Europe-wide day of action against austerity called by the trade union movement. Protests are also being organised in Enniskillen, Derry and Downpatrick.
Neil Moore – the NI secretary of YFJE and President of Belfast Met Students’ Union – said, “This is an attack on young people and their families.” He continued by saying, “While cutting EMA – which costs a relatively small £29 million – the Stormont politicians have ring-fenced £10 billion to fund rip-off privatisation schemes and are campaigning for huge tax cuts for big business.”
Moore reiterated the need for protests by saying, “If they get away with these cuts without serious opposition, the politicians will take it as a green light for even bigger cuts to EMA and education as a whole in the near future. This could mean the abolition of EMA, cuts to jobs and services, cuts to courses and an increase in tuition fees.”
Moore stated that, “Young people in Northern Ireland have forced the Assembly Executive back from cutting EMA before.” He stressed the importance of continued campaigns for the assurance of support to students.