Representatives from the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) are due to meet the Labour Parliamentary Party tomorrow afternoon. The meeting follows a brief occupation of of the Department of Social Enterprise building by the USI earlier today.
Pressure has been mounting on the Labour Party to honour their pre-election pledge to students and Gary Redmond, USI President, said he will be asking the Labour Party leadership to clarify their position on third level education tomorrow afternoon.
USI attempted occupation protests at Labour Party headquarters, patient the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation building and the Department of Social Protection building in Dublin city centre earlier today.
USI leaders and leaders of a number of Student Unions across the country took part in the surprise demonstrations. The group failed to enter Labour Party headquarters and lasted only a short while in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
The occupation at the Department of Social Protection however lasted for over two hours. Gary Redmond along with the Presidents of UCC SU, GMIT SU and IT Carlow SU locked themselves into a room in the building. The group said they would not leave until the Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore clarified his position on third level education.
The students claimed to have enough supplies to last them two weeks, including a portable toilet.
However shortly before 7pm Gardaí entered the room and removed the four protestors. The four were arrested and brought to Store Street Garda station. They were subsequently released, a file is being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Gary Redmond said that he had no problem with how the Gardaí treated the protestors, “the treated us with respect throughout,” and added “I think they were instructed by the Department.”
Speaking to DCU FM USI Deputy President of USI, Colm Murphy said there are plans for further action in the lead up to the budget.
Some have been critical of USI’s actions. TCD SU President, Ryan Bartlett criticised the occupation in an interview with the University Times newspaper. It comes a night before TCDSU are due to hold a Town Hall Meeting on the Union’s stance on fees.
Students will learn of any change in the student contribution and student supports in next Wednesday’s budget. The Labour Party have not ruled out an increase in the student contribution, and it has been speculated that it will increase by about €500.
Last week the College Tribune contacted all Labour Party T.Ds by email asking them if they would apologise if their party broke their pledge to students. Of those that replied, T.D for north Kildare and the party’s Chief Whip, Emmet Stagg, was the only T.D who said he would apologise, responding, “If it is broken (and I signed the Pledge) I apologise for being unable to keep that Pledge.”
Also last week a letter sent from the late Brian Lenihan when he was Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank, Patrick Honahan to the former head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn emerged. The letter from Ireland to the Troika appears to commit the country to an increase in the student contribution in order to make savings.
It is understood that Labour and Fine Gael Party leaders were aware of the document before the general election.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Education, Labour T.D Ruairi Quinn told the College Tribune. “Minister Quinn was aware of the terms of the bailout agreement with the EU / IMF before the election. The Labour Party made it clear before the election that there were a number of measures in the EU / IMF deal that they would seek to renegotiate.”
“Individual measures could not be considered in isolation and the Government successfully negotiated a package of changes. These changes included scope to provide for the jobs initiative announced in May, reversal of the cut to the minimum wage, and a significant reduction in the rate of interest payable,” they added.”