Union of Students in Ireland (USI) President, John Logue has admitted the student rally to Leinster House last year was a failure.
Going forward, he believes students need to become proactive and loud in targeting public representatives and making their case. Logue emphasised the volume of participation needed. “We need to exert enough political force on these guys in government so they run scared.”
Logue spoke at the first public discussion of the campaign in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dundalk, Co. Louth on Monday, October 22nd. It was the first of more than 10 being held around the country to raise awareness and highlight the further cuts proposed to higher education in Ireland.
The USI has organised the meetings in a bid to educate and reinforce the effect these cuts have on students, families, businesses and communities themselves as students are failing to complete their degrees as a result.
Registration fees in budget 2012 rose from €2,000 to €2,250 and they are set to reach €3,000 by 2015. The maintenance grant has been cut by 12% and those living less than 45km from college no longer qualify for the non-adjacent rate of financial support.
Logue feels Irish students are fighting a negative stereotype and perception of the average student held by a large proportion of society. As a result he believes the campaign needs “to make it about everyone but the student”.
Speaking at the event he said: “Colleges are an integral part of local economies. Local businesses on account of these cuts are on the edge.
“Colleges are huge to these local communities. Take Dundalk for example. Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT) brought €8.45 million to the town in fiveyears.”
Logue openly criticised the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn in failing to keep his promise not to increase registration fees. Speaking to a crowd of about 40 people he said: “he lied to get your vote, your parents’ vote. TDs got elected on the back of that pledge.
“Now he says he can’t keep that promise because of the state of the economy, but he knew the state of the country’s finances.”
He called Quinn’s promise “fallacious”, saying the Minister “did exactly the opposite of what he said and now that he is not running for re-election he will get away with it”.
Drogheda local Councillor, Ken O’Heiligh, attended the talk as both a parent and a public representative. Speaking to The College View he said: “I am here to support the campaign. As a parent I can see the difficulty many have in trying to educate their children.
“I intend on submitting a motion tomorrow supporting the USI and their fight.”
President of DKIT, Denis Cummins also attended the event. He said DKIT was against the proposed hike in fees.
Cummins said a large proportion of DKIT students are the first generation of their family to enter into any form of third level education and therefore the increased fees have a huge strain on families. “They have to recognise that this could be a huge burden on families”.