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USI Change Focus of National Campaign

 

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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.

USI poster for "Stop Fees" campaign
USI poster for "Stop Fees" campaign

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.

 

 Donie O’Sullivan

donie@collegetribune.ie

 

The title of this article was changed on 26/10/11 at 14.17 to better reflect the content of the article

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9 COMMENTS

  1. The title says that FEE have threatened a breakaway protest.

    Two FEE spokespeople are quoted, yet there is no actual quote from either of them where they threaten a breakaway protest.

    In future, you should print supporting quotes to back up the main thrust of the article.

  2. The comments from De Bruin are quite disgusting really

    “As always we condemn behaviour which might endanger individual students who are doing their best to come out and fight against fees.”

    Except when it comes to condemning the Gardai, that are brutalizing their own members?

    “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.”

    First of all, FEE condemns any and all non-peaceful action whether it be by gardai or students themselves. We only engage in peaceful protests and take the safety of students very seriously.

    It is entirely predictable given FEE’s growing support and our differing opinions on an effective strategy for defeating fee hikes and grant cuts, that the USI would seek to attack us.

    The USI have proven that they are nothing more than apologists for the establishment and that Gary Redmond’s recent comments about being willing to engage with us in constructive talks are utterly false.

    FEE Tralee

  3. Nicky FEE are a cop out. They are a joke! The USI are not doing their job, FEE should be a legitimate group students can turn to, but from my experience none of them seem approachable and are just too extreme. I have tried to join but quickly realise that most of the people involved basically want a socialist revolution. I just want free fees.

  4. ‘elitists’

    BAHAHAHA… Oh god that was a laugh and a half. And the USI are just for the ‘common people’ then?

    I am not actually involved with FEE but I don’t know if I would call them a cop out. I don’t see how you could call them extreme either, I mean they haven’t done anything! If anything, I could call their collective ideology radical at best – and not even radical sometimes – but that is not extreme, different words have different meanings after all Thomas. There is definitely one thing FEE doesn’t want as a collective of students and that would be a socialist revolution. I say so because any of the people involved in FEE who I have spoken to have various leftist/progressive ideologies that don’t exactly fit into each others ideas about how the whole world should work, and I certainly haven’t experienced any articulate alternative from them. However, I have heard some pretty decent, articulate and radical ideas about how the education system should work.

    The real question here is about how we as students want to see our education system formed and funded over the next number of years. We should be asking questions about the funding of private education, about access to third level education for people from (so-called) disadvantaged areas in Dublin and beyond, about how our tax system is devised and specifically where the funding should come from and how that funding will be made available.

    And about the forum Brendan, don’t be such a sap! They have a forum for their members. Wow, must be some sort of socialist conspiracy 😮

    Oh and fair play to the both of you for your positive and insightful outlook into the whole fee debate, I’m enlightened.

  5. Conor M,

    They do have a forum for their members, what concerns me is that they are not permitting anyone else to join. FEE isn’t an organisation it is a campaign.

    I am sick about hearing how the USI and Students’ Unions are hiding stuff from regular students, it would appear to me that FEE are the same and have a hierarchy. I think some of the ideas expressed by many FEE enthusiasts are just quite simply bizzare.

    A lot of them only protest for the sake of protesting. It’s the same people who show up for Palestine protests etc. etc. etc. .. all very good causes I’m sure, but you get my point.

    Despite all this.. I do not agree with USI’s approach, I really didn’t like how they criticized many of their members last year who staged a separate protest. I for one will be joining any peaceful protest on 16th that is not the oficial USI one.

  6. Anon, maybe if you ask to join the forum they will let you? With regards to ‘some of the ideas expressed by many FEE enthusiasts [being] quite simply bizarre’, what would those ideas be? I’m not looking for a row, I’m curious as I haven’t had these encounters.

    I’m kind of dismayed that you assume that these activists only protest for the sake of protesting. I would be in the mind-set that they show up to protests because its the easiest way to ‘take action’ and more importantly they don’t have any other positive outlet in this country to express their opposition to or support for one cause or another. Others are very, and quietly, active without actually going out on the streets. But this is another story…

    I generally understand the frustration with FEE. Alas, they have very few active members/participants. I am guilty here too.

    As for the USI’s approach, yes I agree. They are useless, cowardly, pathetic, careerist, slow and bureaucratic, extremely protective and hierarchical, ineffective, and to be frank, so far up their holes they don’t know how to react when even the slightest form of dissent to their (I stress ‘their’) petty organisation raises it head.

    The main problem is convincing Irish students, or students living in Ireland to dissent, effectively, and without the same nonsense and rhetoric we are used to hearing. I have racked my brain for some time thinking about how or even why students would possibly want to participate in unions in universities. I did (participate), and it was a total nightmare! However, with the economy in complete free-fall and an unprecedented round of criticism directed at the hierarchy or the USI, I fell like I should just simply wait now. The USI can’t actually organise an effective campaign at defeating anything, not in its current form anyway. And there is no hope of any new union coming into existence – especially with the conformity and apathy encouraged by every sector of Irish society. So maybe it is time for folks like yourself and myself to take up some sort of role in FEE?

    Too much 😉

    • I agree with all sides of the arguement, in as much as FEE, with whom I am associated and anyone who wishes to get involved is welcome to find me on facebook or e-mail, but the one where it says that we are being secretive.

      The fact is that we have been open in the past and all it got us was failed actions and comrades arrested, so security (and USI would say the same thing) is important.

      As far as having a hierachy the only thing that is in a hierachy is experience. Should someone new wish to voice an opinion I could not be happier but if it is something that I have experienced before I will make this known and what the outcome was. The accusation about protesting just for the sake of it, that is a little bit naive, no offence meant, because it takes out the concept of the same people who believe in free education also believing in the rights of the Palestinians or Trade Union workers who are having their hours slashed. We believe in these things not just the protests.

      I take responsibility for the fact that FEE has not been operating well and has not been a presence in UCD but the fact is that FEE branches across the country who can get up to 50 people to a meeting and 100 to a protest. FEE is a national campaign but that does not mean that we can excuse the fact that in UCD we are lax and lazy.

      If anyone is interested we are having a public meeting on the Hunt Report and how to fight fees next week, which will be advertised next week. And please if you have a contrary opinion and want to raise it with me e-mail me benoroscrea@aol.com and I will try and meet you and bring you into meetings. Our decisions are all made democratically so your voice is just as vital as mine.

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