Plans are going ahead for a national protest orchestrated by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) against the possible increase of the student contribution fee, reports News Editor Katie Hughes.
A sleep-out protest is planned to take place on Molesworth Street on November 16th following the march. The protest follows the Labour Party reneging on the pledge they signed one week prior to the general election in February, which stated that they would not support any increase in the student contribution fee, the introduction of any variety of fees, and that there wouldn’t be any further cuts to the grant.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education has justified the possible increase in the fee as being due to Ireland having a requirement to adhere to its economic recovery program “in order to reduce the budget deficit to three per cent of GDP by 2015 and to restore our independence”.
USI President Gary Redmond has admitted that he is disappointed with the actions of the Labour Party and remarks that it is primarily due to their initiative to make education accessible to all that the party was elected, “I think large numbers, not only students but also their families and community members who were concerned about education, swung towards the Labour Party because of the party coming out quite strongly and quite clearly pro-education and education funding”.
Redmond is not ruling out more direct action, such as occupations and sit-ins, if the march is unsuccessful, “I think that certainly direct action, if it comes to it, has been a part of every campaign if all other avenues have been exhausted. USI has used direct action in the past and I obviously can’t rule that out in the future”.
UCD Campaigns and Communications Officer, Brendan Lacey is setting up what he refers to as “campaign headquarters” in UCD. This will involve installing extra phones and computers in the Student Centre. Lacey intends to make a push for students to come and ring or e-mail their local TDs regarding the pledge.
A “broken pencil” campaign stems from the larger initiative and involves students sending their local TDs a generic letter containing a broken pencil to symbolise that “they’re breaking education and they’re breaking their promise” says Lacey.
He stressed the importance of making an effort for the upcoming march, “we’re facing a bigger and a tougher battle than we have in the last ten years; this is a government that are strong, that are determined to bring in third level contribution and increase it”.
Redmond is positive about the unfolding campaign, “I think we may absolutely have a shot at ensuring that registration fees, let’s not call them registration fees, they’re college fees, there’s no doubt about that … will be frozen at the current level this year and the way we’re going to do that is hold a government party to account”.
A “town-hall” meeting is to take place on November 3rd in Theatre L in the Newman Building.