OVER 25 UCD students took part in a temporary take-over of the Department of Transport on Monday, 25th March in a bid to show their anger at the prospect of the re-introduction of third-level education fees. The protest, which was organised by the Union of Students Ireland (USI), took place with the aim of putting pressure on the Government, and was attended by over 35 students.
Students Union (SU) President, Aodhán Ó Deá said that he felt the occupation was a success. “The plan was to send a clear message to the Government that we’re not going to give up on this, and that this is something we really do care about,” said Mr Ó Deá.
“The plan of direct action is to target various departments and send them a message – not only to the Department of Education but to the whole Cabinet – that we’re against fees.”
USI President, Shane Kelly, echoed this statement stating that the Government were starting to feel the pressure that the students are applying. “We put the minister under serious pressure; he has been getting phone calls now from the media, who are asking the minister what his own views on fees are. Now it’s all about holding people to account.”
Mr Ó Deá felt that regardless of the small turnout, students will oppose fees regardless of the type of proposals made. “Even if [the government] come out and say that present students in college won’t be affected by fees that’s not going to quash any kind of rebellion against fees,” declared Mr Ó Deá. “We’ll still fight them and do everything in our power to stop them.”
Mr Kelly acknowledged that while the turnout wasn’t as high compared to previous protests saying “these things ebb and flow, sometimes you have a great number, other times you don’t…[but] it got the job done.”
USI are planning to continue a campaign of direct action protests. Describing this as “a long term, sustained campaign”, Mr Kelly explained that the students hope to put “individual ministers and individual parties under pressure in relation to their own responsibilities and their own votes. Obviously we’ll be moving on and putting other ministers under pressure as the weeks roll in.”
The protest follows in line a number of similar actions organised by USI in recent weeks. A number of students also occupied the Department of the Environment during March in a move that saw the Green Party pass a motion stating their refusal to support fees.