If Enda knew Susi like Ruairí knows Susi


Anything interesting on the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee website? There’s Enda in August, presenting the CDVEC with a big award.

The Taoiseach loves awards. When he isn’t on the receiving end, he’s handing them out. So what’s this one for? “Online grants system receives Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Award.” Oh.

It must be said, the CDVEC people are mightily pleased with themselves. There’s even a nice photo of the happy team with their gong, which was presented in June.

“The new central online system for student grants which is behind Susi [Student Universal Support Ireland] recently received the Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Award,” we are told.

“Up until last year, students applied to 66 different local authorities and VECs for their grants. Susi replaces all of these with a centralised, easy to use, online system of application.” Fabulous.

Minister Ruairí Quinn “considers the facility a major step on the path of public sector reform”, so he does.

According to the Department of Education, Susi, among other things, will provide for “significant improvements in the student experience of the grant system”. Brilliant.

And look, there’s Jacinta Stewart, chief executive of the CDVEC: “This is a very exciting and ground-breaking project. The staff at Susi have risen to the considerable challenges in a remarkable way. The project is already a source of great pride to CDVEC. We are delighted to see this project receive such important national recognition for its innovation and excellence.” Bravo.

These very prestigious awards are held every two years “to recognise innovation and best practice in public service administration and service delivery”.

Twenty were presented this year, from 189 applications. The Susi people got their plaque (mahogany, brass plate, Government harp, tastefully inscribed) at a ceremony at St Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle, having presented their “successful project” to an audience of 300 public servants at a “showcase conference”. Fantastic.

Enda was delighted to be doing the honours. “These awards recognise and reward projects and initiatives that enhance efficiency, quality and effectiveness of public services. They showcase what is best in the public service.”

Happy days.

Sadly, though, the recognition for Susi was somewhat premature and the CDVEC’s self-congratulation somewhat misplaced. Ruairí Quinn had to do a mea culpa in the Dáil on Tuesday night for the shambles that is Susi, with tens of thousands of students in dire straits, still waiting for their grants.

“I want to apologise formally to those students and their parents for the distress these delays are causing and ultimately, as Minister for Education and Skills, I accept responsibility,” he said.

One wonders if Enda was thinking about that plaque he handed over in Dublin Castle when Gerry Adams and Richard Boyd Barrett were attacking him at Leaders’ Questions over the Susi crisis.

“I agree with Deputy Adams that this is an unacceptable position. This is the official position of both the Minister for Education and Skills and the Government,” he admitted.

Boyd Barrett spoke of one student who was so hard up that his “breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week were one packet of pasta and a bottle of tomato ketchup”. Shane Ross looked aghast when he heard it. The expression on his face was priceless.

Meanwhile, Jacinta Stewart was hauled before the Oireachtas education committee to explain why staff at Susi had not, in fact, risen to the challenges in a remarkable way.

All together now: If you knew Susi, like we know Susi, Oh, oh . . .