pills serif;”>The protest over the proposed raise in student fees kicked off last Thursday, November 3rd, with an open invitation town hall meeting in Theatre L. The purpose of the meeting was that it should be an open forum for debate and constructive conversation in relation to the new proposal for raising the student registration fee by the Labour Fine-Gael coalition government.
Student Union president Pat De Brún opened the meeting by conveying his absolute disgust with the proposed increases. “It doesn’t matter whether you can afford it, students and people deserve education.” De Brún believes that these measures are simply “killing us and ruining our future.” These views were echoed by his sabbatical colleagues.
USI president Gary Redmond thanked the Student Union for their commitment with regard to the matter and claimed that, “no fee system in the world works.” He trusts that people “have a moral duty to this campaign…to save education.” He quoted president elect, Michael D Higgins, in saying, “We should always aspire to what you want to be and not need to worry about fees.” Redmond put it bluntly to the students in attendance and commented on his dissatisfaction with the government, “we will not be lied to, not another cent is appropriate.”
“Education is the silver bullet to recovery, students are worth fighting for, and we need everybody to take part.”
Brendan Lacey went a step further in his address and candidly stated, “I can’t afford fees, and I won’t be back in 2012 pending their re-introduction.” According to Lacey “any increase is crippling.” He again called for participation, “if we don’t do this together, what do we do.” His strong words ended with a defiant, “we WILL stop fees.”
While the majority of the students in attendance at the meeting were there for the sole purpose of determining whether they would return to college in 2012, some were of the view that there is no alternative to the re-introduction of fees. “What are the alternatives to fees when we are paying €700 million on Anglo” asked a disgruntled student. The question was responded with a vague answer from Redmond, “the USI are ruling out nothing to ensure that the registration fees don’t increase.”
Students in attendance also wondered where the figure of €5,000 came from. In the Irish Independent Kim Beilenberg alleged that the figure was entirely “hypothetical,” however this was not the view of Gary Redmond. “The expenditure report of the last government alleged €3,000 to €3,500, but the higher education authority sustain report alluded to a 50% increase over the next four years,” said Redmond.
With regard to the protest itself Redmond is calling for parents and family members to protest alongside students. “Any action we take will be peaceful” according to Redmond. The sleep out will last from 8pm to 10am in Dublin city centre on Wednesday the 16th of November. Lacey called for “grass root involvement.” A bus and a t-shirt on the day of the march will cost €4.50 and SU stewards will be present. This particular day was chosen as it is the day that An Dáil sits. Redmond is hopeful that the minister will attend and give a speech at the protest.
After the protest there may be protests in individual constituencies and in TDs’ offices, however this, as of yet, is unconfirmed. De Brun concluded the meeting calling for unity and said, “we represent everyone and I believe we can succeed.”