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UL Students Union Orchestrate Pantomime Blockade of Minister .. Demo broken up by Armed Gardai!

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | feature author Wednesday November 19, 2008 18:03author by Emma Beckett - Free Education for Everyone (personal capacity)author email stopfees at gmail dot com Report this post to the editors

featured image
He blocks access to our education,
we block his access to the opening
Image credits Hugh O'Brien

"He blocks access to our education, we block his access to the opening. - Pa O' Brien ULSU President, advocate of a graduate tax and Fianna Fail member.

Minister Martin Cullen attended the opening of the newly built Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) building on University of Limerick campus last Monday evening. Ahead of the scheduled event, ULSU issued a press release headlined "UL Students to block Minister from ICO opening". What actually transpired was an entirely different set of events.

At about 1pm, ULSU officers led an impressive turnout of about 400 students towards the Thomond Bridge on campus to block vehicular access to the ICO. The only other access to the building was via the Living way pedestrian bridge, which ULSU president Pa O'Brien ensured us was being monitored by a fellow SU officer. The fact that the location chosen for the blockade was not the building Cullen intended on attending was originally put down to the assumed tactical naivety of the union officers, but the motives for the location chosen later became apparent.

Students were corralled onto the sides of the bridge to allow traffic through until Cullens car was within sight. After a long period standing in the rain, the minsterial Merc finally appeared in the distance. The union officers sprang into action. Adorned in matching yellow t-shirts, they attempted to whip the crowd into a frenzy while arranging them into a nicely formed block, spread across the width of the bridge. At this point the almost total absence of campus security and gardai on the bridge sent the spidey-senses tingling.

The length and direction of the road meant that the protest was visible to anyone driving on it from a considerable distance plus Garda vehicles had been allowed to cross the bridge throughout the protest. It was not as though Cullen had suddenly been faced with a spontaneous protest, yet his car slowly crawled up to the bridge with only a single member of the Gardai between his chauffeur driven Mercedes and 400 students intent on a blockade.

Before the car reached the bridge, it stopped and turned around. The union immediately announced the protest was over and free scoops would be available in the bar. As students began to leave the bridge, ULSU Community Relations Officer, Paddy Rockett stated to some of those present that a deal had been worked which would allow Martin Cullen access to the ICO as long as he agreed to do the u-turn at the bridge (hence the total lack of security on the bridge itself). Rockett stated, "We agreed to block the bridge, not the minister. He had to turn away so it was a victory for us". When asked where the minister was going Rockett stated,"He's being chaperoned to the ICO". In yesterdays Limerick Leader Cullen claimed that, "There was an agreement that we would go up, recognise them, which is fine, I have no issue with that..."

A deal had been arranged between ULSU president (and Fianna Fail member) Pa O'Brien, Cullen and the Gardai which enabled both Cullen and ULSU to get what they wanted - ULSU got their photograph of Cullen turning away against a backdrop of student extras while Cullen was able to waltz into the opening of the Irish Chamber Orchestra building totally unimpeded. Once Cullens car turned around, it simply headed off on in the direction of the other bridge.

"Following the confrontation, students wearing student union T-shirts angrily remonstrated with the protesters." - The Examiner

As the union called an end to their protest, members of UL Free Education for Everyone argued that they should attempt a blockade of the pedestrian bridge. Realising that they had been duped by the union officers, about 80 students made the trek across campus but were unfortunately too late to block Cullens access. A small group then attempted to gain access to the ICO building itself but were prevent by the Gardai from gaining entry. As word travelled across campus of what was occurring, the union officers downed their free pints and legged it across to the "unofficial protest". When they arrived, they hysterically started screaming at the students involved to leave.

" One student said that a group who were not students at UL had come on campus to commandeer the demonstration. " - The Examiner

UL Free Education for Everyone (FEE) had asked two members of UCD FEE to come down to Limerick to speak at a public meeting after the protest to talk about the successful blockades which had been carried out there. There was no group of outside agitators who tried to "commandeer the demonstration". It was UL students who made the decision themselves to head to the ICO building.

Under constant harassment from union officers, the numbers present at the ICO slowly dwindled until only a few were left. Due to the numbers, those present decided not to try and block Cullens car given the Garda-student ratio. When the minister eventually strolled out of the building, protesters walked towards him chanting "No cutbacks, no fees, no Fianna Fail TDs". At this point several of Gardai, including armed special branch officers, tackled protesters to the ground, kneeling on the neck of one of those involved. As a number of students were being physically held by Gardai until Cullen left, one of the plain clothes detectives stated to a protester that, "this wasn't what we'd agreed with ye".

