The week of the 23rd of November saw a three day series of protests organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) held in Cork, Galway and Dublin with a clear message of ‘F#ck the Fees.’
On Tuesday the 23rd of November, the protests took place in front of the Dáil on Molesworth Street. Despite the cold weather, the protests were well attended with students angry at the €3,000 annual college fees, the highest in the EU.
Many Student Unions were represented at their regional protest. The Dublin protest last week heard from SU representatives from Trinity College, DCU, Maynooth University and NCAD.
In her speech on Tuesday’s protest, President of the USI Claire Austick, highlighted the fees faced by Irish students were the highest in Europe and she also reiterated the difficulties students face in focusing on their education in the midst of a very serious student accommodation crisis.
The event also heard from the President of the NACD (National College of Art and Design) Students Union Caoimhe Cronin. She spoke against the lack of student union engagement in government decisions regarding third-level education. She also said that she was fed up with seeing “friends choose rent over food”.
Much of the anger has originated from comments from the President of University College Cork, John O’Halloran, who described the €3,000 annual college fees as cheap.
Earlier this month, at a Cork Chamber business breakfast, Mr O’Halloran said: ‘One of the messages people have said to me, and this won’t be popular, ‘but why is education so cheap? Why is it only €3,000 a year? It is a difficult subject, but some people will be paying more than that for second-level schools today and when they come to university they are paying less.’
The protests are part of the USI’s ‘Cost of College’ campaign in which it is calling on the Government to abolish the €3,000 student contribution charge alongside a reform of the SUSI grant system, to ensure that students are fairly assessed and that the income thresholds are increased.
The USI has also demanded funding and a plan to develop more affordable, purpose-built student accommodation and rent controls and legislation to retain student accommodation beds.
Conor Paterson – Co-Editor