The demonstration making its way across O'Connell Bridge. Photo: Danny Lambert
The demonstration making its way across O'Connell Bridge. Photo: Danny Lambert

ask sans-serif;”>Approximately 20, viagra 000 students took part in the Union of Students in Ireland’s “Stop Fees” demonstration last Wednesday in Dublin city centre. The protest was against an expected rise in the student contribution and a further cut to the maintenance grant.

The march which started at Parnell Square shortly before 2.30pm made its way down O’Connell Street before finishing outside Government Buildings on Merrion Square where a large rally was held.

Gardaí on horseback formed part of an increased security presence which accompanied the protesters for the duration of the afternoon. The USI and Gardaí had feared a repeat of last year’s events where a breakaway group staged a demonstration at the Department of Finance on Merrion Row. One demonstrator from the Socialist Workers Party told the College Tribune before the march, “it’s violence from the police that worries me.”

The march began peacefully with the the continuous chant, “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts,” and one specific chant targeting the Labour party, “no grants, no fees, no Labour party TDs.”

Shoppers on O’Connell Street watched as the march made its way through the city’s main thoroughfare. One bystander who was less than impressed with the students, many carrying humorous protest signs, said “this march is only obstructing traffic, will the government even listen?”

Close to 3pm a small breakaway group of students attempted a sit down protest at Trinity College however, unsuccessful, they soon rejoined the main protest.

As the march made its way along Nassau Street the Gardaí and some prominent members of the USI blocked off Dawson Street and Kildare Street to prevent any breakaway groups making their way up towards Daíl Éireann.

Students arrived at Merrion Square shortly before 4pm where a stage and several large screens were erected for the USI rally.

Hundreds of Gardaí were present to ensure the protest remained peaceful and the grounds at the back of Dáil Eireann, adjacent to Merrion Square, were occupied by the Garda Dog Support Unit.

Several TD’s were seen at the march including Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae and Independent TD Shane Ross.

Michael Healy-Rae conveyed his utmost dissatisfaction with the Government, “all I’m sorry about is that the students of Ireland were mislead by the new government because they gave their commitments to students that they were going to stand with them. But now that the election is over and their positions are safe for the next 5 year they are proposing to increase registration fee.”

Shane Ross, independent TD for Dublin South told the College Tribune, “that the Government may well renege on its election promises. It is not enough for the Government to now plead that they did not know how bad the state of the economy was when they promised not to further attack education. Education should be sacrosanct and no one should be deprived of an education because of lack of adequate means.”

Ross added “I think that Ruairi Quinn should be held to account if he fails to keep his pre-election promise.”

Following the march, in a statement to the College Tribune, Labour Party TD Emmet Staff said, “I will support the Budget if it is in accordance with the Programme for Government as agreed between Labour and Fine Gael. I`m sure it will be.” However he added “ If it [Labour’s pledge to students] is broken (and I signed the Pledge) I apologise for being unable to keep that Pledge.”

Speaking to the crowd who had gathered at Merrion Square the Deputy President of the USI, Colm Murphy, said that “graduates pay 70% more tax then non-graduates throughout their working lifetime, we create more jobs and more economic activity in this country.”

A number of Students from various third level institutions throughout the country also spoke about how any further cuts would affect them and alluded to the adversely different situations that some students live in. UCD student Micheal Gallagher, who works part-time as a waiter to support his college life, said that he wouldn’t be able to do a post-graduate degree if the government cut support in the form of a grant.

In an electrifying speech USI President Gary Redmond said that “today we are campaigning for Ireland’s future.”

We were lied to by Ruairi Quinn when he signed the pre-election pledge…the message we are sending to that government is: shame on you,” said Redmond. He believes that the government knew the economic situation when they signed the pledge.

Following the march approximately fifty students took part in a sleep out, organised by the USI at Marlborough Street outside the Department of Education. The Union had hoped for 1,000 students to camp out however it is understood the weather deterred many students from taking part.

Despite the “Stop Fees” demonstration the Irish Times reported last Thursday morning that the student contribution was likely to increase by €500 in December’s budget with the announcement of further increases for 2013 and subsequent years.

Reacting to the news Pat de Brún, the UCD Students’ Union President said, “to be honest I would see it [USI Campaign] as a failure if the fee goes up at all because any increase will have a huge detrimental effect on students. The only thing we can call a success is if there is no increase whatsoever.”

A number of pre-budget regional student demonstrations are expected to take place in the coming weeks in Galway and Cork. Further action is also expected in Dublin before budget day and de Brún is not ruling out another large scale student demonstration in the capital. “We wouldn’t want to jeopardise anything that we are planning by making it public too early,” he said.

Peter Hamilton & Donie O’Sullivan