UCD Student Accommodation – Official Opening of Ashfield

Action Plan for Housing, Education, Housing and Urban Renewal, Rebuilding Ireland, School extension


Belfield Campus

23 August 2016

Speech by Minister Damian English, T.D., Minister of State for Housing & Planning 

President, elected representatives, other guests.

I’m glad to be here today to mark this very important launch for UCD and for the surrounding area and community, as we open the new residences and see the university’s strategic vision for on-campus development in the period ahead mapped out in the new masterplan.

It’s perhaps easy to overlook just how important UCD is in economic terms to the wider Dublin area. But it is worth noting that every day some 31,000 students, staff and visitors attend UCD’s Belfield campus. With the on-campus residences now expanded to over 3,000, this means that 28,000 people commute to campus every day.

So Belfield has the same day-time population as Bray, Navan, Ennis or Kilkenny.  This size of population, living and working in such a defined area, really needs to have very clear, and very good urban planning.

The origin of the Belfield campus dates back to the 18th century with the development of a number of estate houses and their associated lands.  In the 1930s the purchase of lands at Belfield provided sports facilities for the university and the President of UCD, Michael Tierney spearheaded a strategic acquisition of lands over the coming decades so that the expanding university could develop this beautiful campus we see today.

The first education buildings for the science faculty were constructed in the 1960s.  This centre has in recent years undergone a massive transformation.  Phases 1 and 2 of the science centre have now been completed, providing facilities for 2,000 students and researchers and I know the President has prioritised the development of Phase 3 in the current campus plan.

As we walked through the Newman Building today President Deeks outlined UCD’s plans to strengthen and consolidate the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.  These academic disciplines provide a stream of evidence-based research, particularly in the areas of societal and public health needs, for policy makers and Government.  As a national institution and a public university, UCD has always contributed to public policy and I welcome the President’s commitment to continuing that role.

I am also encouraged by the University’s ambition to transform the Newman Arts building and the James Joyce Library into a more public space where cultural activities and public exhibitions can take place.  We have seen how the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Lexicon Library has had a transformational impact in terms of creating a place of discovery, education and entertainment for the community.  I know the library staff at UCD were very involved in the planning for the Lexicon and welcome the University’s plans to open up UCD’s cultural resources to the general public.

The wider public also has a stake in the opening of the Ashfield Residences.   The timing of their completion is most welcome as the shortage of housing continues to affect not just students but families.

As Minister Coveney has already outlined, living on campus can bring a lot of benefits for students.

  • By prioritising first years, UCD has recognised that many students leaving home for the first time do not have a social network and providing on-campus residence lets them settle in to university as well as removing anxiety for worried parents.
  • On-campus residence takes pressure off the private rental sector and means that families in particular don’t have to compete with students for much sought-after houses.
  • On-campus residences are generally more affordable to students as they only pay for 38 weeks rather than having to take 12-month leases.   The cost of accommodation on campus compares favourably with the private sector, especially when costs such as light, heat, waste, transport, and high speed wifi are included.  UCD ring fences the rental from residences so that it is channelled back into maintenance and new construction for the students.  UCD on-campus accommodation rates for the academic year range from €5,721 – €7,929 (€10,305 catered), all including utilities.  Ashfield is set at €7,929.
  • On-campus residences are built and maintained to a set high standard.  No grotty bedsits with mould on the ceiling and grubby carpets here!

Looking to the future, it’s heartening to see that the university is already well advanced on planning for the future development of the campus. Good urban planning should always incorporate the ideals of sustainability and the UCD campus is an exemplar of sustainable development.

The University’s focus on sustainability can be seen in the O’Brien Centre for Science, which achieved a BREEAM Excellent design award in sustainability, in the Roebuck Castle Student Residences which are certified to Passivhaus standard, and  here in the new Ashfield Residences which incorporate low-energy design, a significant solar energy installation, rainwater harvesting and features a “green” roof.

I want to wish the university every continued success, to wish returning and new students good luck for the coming academic year and a particular good luck and welcome to the first students to take up residence here in Ashfield. I’m sure it will make a fantastic new home for you, and with these great laundry facilities there’s no excuse for bringing home the bags of washing!

