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150 TCD students protest against Batt O’Keeffe, SU President welcomes him!

category dublin | education | news report author Saturday November 22, 2008 01:16author by Paul - FEEauthor email stopfees at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

In the first Free Education for Everyone protest in Trinity, around 150 students turned up to send a clear message of opposition to fees to Batt O’Keeffe, the Minister for Education. However, in the second SU leader betrayal of the week, the Students’ Union President, Cathal Reilly welcomed O’Keeffe to the college with a handshake and a smile.

When FEE members in Trinity had discovered that O’Keeffe was to come to launch a PhD programme on Thursday, they quickly convened a meeting and agreed to organise a protest. Leaflets and posters declaring “If he blocks our access to college, we’ll block his!” were produced advertising the protest.

The Students’ Union also agreed to organise a protest, but wouldn’t agree to a blockade, instead calling for a silent protest. Their posters advertising the silent protest declared, “If he won’t talk to us, we won’t talk to him!”

With O’Keeffe due to arrive at 4.15pm, people began to assemble from 3.45pm. A few students and Students’ Union leaders had their mouths taped, ready for the silent protest. As FEE members talked to students coming to the protest and signed people up to the FEE campaign, it was clear that the majority of people agreed that O’Keeffe shouldn’t be allowed silently in. At the very least they felt he should be met with angry chanting, or preferably should be blockaded from entering college just as his fees would deny access to third level education to many young people. Students joined in with chanting – “No cutbacks, no fees, no Fianna Fail TDs!” was particularly popular. Some of those who had taped their mouths untaped themselves to join the chanting.

The Garda presence was relatively high, with seven or eight Gardai manning police barriers together with Trinity security. A number of FEE members from UCD were directed off campus under the Public Order Act for daring to stray outside of “the designated protest area”!

Behind the Garda barriers, awaiting O’Keeffe’s arrival were the Provost, Dr. John Hegarty, who has spoken out in favour of fees, and surprisingly to those students present, the Students’ Union President, Cathal Reilly.

The chanting continued as students awaited the arrival of O’Keeffe, who was running over half an hour late. Then at 4.48pm, the ministerial Merc arrived. Garda marshalling and the crowd being taken by surprise meant that the blockade that had been discussed didn’t come to pass. Nevertheless, O’Keeffe was met with a loud and angry response. The 150 students chanted “Batt O’Keeffe hear us clear, get your fees out of here!”.

When O’Keeffe emerged from his car, the loud chanting continued, accompanied by boos and cries of “shame”. But the most shameful act of the evening was still to come. After the Provost greeted the Minister, the SU President was next in line! He shook his hands and had a quiet word. According to the Irish Times he introduced himself politely and requested a meeting at some stage.

Seeing the SU President meet and greet O’Keeffe rightly enraged many of the protestors. Not only did Reilly not blockade the Minister, or even shout at him – he even broke his own slogan of “If he won’t talk to us, we won’t talk to him”. You’d be forgiven for wondering if he was taking lessons from his counterparts in UL who allowed another Minister, Martin Cullen onto UL campus on Monday!

Unfortunately, another SU leader acted disgracefully and betrayed those students (the members he is meant to represent) who turned up to fight fees. He should be held accountable by Trinity students.

Students’ Unions should be building mass militant campaigns across the country against fees. Instead, some of their so-called leaders seem to have more in common with government ministers than their own members.

Free Education for Everyone is committed to working with Students’ Unions where possible to build the most effective campaign. But where their leaders fail to meet their responsibilities, FEE is willing and able to organise independent campaigning activities while working to transform the unions.

FEE now has groups of activists in colleges across the country. Building these groups and extending to more colleges is necessary to lay the basis for a campaign that can defeat fees. Contact FEE to get involved at stopfees@gmail.com.

Related Link: http://www.free-education.info


author by yetipublication date Sat Nov 22, 2008 11:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It appears that this campaign is directed more at Student Unions than the government.

Different sorts of people obviously have different ways of campaigning, and the more moderate people from establishment backgrounds are obviously finding it difficult to man the barricades with their trotskyist or anarchist peers. However, you'd want to be careful that students don't start to see this campaign as a cynical ploy to disrupt the students unions.

The government -specially the Green Party- should be the target, not some fool from the SU.

author by TCD Studentpublication date Sat Nov 22, 2008 19:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with the last point that the SU leadership should not become the target of the FEE campaign but as a Trinity student and someone who was at the protest I'm very grateful Fee are active in Trinity as I have no idea what a silent protest was supposed to achieve. I don't like the idea of portraying the SU as one group and students as another. All students are members of the SU and it is our union and we do not want to see our union attacked or look ridiculous. The student union should look on this protest as an opportunity to begin a serious movement in the college to produce informative material that can challenge the claims of the pro fees lobby and get all students and their reps involved in the fight against the reintroduction of fees and cut backs in education. Personally I was disappointed that the President shook hands with O'Keeffe, the choice of a 'silent protest' and the lack of a serious campaign by the union leadership to bring out an even bigger crowd of students to the protest but we need to move forward now and I hope the reps will discuss what were the positives and negatives from the O'Keeffe visit. The enemy is the government, not each other and I'm sure if the union leads an active and militant campaign in future they will have the full support of all students.

author by Another TCD Studentpublication date Sun Nov 23, 2008 19:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I don't think it's fair to say this protest was directed more against the SU than the government. I was one of the people involved in organising this and FEE did try to bring the SU in fully as a partner. But the SU opposed the protest from the start. We pressed on them the importance of having the protest and even then they would only agree to a "Silent Protest" (whatever that is) and dragged their feet on advertising the protest or mobilising students to take part. The fight against the commercialisation of education is a fight against government policy and ideally that should be lead by Student Unions, but when they act so conservatively and sheepishly, or even outrightly sabotage protests as happened in UL last Monday then students have no option but to organise and act independently. This in essence is the origin of FEE. Some of the students involved in FEE do have more "hard left" political views but many don't. And certainly this is not an organisation that seeks to proselytize or promote one or another ideological viewpoint. All it seeks to do is safeguard universality of access to education, from playschool to PhD.

author by Educate 2 B Free! - Ógra Shinn Féinpublication date Sun Nov 23, 2008 20:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Here's a wee video! F**k Fees!

Caption: Embedded video Youtube Video

Related Link: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=MK1qcGzwq9k
author by Localistpublication date Tue Dec 02, 2008 20:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Socialist reasons to re-introduce fees

1) At 18, most young people should be earning a few bob and using this money to explore their inner selves - without any burden on the tax payer. Trying to combine this period of a persons life with college is a big waste of money. Most Sweds are closer to 25 years of age than they are to 18 when they start college.

2) 99% of all students go on to use their 3rd level education for capitalist purposes.

3) Working class kids pay for rich kids to go to college.

4) If we are going to have McDonalds and all the other crap that most Irish people engage in, then we should be prepare to work the brain dead jobs that it results in ourserves - rather than importing immigrants to serve this purpose (an then patting ourselves on the back for introducing them to our turbo charged capitalist neck of the wood). Therefore I propose that young people work these jobs by day, while going on the piss, taking drugs and having sex by night. Once they want a bit more from life, they can save a few bob and further their education.

5) Having been a student, I can safely say that students do not contribute in a positive fashion to the community. Just ask any resident in the vicinity of UL.

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