AN INVESTIGATION has been launched following the arrest of a student at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). The student was charged with breach of public order following a protest held at a society debate.
The debate, which was organised by the university’s Literary and Debating Society, was cancelled after members of Free Education for Everyone (FEE) blocked the former-Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, from entering the campus. The protest resulted in the cancellation of the debate and forced Mr Ahern to leave the university.
NUIG’s Students’ Union (SU) President, Muireann O’Dwyer, expressed her disappointment with the protest saying that “an awful lot of work had gone in by students to arrange this event. It was kind of felt that it was counter productive protesting at a student event in the college.”
The university’s investigation began the morning after the protest. Following the investigation, Ms O’Dwyer commented that disciplinary action could be taken against those involved, adding that “once names are brought forward it will have to go to a disciplinary committee who will decide. It’ll be a long enough process; it’ll be a couple of weeks”.
FEE Spokesperson, Áine Mannion, said that the protest was intended to be peaceful stating, “we sat down on the ground and we linked arms and we just sat there basically.” She described the conflict between protesters and gardaí as a case of “garda brutality”. “We were only sitting around the gates for a short time when the gardaí arrived and started attacking students.”
Ms O’Dwyer was unable to confirm whether accusations against the gardaí were true saying, “it’s hard to say for definite. There was a queue of about 400 students waiting for the event and none of them saw any brutality on the gardaí’s part but a lot of the FEE students are saying that it started up at the quadrangle where there weren’t any other students around.”
She also commented on the organisation’s decision to blockade Mr Ahern, saying that “a lot of people do think that it was a bit of a futile exercise” as he is no longer a member of the current government. Ms Mannion justified their decision to blockade Mr Ahearn explaining that “Bertie Ahern is still a Fianna Fáil TD and Fianna Fáil are still making the decisions.”
Mr Ahern was escorted out of the building by gardaí once the decision to cancel the public discussion was made. Ms O’Dwyer felt that the situation was disappointing and could have been easily avoided. “I think everyone admits that it went wrong. It really was sad to see something like this happening in NUIG.”