On the evening of the 25th, the members of the Dáil voted on the motion to end college fees for third level students. This bill entitled “Solidarity”, was proposed by People Before Profit to remove the barriers to higher education in Ireland.

In voting to nullify the motion, the result came to 82 for Tá (yes) and 5 for Níl (no). The motion was voted down by all members of Fine Gael including the Minister of Higher Education, Simon Harris. People Before Profit ran a campaign on Twitter to encourage people to contact their local TD’s to vote in favour of the bill. They argued that third level education is necessary in today’s society and should not be considered a luxury.

The motion called for the following:
– Abolish all fees and increase grants and support to cover the real cost of education.
– Expand access programmes for people from marginalised backgrounds.
– Expand the number of places and academic staff.
– Provide free access to counselling for all students and apprentices.
– No unpaid work placements.
– Publicly funded programme to build affordable student accommodation.
– Full tenant rights to all student renters.
– Recognise PhD researchers as workers with contracts of employment.
– End precarious working conditions for all staff.

The motion was also voted down by all members Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. All members of Sinn Fein, including Sinn Féin spokesperson Rose Conway-Walsh, Labour Party, and Social Democrats voted not to nullify the motion.

This comes only shortly after Minister Simon Harris saying, “I am not a fan of student loans” to the Irish Examiner. He also stated, “they can act as a barrier for people from social economically disadvantaged communities”. Harris continued by explaining that he is aware of the controversy that free access to higher education might bring and referenced how up until the late 1960’s, second-level education was not free until Donogh O’Malley faced criticism for his decision.

People before Profit have voiced their disdain with the outcome of this motion on Twitter. They stated in a tweet, “We are extremely disappointed that the government voted down our bill to #removethebarriers to higher education. We want to #abolishfees and reform the system, so that everyone has the same chance.”

Sarah Connaughton – Reporter