APPROXIMATELY 40 student protestors staged a sit-in at the Department of the Environment last week, in an attempt to show their anger at government proposals to introduce third-level fees. The students, who occupied the building between 11am and 5.30pm on Monday, 16th February, were led by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
The students decided to hold a sit-in in attempts to put pressure on Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, over comments he made in support of a loan system for the re-introduction of fees.
Students’ Union (SU) President, Aodhán Ó Deá, described the protest as being “very hush hush. We all went in together; sat down on the ground and told them we were occupying the Department. We also had people outside, holding placards informing people that the building was being occupied.”
Mr Ó Deá stated that while members of the gardaí surrounded the students, they did not make any attempts to remove the protestors from the building. He believes that the gardaí “realised that the media were in there with us [and] decided not to kick us out which would look bad as a photo-op so they just surrounded us instead.”
Stating that the protest was a success, Mr Ó Deá explained that Mr Gormley agreed to meet the students to discuss their opinions on the issue of third-level fees. “We did get our agreement from John Gormley to meet us so we did get what we wanted, but in future, now we know to bring our buckets, blankets and food as well.”
Echoing Mr Ó Deá, USI President, Shane Kelly, explained that Mr Gormley was targeted as “he made it very clear that the Green Party would support some form of income contingent loan… which was not what was agreed in their party’s manifesto, not what was agreed in their programme for government and not the platform which they ran for election on.”
The sit-in is a part of USI’s campaign against the possible re-introduction of third-level fees. Along with this, the SU intend to run “an awareness campaign between now and [April] to show that it’s very likely that fees could be coming back for all students”, explained Mr Ó Deá.