OVER 15 students from the group Free Education for Everyone (FEE) occupied the Department of Finance building on Wednesday, 15th April.
The sit-in saw the group both occupy the building and protest outside it. They also submitted a formal complaint to the Department detailing their requests.
Member of FEE, Julian Brophy, was pleased with the protest saying “it was a complete success. We managed to get in the Department of Finance and we were on the main stairwell for two and a half hours. The Students’ Unions or USI (Union of Students in Ireland) have never really done anything like that.”
When asked why the Department of Finance was selected as the site of the protest Mr Brophy said “we thought either the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Finance would be the best places to aim to be occupying because they are directly related to the battle against fees… but also in solidarity with workers with the harsh consequences of the budget.”
When asked about the Department’s response to their action, Mr Brophy said that none “of the ministers would come and speak to us obviously so the spokesperson for the ministry [did].” Mr Brophy confirmed the protest was non-violent and that gardaí simply oversaw the sit-in saying that “they were present [but] there was no manhandling or anything like that.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Finance commented that the students were “very well behaved and they agreed to leave after they were allowed to present their submission.” He said the submission would be treated as all others are, which means “it will be sent [to] the various sections [of the Department] to be assessed and then a submission, if required, will go to the Minister [Brian Lenihan].”
Mr Brophy claimed to have invited USI to the event, saying “we want to work with USI and the unions as much as possible in achieving our [common] aims.” He went on to say that he thought USI members didn’t participate because “they don’t want to have anything to do with groups that aren’t under the USI banner.”
However the President of USI, Shane Kelly, denied these claims saying that he didn’t hear about the protest until after it had happened. He also said USI has over 200,000 members so it was possible that some members were invited. He also praised the protestors, saying “they did a good job. Their point was well made.”
Incoming USI President Peter Mannion was unable to confirm whether USI had been invited to the protest, but said collaboration with such groups as FEE is “something we will definitely have to investigate over these coming months.”