UCD Students’ Union has started campaigning against a potential increase to the Student Contribution in the forthcoming Budget. The campaign, named ‘Gilmore’s 250,’ seeks to target the Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, who signed a promise as leader of the Labour Party, to the students of Ireland in the run up to the 2011 election, that the student contribution would not increase, and that he would not preside over cuts to the grant.
Increases in the student contribution charge and grant cuts have been implemented since Labour formed a coalition government with Fine Gael in March 2011. The campaign aims to stop a further €250 being added to the contribution charge, as Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has promised.
The work on the campaign began last week with the launch of a Facebook and Twitter campaign, as well as the publishing of a website, gilmores250.com. This is being run in connection with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), who are planning to target upwards of 30 TDs and senators across the country in localised campaigns in the run up to Budget Day.
“A fresh approach needed to be taken between ourselves USI and other Campaigns officers. We decided that we need to become more of a lobbying group,” says UCD Students’ Union Campaigns and Communications Officer, Paddy Guiney.
Guiney wants to see the Union and the USI as a group that recognises the “ineffectiveness” of past marches and campaigns, and uses that knowledge in building better links with the Government, students and local community going forward.
Gilmore’s 250 will branch out into the local community in the next week. Both Guiney and UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin will be going out into the community, as well as to lecturers and to local businesses, and asking them to support the initiative.
Though the USI allotted a TD to each of the member Unions, Guiney sees Gilmore as a lucky draw, as a former Class Rep, NUIG Students’ Union President and USI President, it is hoped he will be one of the most likely to give in: “He is running for re-election. If we can put enough pressure on him, he will crumble, especially if we get people on board from the constituency,” says Guiney.
Breslin has not taken the opportunity for a fight against increased contributions lightly, and has looked at why past student campaigns have failed to halt an increase in fees, and what the rationale behind these increases are.
“We found that the Students’ Unions in the past have let politicians away with the broken promises,” says Breslin. “There is a belief among politicians and the media that students will not pursue a vigorous campaign over a long period, to bring accountability to people who lie to them or who break promises and that is a huge part of this campaign.”
A march to the constituency office of Eamon Gilmore is planned for November 19th, which it is hoped will be supported by the community members that the Union plans to canvass. Breslin is adamant that the initiative will not “fall away and lose momentum,” if pre-Budget attempts are not successful in halting an increase.