English congratulates Meath West students on CAO 1st round offers

Action Plan for Housing, Apprenticeships, CAO, College, Education, Housing and Urban Renewal, Rebuilding Ireland, Skills

Monday, 22nd August 2016

Housing Minister highlights efforts to help students with accommodation

The Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal and Meath West Fine Gael T.D. Damien English has congratulated Meath West based students on their 1st round CAO offers today Monday 22nd August.

“I really hope that Meath West based students achieved the results that they were aiming for last June.  I urge them to draw on all the resources available to them today and over the coming days in making informed choices if they fell short in points.  Talk to your parents, to your older siblings, to those in the industries and sectors who hope to work in, to your school guidance counsellor, online resources like www.careersportal.ie, or avail of the helplines on offer” stated Minister English.

Local ETBs

“Local ETBs, formerly the VECs, run many exciting jobs focused PLC and other courses. There are also many good courses in ETBs in neighbouring Counties as well.  I urge students to examine these options, as well as paid traineeships and apprenticeships which are rapidly expanding into new non traditional areas like IT, Insurance and Finance” he said.

UCD on campus student accommodation

“On Tuesday 23rd August i will be officially opening 350 new student
residences at UCD for the coming year, bringing the on campus
accommodation on that campus up to 3,000 residences.  This will
benefit all students including students from Meath West, whether they
attend at UCD or not. With the Action Plan for Housing we will be
working to increase the overall supply of housing, which will benefit
students. But we do not want or need students to be competing with
better resourced professionals in the housing market either.  That is
why later this year we will be publishing a specific Action Plan for
Student Housing. Developments like UCD’s and other private
developments ongoing in Dublin will feed into that model and that work
too” stated Minister English.

USI Digs Capaign

“I was delighted along with Minsiter Coveney to give some financial
support to the USI #homesforstudents campaign earlier this month. It
is encouraging people to offer their homes as digs and linking
students up with appropriate accommodation.  I urge Meath West based
students to avail of this service at: http://homes.usi.ie/ as soon as
possible” concluded Minister English.


Minister English congratulates Meath Leaving Certificate students

Apprenticeships, Education, Meath, Skills

Monday, 15th August 2016

“I want to congratulate all the Meath Leaving Certificate students
expecting their results this Wednesday 17th August 2016.  Last year
2,137 students from Meath received their Leaving Certificate results,
with a similar number expected this year also. The Leaving Certificate
is an important stage in a young person’s life, and you should all be
congratulated for your work leading up to today” the Minister for
Housing and Urban Renewal said.

“I’d also like to acknowledge the role of families and teachers. Both
are an invaluable source of support for students as they go through
the senior cycle, and I know that many of them are as anxious as the
students opening up their results envelopes this morning.”

Wide range of options

“From my previous role as Minister for Research, Skills and Innovation
until May this year, I know that these really are exciting times for
students, with more choices available than ever before. They can avail
of higher education options via the CAO system and also be able to
consider an increased and enhanced range of apprenticeships. Alongside
these possibilities, there are a wide range of high quality,
accredited courses offered at the further education and Post Leaving
Certificate level locally in Meath and across the North East region

“I would urge all students to carefully consider all of their options
when deciding on their next steps.”

Student Accommodation

“Earlier this monthI  announced the allocation of €49,000 to the Union
of Students of Ireland (USI) to support their appointment of a Student
Housing Officer, to help identify additional accommodation, including
digs and rooms in private homes, to ease the pressure on securing
rented accommodation for students locally and nationally as we
approach the next academic year. I urge Meath students to engage with
the USI and this new service” stated Minister English.

“This funding comes in the wake of the recent launch of Rebuilding
Ireland, the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness which identified
the expanded provision of student accommodation as a key area to be
addressed within the Plan’s five pillars to tackle our national
housing challenges.”

