OVER 3,500 students from Sligo Institute of Technology protested against the possible re-introduction of third-level fees last week. The students marched from Sligo IT’s main campus to Sligo town centre, where they were addressed by local councillors.
Sligo IT Students’ Union (SU) President, Daniel McGarrigle commented that he was pleased with the high turnout of students at the protest. “We were delighted with the turnout… We have 3,570 full time students registered in the IT, so we had considerably more than 70 per cent of our students out [at the protest]”.
Mr McGarrigle explained that the re-introduction of third-level fees would affect students attending Sligo IT as much as any other university or college in Ireland.
“As with any other university or college in the country, it will hit the middle bracket of society most,” commented Mr McGarrigle. “We’d be worried here because we’d have quite a number of [students] in that middle bracket, so I personally would wonder what type of effect it would have on the numbers in the college.”
He declared that the re-introduction of fees would hit every student hard, regardless of their social background and said, “not many people will be able to pay between four and eight thousand a year.”
A number of local representatives addressed the students at the protest, including Mayor of Sligo, Veronica Cawley, Sinn Fein councillor, Chris McManus and Fine Gael County Councillor, Imelda Henry.
Union of Students of Ireland (USI) Deputy President, Dave Curran, also addressed the students, arguing that parents with two or three second-level students would not be able to afford third-level education for all if fees were re-introduced.
A number of Fianna Fáil councillors were invited to attend the protest but they failed to show up. “Although the Fianna Fáil county councillors were all invited, none of them showed up to the protest march,” said Mr McGarrigle. “They were all invited by email, but none Fianna Fáil members responded and none of them showed up for the protest march or rally.”
The rally was the latest of a number of protests held by students across the country. Over 10,000 students took to the streets of Dublin last month to show their disapproval of third-level fees while other demonstrations took place in Cork and Limerick.