USI Change Focus of National Campaign
view sans-serif;”>-Thousands of students expected to march on 16th November
sovaldi sans-serif;”>-Sleep-out outside Merrion Square planned for that night
– “Quinn is a sell-out” – De Brún
The Union of Students in Ireland have decided to change the focus of their national campaign after the organization came under fire when they announced provisional plans for a “Freeze the Fees” demonstration. The organization have changed the name of the campaign to “Stop Fees.”
The decision was made after a number of students raised concerns about the protest. Gary Redmond, USI President, told the College Tribune last week that the campaign would focus on freezing the student contribution at its current level, which prompted a number of students and USI delegates to point out that the USI’s stated objective was to prevent fees in any form. As a result, the title of the campaign was changed.
The protest march, which will begin at 3pm on Wednesday 16th November, will follow the same route as last year’s “Education not Emigration” demonstration from Parnell Square to Government Buildings. Many students are also expected to camp out on Merrion Square outside government buildings that night.
When asked if alcohol use could be cause of concern on the night of the sleep out Pat de Brún, UCD Students’ Union President said, “It was heavily addressed [at USI Council] and it was highlighted by a number of people. We are going to be very strict on searching people for drink, and people will not be allowed in if they have been to the pub. The whole street will be sealed.
“The whole thing is being done in conjunction with an event management company to ensure nothing like what happened last year at the Department of Finance would happen again.
“The campaign has become more focused on the Labour Party than on the coalition government. The Labour Party is certainly the focus of this campaign but we are aiming at it at Government more generally,” de Brún explained.
The Labour Party made a pledge to students in the lead up to last February’s general election that if they were in government they would freeze the student contribution at its current level.
De Brún did not rule out a separate demonstration taking place at the headquarters of the Labour Party and when asked for his thoughts on the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn he said, “I’d say to him that he is a sell-out. All Labour Party principles are being thrown out the window.”
USI have hinted that other more direct forms of protest will occur simultaneously and de Brún told the College Tribune that some details of demonstrations “will be kept confidential until just before it happens.”
The USI and UCDSU are concerned that some groups of students will break away from the official protest and cause disruption. Last year a breakaway group held a demonstration at the Department of Finance on Merrion Row, where some students were injured when the Garda Riot Squad were called.
The Free Education for Everyone (FEE) campaign who were involved in the Merrion Row demonstration have said there is no reason to expect they will do any differently than last year.
Suzanne Lee, spokesperson for FEE UCD, remains skeptical of the USI and UCDSU’s approach to tackling Fees. “We still don’t believe that USI are going to achieve anything,” she said.
De Brún said “We are willing to take it to the next level but we will do it in a controlled manner.”
“As always we condemn behaviour which might endanger individual students who are doing their best to come out and fight against fees. We are going to do all we can, but we are going to ensure that all students involved are safe. FEE proved last year that this is not their priority and that they did endanger a lot of students.”
Joseph Loughnane of FEE Galway said, “I think the fact they [USI] changed the title shows that they are aware of the anger amongst students in relation to merely calling for a ‘freeze.’ It ignores completely the amount of students struggling currently trying to pay the level of fees we have now.”
Loughnane dismissed USI clams that FEE demonstrations endanger students and added, “Students know that a once-off march is not enough, and are aware of the 100s of protests and occupations taking place around the world. They are adults who know how to look after themselves in a situation where they are standing up for their most basic right.”
It was reported last week in Trinity’s University Times that not all Students’ Unions were supportive of the demonstration however de Brún dismissed this and said that “everyone is fully behind it now.”
The cost of the national campaign has not yet been confirmed.
The USI have planned a meeting immediately after the budget. The organization has confirmed that they will be prepared to take further actions if the student contribution is increased.
The title of this article was changed on 26/10/11 at 14.17 to better reflect the content of the article