Thousands of students gather for USI march

Around 2,000 students from across the country lined the capital as part of demonstration last week demanding the protection of student supports and grants ahead of the budget.

Students attended the rally, organised by the Union of Students in Ireland, as part of its “Education Is” campaign.

The campaign describes education as a public good and calls for the protection of student support services, back to education allowance, student maintenance grant and student assistant fund.

The Government has already announced plans to increase the student registration fee by another €250 to €3,000 for the next academic year.

Students, staff members, trade union workers and supporters from all aspects of society marched from the Garden of Remembrance to Dáil Eireann where the rally took place.

However, only a handful of students from DCU, less than ten, attended the rally which saw students travelling from across the country.

USI President Laura Harmon described education as “the key to a sustainable recovery”. She demanded the protection of the student maintenance grant and the back to education allowance.

Speaking to The College View, Harmon said that she was “very pleased” with how the march and rally went and that it “stayed on message”.

She said she was happy with the turnout, as trade union workers and supporters took part as well as the University of Limerick, which is no longer affiliated with USI.

Harmon put the small turnout from DCU down to the rainy weather. She said she was glad to see SU President Kenneth Browne at the rally and that he is “very engaged with the campaign and at national council and within the organisation”.

Commenting on the low turnout from DCU students, Browne said that the low turnout could be related to the level of activity and events clubs and societies have on a Wednesday.

“There was enough publicity done about it. Our Facebook event and photo campaign reached 15,000 people. It’s not something DCU has ever engaged in before so it’s very hard to find people that are happy to go out in the rain on a Wednesday to stand, picket and protest,” he added.

When asked about DCU SU’s relationship with the USI he added “we’ve been engaged with everything they’ve done. We’ve been to every single meeting and we’ve made sure our voices are heard.”
“We hosted the national training here for sabbatical officers over the summer so we’re giving our all to it. Anything we need, they are certainly there for us,” he stated.

Second year analytical science student, Geraldine Mc Ginty said that the SU could have done a lot more publicity regarding the march.

“I didn’t even know about the march until I heard it on the radio that afternoon.  I didn’t see any posters or ads around campus at all,” she added.

“No I didn’t hear about it. I would’ve attended if there was more information but I didn’t hear or see much around campus,” said journalism student Aisleigh Harr

UCD, who recently disaffiliated with the USI declined and invitation to join the demonstration.

Lecturer Ronnie Munck, from DCU Defended the Irish University, told students at the really that “we (lecturers) are on your side”. He said that education “will make Ireland a better place” and repeated the message that “education is a public good”.

He also spoke of staff issues ahead of the budget, including cutbacks, casual contracts and harassment.

SIPTU Campaign Co-ordinator Ethel Buckley said that “quality, accessible education is worth fighting for”. She said that “students and workers are not separate groups of people” and that trade workers would continue to support students and the protection of their services.

President of the Irish Second-level Students’ Union and fifth-year student Craig McHugh gave a crowd-pleasing speech highlighting secondary school students’ fear and anxiety over their future ahead of the budget. He said that education “is a need for all in this country, A degree is almost a necessity.”

A performance by The Original Rudeboys, former National College of Ireland students, closed the rally. Rapper Temper-Mental MissElayneous opened the rally. She performed and spoke of the “lack of resources” that stop young people from entering third-level education.

 

Laura Colgan, Finnian Curran and John Casey

Image: www.facebook.com/USI

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