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Report of UCD grants demo...

category national | miscellaneous | news report author Sunday March 10, 2002 16:26author by james redmondauthor email antrophe at hotmail dot com Report this post to the editors

In a demonstration outside the Department of Education and Science last Thursday students from UCD called for an open publicly funded accessible education system for all. Around 60 students took part in the demonstration which was the result of a motion put forward by grass root councillors in the student union in response to the failure of the Union of Students Ireland to take any form of action over the grant issue this year apart from asking students to vote in the upcoming May general election, in an effort to apply pressure to candidates to take action on the grant.

In a demonstration outside the Department of Education and Science last Thursday students from UCD called for an open publicly funded accessible education system for all. Around 60 students took part in the demonstration which was the result of a motion put forward by grass root councillors in the student union in response to the failure of the Union of Students Ireland to take any form of action over the grant issue this year apart from asking students to vote in the upcoming May general election, in an effort to apply pressure to candidates to take action on the grant.

Students chanted '1-2-3-4! The grants a joke and we want more! 5-6-7-8! Extend the grant to educate!’ ' Outside the department before listening to speakers from UCD union as well as Colm Jordon, an officer in USI.

When Aonghas Hourihane, UCD Union president and member of Fianna Fail emerged from the crowd to speak he was greeted with jeers, one student shouted 'Fianna fail are the problem not the fucking solution!' In his speech he commended
The recent introduction of a supplementary top-up grant for students from backgrounds where both parents are receiving social welfare but called on his party to include a more decisive increase and extension in their upcoming election manifesto. The second speaker Paul Dillon one of the coordinators of the demonstration expressed with considerable anger his personal anger at the grant level, as well as how the assembled students at the demo were the lucky ones who had got to college, he warned the government that to ignore the interests of students in an election year would be extremely foolish. Colm Jordon, an officer with USI pleaded with students to register their votes and sign the voter pledge forms which are being sent to candidates across the country in an effort to force action on the grant. USI's Pat the Politician Campaign has been greeted with derision by many students in UCD who seek a return to last years days of regional and centralised protests which resulted in the introduction of an increase of 5% and an extra top up grant.

The students continued to demonstrate, ignoring calls from the union president to return to the busses and go back to college, the demo preceded across the Liffey towards the Dail. Upon reaching Trinity a sizable number of students attempted to gain access through the front arch, in an effort to pull Trinity students in to the contingent but were stopped by security that closed it off. Marching up Grafton Street the demonstrators chanted 'Grants, grants, grants for all! Not a corporate free for all! Fight! Fight! Fianna Fail’ At this point a handful of secondary students joined the demonstration which ended outside the Dail.

Members of Socialist Youth contacted socialist Party activist and TD Joe Higgins; he agreed to speak to the assembled students. At this point the Union president seized the union banner and abandoned the demo, calling it off and led students back to college.

20% of students in UCD receive some form of subsidy from the state to fund their education, less than 10% receive the full grant of e65 a week. Placards on the demonstration reflected the pathetic level of the grant through the slogan 'when your rent is e100-e65 doesn’t matter.' There is a real and persistent threat to even this pathetic funding of education as a result of the General Agreement in Trades and Services, which seeks to remove all barriers to trade in services. One such barrier is the third level maintenance grant, and government subsidisation of college fees. Recent government reports have called for an abolition of the grant and the reintroduction of tuition fees.

Next week Michael Woods will take part in discussions with other European Ministers for education in Spain. The discussions will focus on the intensification of the Bologna process, which seeks to introduce a uniform system of education, in line with GATS across Europe. Massive attacks on public education across Europe resulted in mass regional actions before Christmas. On March 15, further student, pupil and teacher actions will take place across Europe to coincide with demonstrations taking place in Salamanca, the venue for the EU talks on education. In Ireland, USI have remained silent over the GATS threat, the extent of their discussion of it this year will be the discussion of a joke motion at upcoming congress put forward by members of the Fianna Fail Cumann in UCD. The motion says 'we should globalise now'.

author by ciarapublication date Mon Mar 11, 2002 15:51Report this post to the editors

well done for organising this James its about time someone did something about the grants issue. Clearly fuck all other people are bothered to do it.

author by Finghinpublication date Wed Mar 13, 2002 15:20author email info at syucd dot cjb dot netReport this post to the editors

Good report of the demo, well done to yourself and Paul Dillon on organising it, despite the best efforts of Hourihane and co. it went well.

ANyone that wants to participate in the ISR international day of action for free education on the 15 MArch please get in contact at info@syucd.cjb.net.

Bleow is the report of the protest on the Socialist YOuth UCd site

Approximately 60 students from UCD protested outside Department of Education and then marched to the Dáil in protest against the pathetically low student grant today. This demonstration was organised by the Students' Union as a result of a SY sponsored motion put down on the SU Council.

A clear difference between the careerist SU officers and the ordinary students could be seen at today's protests. The demonstration had a certain degree of militancy; SU President Aonghus Hourihane (FF) was heckled as he addressed to students. In his speech Hourihane praised the Minister of Education and he urged him to continue with the progress. Hourihane must be thinking of a different Minister, as the students on the demo certainly were not praising the current government.

It was clear that Hourihane and most of the full-time officers of UCDSU were lagging behind the mood of the students. It could be seen that they were against the protest. Hourihane continually attempted to dampen down the protest. Hourihane didn't even bring a megaphone those making speeches and chanting depended on megaphones brought by protesters! He also argued strongly against a march to the Dáil from Marlborough St. Hourihane was clearly uneasy with the protest and the anti-Fianna Fáil mood. He certainly didn't want a march on the Dáil, and when at the Dáil he tried to end it as soon as possible especially when he heard Joe Higgins TD was coming out to meet the students.
Today's demonstration was small but very effective in terms of media coverage. It shows that a well-organised USI demonstration could be very effective in raising the awareness of the pitiful Student grant. The UCD demonstration exposed the redundancy and lack of leadership showed by Hourihane and the SU Executive. Essentially it was the ordinary students and their representatives on the SU Council that initiated, organised and led today's protest, not the executive that are meant to represent students.
Today further exposed the anti-democratic tendency of a number of Executive members. On the bus to the protest Aonghus Hourihane and Róisín McKeown approached an SY member about not selling the Voice at the demo. They even threatened the derecognition of SY as a society, even though this is totally against the Constitution of the SU. At the protest McKeown verbally attacked an SWP member who was selling his paper. In the fundamental interests of democracy, all students regardless of their political beliefs should be allowed to openly express themselves at SU demonstrations free from the threats of Union officers who are pushing their own careerist agendas.

Related Link: http://www.syucd.cjb.net
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