“The Action Plan identifies the importance of providing dedicated and
additional student accommodation to avoid putting additional pressures
on the private rental sector, particularly in and around the many
universities and third-level institutions in urban areas. in this
regard I welcome the opening of 350 new student residences on the UCD
campus for the 2016/2017 academic year which will benefit Meath
students, along with a number of other private developments aimed at
students ongoing in the Dublin region such as the Binary Hub in the
Liberties providing 471 residences and Dorset Point on Dorset Street
providing 447 residences” concluded Minister English.


New USI Digs service will help Meath students find College Accommodation – English

Education, Funding, Meath, Wesmeath

Local Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, Meath West Fine Gael TD
Damien English this month announced the allocation of €49,000 to the
Union of Students of Ireland (USI) to support their appointment of a
Student Housing Officer, to help identify additional accommodation,
including digs and rooms in private homes, to ease the pressure on
securing rented accommodation for students locally and nationally as
we approach the next academic year.

This funding comes in the wake of the recent launch of Rebuilding
Ireland, the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness which identified
the expanded provision of student accommodation as a key area to be
addressed within the Plan’s five pillars to tackle our national
housing challenges.

The Action Plan identifies the importance of providing dedicated and
additional student accommodation to avoid putting additional pressures
on the private rental sector, particularly in and around the many
universities and third-level institutions in urban areas.  To provide
a comprehensive policy context for this action, the Government has
committed to the development of a national student accommodation
strategy in the first half of 2017, led by the Department of Education
and Skills in conjunction with the Higher Education Institutions
(HEIs), the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local
Government (DHPCLG) and other key stakeholders.

However, as an immediate response, the Plan also committed to
providing funding support for a dedicated Student Housing Officer to
work with the USI, local authorities, Approved Housing Bodies and
housing providers as well as other stakeholders, to identify and
expand short-term capacity enhancing measures in the student
accommodation sector and to assist students in finding appropriate
accommodation.  Funding from this Department is now being made
available to USI to support the “digs” service website they run
homes.usi.ie which last year assisted a total of 600 students to find
suitable housing.

Minister English stated: “We have moved quickly to put this new
resource in place to support work on student accommodation, in line
with what was promised in the Action Plan for Housing and
Homelessness.  This is an indication of our intent regarding early
implementation of the actions under this Plan.  The activities planned
for the new Student Housing Project Manager, working with the USI,
will bring benefits to the important area of student accommodation and
all of these individual actions under the Action Plan, if tackled
progressively, will bring us to an overall better housing situation

“As well as moving forward on a wide range of developmental and
promotional actions, both Minister Coveney and I are aware the USI
aims to increase from 600 to 1,000 the number of students who find
housing due to their digs service.  I’m delighted therefore that our
Department has taken this real and immediate action as early as we
could to allocate this funding. It will enable this work to move ahead
right away, bearing in mind the urgent student accommodation needs
that are arising, including the forthcoming announcement of the CAO
offers for the 2016/2017 academic year.”


English encourages Meath students to apply for College grants before 8th July deadline

Education, Funding

Fine Gael Meath West T.D. and former Junior Education Minister Damien
English has urged new Meath College goers to apply for their 3rd level
grant through www.susi.ie before the July 8th deadline.

“The closing date for new applications is Friday the 8th of July,
2016.and I would urge Meath students and parents to get in early
before the deadline to avoid any last minute issues or needless
stress” stated Minister English, the Minister for Housing and Urban

SUSI is entering its fifth year of operations. The national awarding
body performed extremely well last year, processing over 108,000
applications with in excess of 83,000 students (new and renewal)
awarded grants for the 2015/16 academic year.

It is expected that the number of applications to SUSI for the
upcoming academic year will surpass 110,000. In order to meet the
challenges posed by such numbers and in building on its continuous
learning, SUSI has introduced a number of further key improvements for
2016/17, including:

– More automated validation of the online application form;
– Earlier awarding of applications based on the course choices
provided by students;
– Extended data sharing with Government Departments and agencies; and
– Use of Eircode to streamline the calculation of distance.


