Low turnout for youth budget cuts demonstrations

A crowd of around 50 gathered outside the Dáil for the ‘Emigration Queue’ youth demonstration against dole cuts on Thursday, October 24th. The demonstration was led by a number of youth representative groups including the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), The National Youth Council, the ‘We’re Not Leaving’ campaign group, and Spunout.ie.

USI President Joe O’Connor said the primary purpose of the stunt was to highlight the choice that will be faced by young people aged 18 to 24, who have to choose between emigration or €100 a week in social welfare following the recent budget announcements.

“It was more so a stunt to highlight the issue in the media than a protest. It wasn’t something that we were expecting or intending to mobilise large numbers for…there is a difficulty in terms of organising young people, be it students, young workers, or unemployed, at short notice like that on this type of issue,” said O’Connor.

The USI President feels the best opportunity to reverse the government decision on dole cuts is through the Seanad, where the social welfare bill will be sent later this week. Since the demonstration, the USI have been engaged with a strategic lobbying campaign of key senators.

The organisation feel that with the strong government majority in the Dáil, and the much slimmer majority in the Seanad, the crucial point where the decision could potentially be overturned lies in the Seanad.

The group also held another media stunt last Friday to continue to highlight this issue. “On one side we had a picture of a typical living room for a young person, highlighting the reality of the situation for someone on €100 a week; and on the other side we depicted the life of a government minister whose average salary is €2,900 a week,” said O’Connor. “You would have seen the very derogatory comments made about young people choosing to sit on front of flat screen TVs and we wanted to depict that that really isn’t the case.”

Commenting on the demonstration, DCU Students’ Union Vice President and Education Officer Ciarán O’Connor said it was quite visual and “hit the nail on the head that these are the two options that young people out of work are facing in Ireland”.

Remarking on the budget in general, O’Connor was unhappy with the rise in registration fees but said: “The maintenance grant remained the same; that’s positive because the maintenance grant is vital. I think it’s 30 to 40 per cent of students in third-level education are on the grant…it’s important that the money remains there because they need it.

“I believe Enda Kenny and his cabinet have good intentions in terms of incentivising students and young people in getting back to work; but hitting them where it hurts most is not a good idea.”

Ruth Marnell

Image Credit: Photocall Ireland

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