UCD Students’ Union staged a sit-in protest at the offices of Wicklow County Council in Wicklow town last Friday, 23rd October, to voice their anger at the delay in processing and paying student maintenance grants.
Despite being over halfway through term, many UCD students have yet to receive the first instalment of their grants. It has been estimated that between 30 and 50 students attended the demonstration.
UCDSU representatives travelled to Wicklow on a specially commissioned bus, and gathered outside the council building. The group then moved inside the building and proceeded to stage a sit in. After this, they attempted to storm the council chambers, before being reprimanded by the local Gardaí. However, no arrests were made.
SU President Gary Redmond stated that the Union was “extremely happy with the outcome” of the protest. According to Redmond, Wicklow County Council has brought forward the scheduled payment of maintenance grants for their students due to the pressure from UCDSU. Redmond said that Wicklow had “sent the first half of the grant payments today [Friday], a good three weeks before they said they’d send them, and they’ve guaranteed that they’ll start processing the other grant payments and send them as quickly as they can.”
However, maintenance grant cheques not sent in this first batch are not expected to arrive all together at a later date. According to Redmond, the cheques will “be going in batches daily as they’re getting processed. It won’t be another huge batch. As they’re ready to go they’ll be sent by registered post to the colleges and universities.”
Redmond was quick to emphasise that Wicklow is not the only local authority that will be targeted. He said that “the whole point of the protest was that it wasn’t just for Wicklow, but to show all the other local authorities that if we can go to Wicklow this week, it’ll be Longford, Carlow, Kilkenny, or anywhere else we need to go the following week.”
Redmond advised students struggling to meet financial commitments to seek advice from the Students’ Union Welfare Officer, Scott Ahearn, or to apply for monetary assistance from sources such as the Student Welfare Fund. He also said that students should “come and talk to us if they haven’t received their grant. In most cases, we’ll be able to talk to the officials in the councils and be able to see what process their grant is at and find out when they’ll receive payment.”
UCD Students’ Union has occupied the offices of other local authorities in previous years. In 2006 a group of approximately 50 students occupied the offices of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in protest at the similarly delayed payment of maintenance grant instalments.