THE MINISTER FOR Education and the Chief State Solicitor’s Office have been served with notice of a Supreme Court appeal against the dismissal of a judicial review sought by three students against reform of the grants system.
The review was dismissed at the High Court in April when Justice John Hedigan ruled in favour of the Minister for Education.
The minister had defended the proposals and Hedigan agreed with the minister, finding that the economic difficulties being experienced by the State had greater significance than the legitimate expectation which the students had about the status of their grants.
The students had claimed that changes to the grants system were in breach of Section 6 of the Student Support Act 2011.
The section outlines that students who are already in receipt of the maintenance grant should “continue to receive the grant concerned until the person has completed that course and he or she shall not apply for a grant other than the grant of which he or she is in receipt”.
The changes to the grant system last year increased the distance that students must live from their education institution from 24km to 45km in order to receive the higher ‘non-adjacent’ rate. The USI estimates that around 25,000 students are affected by the changes.
President of the Union of Students of Ireland Gary Redmond tweeted about the Supreme Court appeal this afternoon:
Students supported by USI have served Min for Ed with notice of a Supreme Court appeal of unfair and unjust 60% reduction in student grants.
Redmond told TheJournal.ie that after examining Justice Hedigan’s judgement and evaluating it, they received “strong legal advice” that the judge was “mistaken in his interpretation of Section 6″.
Redmond also said that the action is now being taken on behalf of two students rather than three, as the third has now dropped out of college as a result of a reduction in his grant, and is now planning to emigrate.
The minister for education’s use of the country’s economic circumstances as a reason to implement changes to the grant system was “concerning” according to Redmond. He said:
We can’t have a minister making a decision which is held up in court, based on economic circumstances.
Redmond had previously said that the costs of pursuing an appeal would be a deciding factor in whether or not one was sought, but that the students’ legal counsel had successfully argued that both sides should pay their own High Court costs.
He also said that a solicitor’s firm in Cork had agreed to take on their case “at cost”, significantly reducing the fees involved. He added that there is a possibility that going to the Supreme Court may result in the students and the USI being ordered to pay full costs.