Minister English welcomes two excellent Public Library initiatives


Tuesday, 21 Jun 2016

Damien English, T.D., Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal, today (21 June 2016) announced two library initiatives – ‘My Open Library’: Unlimited Access 8am – 10pm and the Summer Stars Reading Programme in Tullamore Central Library, Co. Offaly.

Minister English announced the launch of a call for proposals from Local Authorities to implement the ‘My Open Library’ initiative which extends public library opening hours during unstaffed hours, while continuing to provide regular staffed times for ongoing delivery of service, supporting customers, developing community engagement and hosting events. The ‘My Open Library’ initiative is operated through self-service from 08:00-22:00, 365 days a year, outside of staffed hours. Meeting rooms and community space is also made available for use. The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government will be providing over €2.3 million for the initiative over the coming years.

The Minister praised the new initiative saying “It means that the public and communities will have access to this invaluable local resource when they need and want to use it most.  This will strengthen the prominence of the library in the local community and position it as a focal point for community engagement.”

The Minister also announced the roll-out of a new Summer Stars Reading Programme, which will run in libraries throughout the country this summer.

In launching the Programme the Minister said “Reading opens up a world of imagination and opportunity.  Encouraging children to read is vital.  It helps them to develop and, if nothing else, will provide them with a pastime that will stand the test of time! So I encourage parents to bring their children to the local library and participate in the programme.  Indeed, library membership is free for everybody now – so there’s no excuse not to visit.”

3 Meath West schools to receive facilities boost – English

Bohermeen, Education, Meath, Navan, Trim

Meath West Fine Gael T.D. Damien English, the former Junior Education Minister in the last Government and current Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, has welcome the news that 3 schools in Meath West are to receive extra funding from the Department of Education and Skills under the “Additional Accommodation Scheme”.

Scoil Caitriona Naofa in Oristown is to receive a new mainstream class room, WC for assisted users and a resource room.

St. Ultan’s N.S. Bohermeen is to receive a new mainstream classroom and WC for assisted users.

Scoil Mhuire Secondary School in Trim will see its Central Hall refurbished.

“Education was a key priority of the last Government, and remains so now.  Even in bad times Meath got its fair share of funding and many of our schools were refurbished, renewed or got totally new facilities. This must continue now as we bring about a social recovery that matches our economic recovery.  I was happy to play my part in this work for education in Meath, along with hard working Principals, dedicated voluntary Boards of Management and concerned parents. I welcome the facilities boost that Scoil Caitriona Naofa Oristown, St. Ultan’s N.S. and Schol Mhuire Trim have received, and wish all their staff and pupils well” stated Minister English.

English co-launches Fine Gael’s Early Years Policy

Childcare, Education, Election 2016, Meath, Wesmeath

Monday, 15th February 2016

English co-launches Fine Gael’s Early Years Policy

Local Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation and Meath West Fine
Gael T.D. Damien English co-launched Fine Gael’s Early Years Policy
last week along with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr. James

Speaking at the event Minister English said:

“Ben Franklin once said that an investment in knowledge pays the best
interest.Today Fine Gael is committing to an investment in education,
which I believe will generate a huge return not just to the economy
but the well being and success of our children. As a Minister of State
working in two Departments- Jobs and Education and Skills – I’ve had a
unique opportunity to drive both immediate and long term plans to keep
this recovery going. And I have to say that this recovery isn’t a
given, it isn’t inevitable. It is fragile. And it has not reached
every household yet” Minister English said.

3 Step Plan

“In this election, Fine Gael has a clear proposition – a long term
economic plan with three clear steps that will ensure growth and
stability. Our plan has three steps: Firstly – More and Better Jobs –
creating 200,000 new jobs for 2020. We have already created 135,000.
Secondly – Making Work Pay – As we create more and better jobs, we
must  abolish the USC and provide more childcare options  (as James
has already outlined)
Thirdly, we want to use the resources generated from a strong economy
to invest sensibly and strategically in our public services. If we
have more people in work, more people paying taxes, then we can
recruit 10,000 frontline staff such as teachers, nurses, Gardaí”
explained Minister English.

