The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is organising a protest for November 16th. Students from universities across Ireland will march in Dublin city centre in protest against the possible increase in fees and the reduction in the student grant.
The Government has not made an official announcement of any intentions to implement changes in the education budget but according to Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, “there isn’t a single item of expenditure across the country that isn’t going to be affected in some way or other”. UCD Students’ Union Campaigns and Communications Officer Brendan Lacey insists, “it’s on the agenda”.
A similar march took place last year on November 3rd to protest the same two issues as well as that of graduate unemployment. However, Lacey believes that the difference between the two years “has to come from students”, and that this year “it’s not just going out for a day of marching and chanting – students need to realise that this is a real and genuine threat now, its not like before where we had a government on its last legs being crippled by a banking crisis, this is a government who has secured its position”.
Despite the aggressive breakaway group that occupied a government building last year, the organisers of the protest intended for it to be a peaceful one. However, Lacey asserts that the message behind the coming protest is that “we’re not afraid to be more aggressive, we’re not afraid to be a little bit more radical, obviously in a planned, safe and controlled manner … I think in order to be successful, we can’t afford to be nice about it … it needs to be way more in your face”.
There will be a big push coming in informing students about the march, this will include “town hall meetings, assemblies, we’ll be going around res … there needs to be a genuine buy-in for students that this is a real threat we’re facing”.
Lacey admits that if a student is personally unaffected by the prospect, it is difficult for them to be a part of it but he encourages students to understand that “this is [the Government] bringing back fees and putting students out of college.
“I don’t like those generic mass terms, ‘so many people will be put out of college’, I know that there’s any number of students, not just nameless faceless students but friends of mine, friends of yours, friends of anybody who reads the paper. It’s your friends, it’s people who you sit with in lectures, people you go for coffee with that will not be coming back.”
The demonstration this year will, “where possible”, be carried out on a budget. Students will be encouraged to paint their own t-shirts and banners, unlike the t-shirts that were printed for last year’s event.
Lacey concludes; “It’s a shameless, shameless increase … it’s crippling the future, it’s robbing all of us of the opportunity of a future”.