On Tuesday November 13th the Students’ Union Council, as part of the Gilmore 250 campaign, voted to hold a protest against government TDs who were attending meetings in UCD. One of the TDs, Minister of State, Brian Hayes was speaking at a Young Fine Gael meeting, which was moved to the Arts Block to avoid the protesters.
Speaking to the College Tribune regarding the protest, Lorcan Nyhan, auditor of UCD YFG, said, “I think it shows everything that’s wrong with their campaign. We had a minister coming out to us. If Shane Comer or one of the Sabbats had come to me and said ‘here, would you mind if we came to your meeting and asked him a question about funding, because we want to see what he thinks about it’ I would have seriously considered that. I probably would have let them do it.”
Nyhan believes that, rather than protesting, the Union should be sitting down with the government to see what can be achieved for students. “You have to give to get something. You can’t just go protest and say ‘don’t cut me, don’t cut me, cut everybody else,’” commented Nyhan.
“I think, to be honest, the way they’re doing it at the moment, the free fees or not increasing the registration is just the easy option, because it’s what’s always been done. You can get a nice catchy slogan like ‘stand up’ and all this type of stuff and you look like you’re doing the job you’re elected to do. But I think if they really did care about student leadership and they really did care about improving the situation for students they’d engage more positively and actually think of real solutions.”
“I think the Union has an obligation to get rid of the old tired mantra of ‘oh, cut everybody else, don’t cut us. Give us free education, don’t increase our fees.’ They should be offering real tangible solutions to the problem,” continued Nyhan.
“They should be saying, ‘look there is an issue, we’d be willing to give up this if you give us this.’ Maybe we should look at a graduate tax, maybe we should look at a state funded loan.”
Speaking on the Gilmore 250 campaign Nyhan said, “I think it’s a completely ineffective campaign to be honest. It’s totally prioritising publicity over actually getting real solutions to the problem.”
“I’m actually not in favour of a registration fee… but we are facing a university-funding crisis. The numbers coming into university are increasing and we have less money to spend on education.”
Minister Hayes is the second high profile Fine Gael politician to attend a meeting in UCD in recent weeks. An Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited the UCD branch of Young Fine Gael on the 6th November where he discussed, among other things, the economic performance of the country since his election in 2011, his work in rebuilding Irish relationships with other EU member states, his attempts to get a deal on the Irish debt and the Governments vision for the future of the country.
He also partook in an extensive questions and answers session dealing with questions on CAP reform, University funding, Educational reform, Foreign Relations and many others.
By James Grannell