Junior and Senior Infant Class Size Reduction

“If Fine Gael is elected to government by the Irish people, we will
reduce classes size for junior and senior infants. We will reduce the
pupil teacher ratio to 18:1 by 2021. As part of this investment, we
will fund 832 new teachers for Junior and Senior Infants to make this
a reality. The gains young pupils make from smaller class size well
documented. Our children will get a competitive edge.  EVERY child
will benefit from economic recovery. It has a greater impact on
disadvantaged pupils.  It can influence a student behaviour and
initiative from early on. So you see, this is an investment plan in
the future of our country. In our children’s future. But we can only
do this if we keep the recovery going” concluded Minister English.

Address to meeting of the INTO in Navan

Education, Election 2016, Meath, Navan, Wesmeath

Addressing a meeting of the INTO in the Newgrange Hotel, Navan, last
night ahead of the 2016 General Election, the Minister for Skills,
Research and Innovation at the Department of Education stated:

· Our ambition is to ensure that no child is left behind in the
economic recovery and that we use the benefits of a strong economy to
become a leader across all PISA rankings and in the provision of
quality higher education and skills.

· Provide an additional 3,224 Teachers

· Provide an additional 217 Speech and language therapists and develop
an in school speech and language service

· Ensure smaller class sizes, particularly in junior and senior levels
with a ratio of 18 to 1

· We will establish a new Schools Excellence Fund, to reward
collaborative approaches driven by schools and by parents themselves,
aimed at improving school outcomes, through the teaching of subjects
such as Maths, Science and Technology, key life skills programmes, and
pupil retention initiatives. We will prioritise those seeking to
tackle educational disadvantage.

· Our manifesto will have 4 priorities to invest in Schools, Education
and Teachers, strengthen leadership and innovation, improve parental
choice and invest in higher level.

In terms of achievements to date, Minister English highlighted:

Under the Lansdowne Road Agreement, three flat-rate increases will be
made to teacher salaries namely; increases to pay scale, restoration
of supervision and substitution, and reductions to the pension levy.
These measures have improved, in particular, the salaries of teachers
who are beginning their careers. We are abolishing USC putting money
back in the pockets of every worker.

By 2021 we will have reversed the public service pension reductions
introduced during the crisis.

Over €115m has been invested in continuous professional development.
A Centre for School Leadership was established in 2015 and will
support the continuum of professional development for school leaders.
We will continue to invest in our teachers.

Since 2012, we have invested over €1.35bn in improving school
buildings, in a second term we will be investing €2.8bn providing new
schools, extensions/refurbishments and 62,000 additional places to
cater for our growing pupil numbers.

Almost €200m has been provided to schools under the Summer Works
Scheme and the Minor Works Grant to enable schools to undertake
improvement works.

Since 2011 we have opened 42 new schools; 39 of which have a
multi-denominational ethos.  Eight schools have opened under the
patronage divesting programme to date.

Our Capital Plan provides an investment of €210m to upgrade school ICT
and the installation of robust wireless networks in all of our
schools. We have rolled out high speed broadband rolled-out to all 780
post primary schools.

We have provided over 4,000 additional teaching posts.

We have increased the number of resource teachers and special needs
assistants in the Irish school system by 29% and 13%.

Published an Action Plan on Bullying launched in 2013 to help prevent
and tackle bullying in primary and second level schools.

Visit to the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in the RDS

Education, Meath, Research and Innovation, Science, Wesmeath

During the week gone by I visited the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in the RDS.

Now a national institution, it is always an informative and exciting trip, where you really do meet the researchers, inventors, innovators and leaders of the future. I share some more of my thoughts in this video:

I caught up with Meath West entrants to see their work first hand, including three projects from Eureka College Kells, one from St. Joseph’s Secondary School and one from Coláiste Na Mí. Primary schools from Hill of Down, Ashbourne and Delvin also exhibited. It was also good to catch up with the Madden sisters from Summerhill, previous Young Scientists who now have a business of their own called Fenuhealth as a result of their research! The pictures on my Facebook page give a flavour of what we saw: