I welcome the Minister of State to the House. Although the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, said in 1993, when the student summer job scheme was introduced, that the purpose of the social welfare system is to direct resources at those who are most in need, and in view of the fact that the parents of about 1,800 students who were on the scheme last year were on social welfare, why is he depriving people who come from the most disadvantaged section of our community of the opportunity of benefiting from the scheme? While the Minister for Education and Science is attacking the students' parents and crucifying them by removing the grants for third level education, the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is attacking the students from the weakest part of the community and depriving them of the right to work for their community.
The Minister of State is correct in his statistics regarding the take-up of the scheme. On the eastern seaboard, there is certainly a significant drop to single or double digit figures. However, along the southern and western seaboards, Mayo, Donegal, Cork, Galway and Kerry have very significant numbers of students working on the scheme. For instance, Mayo had nearly 600 last year and Donegal had 500. Galway, the county in which the Minister's constituency is located, had 354 and Kerry had almost 500. The fact that these students are working for hundreds of community groups must be considered. Every GAA hall, parish community, social club and school is using these students during the summer for very useful and valid social projects. What the Minister is doing is shameful and unacceptable in the extreme.