By Gerard Madden, reporter from SIN NUIG
The Galway branch of the campaign Free Education for Everyone (FEE) led students on a march through the city last Wednesday in a protest against cuts to primary, secondary and tertiary level education, with a special emphasis on the abolition of the grant for new entrants to postgraduate study.
Protesters marched to the Bohermore constituency office of Fine Gael backbencher Brian Walsh, where a black wreath was laid to symbolically commemorate the death of opportunity for the youth of the country.
FEE activists then held a sit-in at the Allied Irish Bank at Lynch’s Castle, Shop Street from roughly 2pm to 4pm. The FEE campaign believes that no opposition to the cutbacks in education and hikes in fees can be coherent unless one targets the broader reasons behind them, namely the agenda of austerity which has been the disastrous economic orthodoxy of this State since the crisis hit in 2008.
FEE is an all-island group campaigning against cutbacks to education. It originated in UCD in 2008, and is particularly strong in Galway – a fact not surprising when one considers that 44% of NUIG students rely on grants, compared to 17% at UCD and 15% at Trinity.
The group is making a strong bid for NUIG SU’s full time officer positions. The need for a change in the leadership of our students’ unions is illustrated by USI president Gary Redmond cosying up to Fianna Fáil at the party’s recent Ard Fheis, even though the party has repeatedly attacked students by hiking fees.
The march not only consisted of third level students but also, at FEE’s instigation, a large quantity of those from the city’s many second level institutions, echoing a walkout engineered by FEE in Castlebar’s two secondary schools in December 2010. FEE believes that those in all levels of education must unite if cutbacks are to be defeated.