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Students March Against Attacks on Education

18/11/11

At least twenty thousand students took to the streets of Dublin on Wednesday [November 16] in protest against government plans to drastically increase third level student fees in Budget 2012.

The government intends to reintroduce tuition fees and decrease the student grant, as well as further increase the registration fee which presently stands at €2,000 [£1,720]. Just last weekend further government plans to cut grant and maintenance funding for post-graduate students were revealed.

A section of the march

Increased fees will mean that fewer people will be able to continue their education into or beyond third level. Families are already struggling with job losses and cuts; many will simply not be able to find the money to support someone in college.

It must be reiterated that cutting education funding will not lead to economic recovery. We will not achieve growth by frustrating the potential of young Irish people and consigning them to emigration and the dole.

The attack on education funding is being driven by the EU/IMF. The commercialisation and privatisation of education is a key component of their neoliberal creed.

Education: Your Right – Your Fight

By taking to the streets, Ireland’s students showed they would not simply be another passive victim of EU/IMF ideology.

The body of students marched from Parnell Square towards Leinster House. The atmosphere was upbeat and assertive. Members of éirígí walked behind a banner with the slogan ‘Education: Your Right – Your Fight’.

At Merrion Square a section of students broke away from the march and made their way towards the Fine Gael Headquarters on Mount Street. This section was made up of students who had become disillusioned with the passive and meek tactics of the USI [Union of Students in Ireland] leadership over recent years. Under the banner of the student group FEE [Free Education for Everyone], this group of students staged a sit down protest outside the Fine Gael HQ.

Protest at Fine Gael HQ

After this short protest the students found their route back up Mount Street blocked by lines of USI Stewards. The USI stewards stood with linked arms in front of lines of Gardaí, and refused to allow the students to proceed up the road without confrontation.

Members of the Special Branch wearing USI t-shirts were also spotted among the crowd.

The USI leadership choose to work with the Gardaí to ensure that the student march remained merely a passive speechmaking affair for the USI leadership rather than a real expression of student dissent. The attitude of the USI leadership is nothing short of disgraceful, especially when one considers the number of students who were injured by Gardaí during last year’s march against fees.

USI working for the Gardaí

The USI leadership would do well to reflect on the words of the Salvador Allende: “to be a student and not a revolutionary is a contradiction.”

Nevertheless, regardless of the position of the official union leaderships, Irish students and teachers will continue to resist the ever increasing attacks on education. Education is right, not a privilege.

 

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