A DAY of protest for all third-level education students is being considered by the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) to illustrate their discontent regarding the possible introduction of third-level fees by the Government. USI President, Shane Kelly stated that any such protest will be organised in conjunction with a national strike day, which is being planned by the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) which would see members of trade unions striking from work in protest of government cutbacks and public sector redundancies.
“The social partners are in the process of discussing what a national day of civil disobedience would look like,” explained Mr Kelly. “As one of the largest unions in the country, we will be a part of that if everyone can reach agreement.” If the strike proposal does not pass, USI will look to carrying out the proposal in third-level institutions. However, Mr Kelly stressed that such a plan will require the cooperation of other unions to be deemed successful.
“If the social partners can’t agree on how best to do it on a national level then certainly we’ll be looking at how to do it on a education basis on our own,” said Mr Kelly. “But we’re looking at other trade unions who are looking at [and] trying to avail of bringing the country to a halt for a day.”
Alongside these plans, Mr Kelly stated that the intends to explore all available means to oppose the introduction of third-level fees saying, “you have to fight it [fees] with two things, you have to have a plaque card in one hand and a ballot paper in the other and that’s essentially the campaign that we’re running at the moment.” Despite this, Mr Kelly was concerned that students would be ignored due to a tradition of a low turnout of student voters.
“People take the pensioners seriously and other groups in society seriously because they carry a very big ballot paper,” stated Mr Kelly. “Students traditionally haven’t… when we get that mobilisation right for these local and European elections, I think that we’re going to be taken very, very seriously and it’s a very big voice that students have [if they vote].”
Mr Kelly announced these plans for a third-level student strike at the student protest which took place on the Wednesday, 4th February. 15,000 students from the colleges and universities around the country protested in front of Leinster House against the proposed introduction of third-level fees. Approximately 1,500 students from UCD attended the protest alongside students from Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, Dublin City University and NUI Galway.