A students’ union president publicly distributed the personal mobile phone number of Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe TD, at an anti-fees protest in Cork last week.
During the protest, CIT Students’ Union President, Gearóid Buckley, rang O’Keeffe’s private mobile phone from a podium set up at the Grand Parade in the city centre. O’Keeffe quickly hung up, which prompted Buckley to call out the Minister’s number to the students present. He then urged them to send a text message to O’Keeffe saying “no fees”.
Although Buckley conceded that he had not initially planned to call the Minister as part of the protest, he stated “that students actually rang him and gave me the phone so I got a bit of a shock when I heard him on the line.”
When asked how the Minister had reacted to the phone call, Buckley, who is also Mayor of Bandon, commented, “I think he got a shock, to be honest with you. He asked who was speaking; I said six thousand students in Cork, and he hung up the phone.”
Buckley went on to emphasise that he felt distributing the Minister’s number was his last option, having tried to contact the Minister – who is a TD for the local Cork North West constituency – several times, but was declined an audience each time. He told The University Observer that “the Minister refused to meet students on the issue, he refused to talk to his constituents and he refused to speak to me on numerous occasions. He refused to talk to us so I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the idea.”
When asked how he felt the protest went, Buckley replied, “I thought it went very well; I thought it was a fantastic thing. [We had] about 6,000 students out on the streets of Cork to tell this government that fees are not the way forward.”
The protest, which took place on Thursday 8th October, was organised by the students’ unions of Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and University College Cork. It is estimated that almost 6,000 students attended the demonstration.