Students of UCD and the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) marched from IADT in Dun Loaghaire to the constituency office of Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to protest against the proposed €250 increase to the student contribution fee, and cuts to the maintenance grant.
UCD Students’ Union, IADTSU and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) organised the march, and each stated that they were happy with the turnout this morning. Estimated numbers of those protesting varied widely, with USI estimating up to 1,000 students and UCD Students’ Union saying 600-700, while the official Garda estimate is that there were just over 500 people in attendance.
Following the march, USI President John Logue commented: “The turnout was… excellent for a local protest. I think the positive thing to see is the anger that students actually have. There were parents and local businesses in the crowd too. The message that higher education cuts actually effect more people than the students and the families themselves is really starting to resonate across the country so just to see that today, I’m really pleased.”
As Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore was not in his constituency office during the march as EU Foreign Ministers were meeting in Brussels to discuss the escalating conflict in Gaza. UCDSU President Rachel Breslin said it was “unfortunate” that he was abroad but that the SU “always knew there would be very little chance of getting the Tánaiste.” Labour instead sent representatives, who stood outside the office building during the protest.
Speeches were made outside Gilmore’s office by Breslin, Logue, IADTSU President Marie Farrell, first year UCD student Rory Geoghegan and UCDSU Education Officer Shane Comer, and each emphasised the need for the march not to be the end of this year’s anti-fees national campaign. Comer said: “As all the speakers said and as I said myself, this is just the first event that we’re doing. There’ll be persistent lobbying up until budget day, we’re taking part in the austerity march being organised for this Saturday, so it’s just the first.”
Logue explained that as students enter the exam period, that lobbying should be the sabbitcal officers’ focus in the run up to Budget Day on December 5th. “We’re talking to a lot of officials in the Department of Education, a lot of members of the Oireactas; just last minute lobbying.”
Breslin reiterated this, confirming that UCDSU have “set up a lot of meetings with TDs, government TDs, backbench TDs, and opposition TDs to stem from this and we’ll certainly be able to build on this with them and show that students did come out and protest and lobby them ahead of the upcoming budget.”
As well as lobbying, as part of the campaign, UCDSU will be supporting the anti-austerity march taking place this Saturday, November 24th. This move comes after a motion passed at the SU Council that took place on November 13th. Breslin stated that the SU will be “trying to rally our members, mobilise again, and get into town on Saturday.”