ULSU treated its members with utter contempt and disrespect in Mondays macabre charade. Mobilising students on the pretense of a blockade, only to use it as a diversion to facilitate easy access for the minister to a building, was a sickening action for a union to undertake. By orchestrating a spectacle away from the building Cullen was heading towards the possibility of Cullens access being genuinely blocked was negated. When students themselves tried to organise a protest they had their efforts, including the scope for successful direct action, undermined by the union leadership.

Aware of what they were doing, the union deceitfully misled students on the bridge by failing to tell them that the outcome of the protest had already been predetermined with Cullen. Despite the rhetoric of direct action, and what was subsequently written in the papers, the protest was little more than a stage-managed photo opportunity. There was absolutely no attempt by ULSU to block the ministers access to the opening of the ICO. In the press release issued by ULSU they stated that:

"It is our understanding that Minster Batt O'Keeffe has crossed the line in terms of registration fees and barring access to education.

With that in mind, we believe we should show his fellow Minister the same hospitality that we have been afforded: he blocks access to our education, we block access to the opening."

In UCD the grassroots campaign group, Free Education for Everyone (FEE) has taken the initiative and organised blockades of members of government. As a result, UCD has now become a government-free zone with Conor Lenihan, Mary Hanafin and Martin Mansergh all pulling out of planned appearances in Belfield due to student pressure.

Cutbacks, the increase in registration fee and the threatened reintroduction of tuition fees can only be defeated if students start organising themselves at a grassroots level, engaging in protests which move beyond catharsis. Turning up and consuming a protest before consuming a few pints doesn't work. People need to decide for themselves the nature of protests they want, rather than relying on other people to do it for them. This can only be done by working alongside local student unions (where possible) and USI in independent grassroots groups which make links with groups in wider society. It wasn't voter registration campaigns that helped abolish third-level tuition fees or fees for student nurses - it was grassroots pressure which did.

In addition to FEE in UCD, branches are now in the process of being established in UL, NUI Galway, UCC, Trinity and NUI Maynooth. If you want to get in contact please email

Upcoming events

Today - UL Free Education for Everyone meeting
6pm at the Foundation Building, Allegro cafe
UL FEE will also be distributing leaflets about ULSUs role in the
Cullen demo throughout the day

Today - UCC Free Education for Everyone Protest
Department of Education on Washington Street Cork on the 19th. Meet
at the gates of UCC at 1.30PM. For more info contact -

Tomorrow (Thursday) - Trinity Free Education for Everyone Blockade of Minister of Education Batt O' Keefe
Minister of Education Batt O'Keefe is planning to make an appearance in the Atrium in Trinity at 4.15pm this Thursday, 20th November to launch a new PhD programme. This is a politician that is currently trying to block access to our universities and colleges by reintroducing fees. We need to now send him a clear message that as long as he or any other politician is planning to do this, we will block their access. He is not welcome here.

Meet at Front Arch at 3.30 to march on the Atrium. Bring banners, placards, whistles, drums and anything else to give O'Keefe the reception he deserves.

Saturday - Cork: Fight the Education Cuts
INTO Demo 12pm on Grand Parade in Cork City.

Monday 24th Nov (and every Monday at the same time during term) - UCD
Free Education for Everyone Meeting
Outside the Arts Cafe @ 5pm -

Saturday 29th Nov - Donegal: Fight the Education Cuts
INTO demo - details here closer to the date -

Saturday 6th Dec - Dublin: Fight the Education Cuts
more details closer to the date -

Examiners coverage of the Cullen protest -
Limerick Leader -
Independent -

Related Link:

Cullen turns around
Cullen turns around


author by Miriam Cottonpublication date Tue Nov 18, 2008 21:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is turning very nasty
This story seems to have a few suspect elements to it - those present at the protest in Limerick yesterday might be able to clear it up. How come a a bunch of armed detectives were ready and available to disperse the protest just when they were 'needed'?
A student protest in Limerick was suppressed by ARMED detectives yesterday in what smells a bit like some deliberate mischief making around the planned protest. According to msm news reports a group of students descended on the main protest and started banging on windows and generally making things unpleasant. The Irish Examiner reports says armed detectives 'had to' tackle them and that subsequently a row of some sort broke out between the main group of protestors and the alleged trouble makers. On the face of it it looks as though there may have been some sort of agent provacateur element to this story but it might simply be the usual left disunity in evidence. Either way, ARMED policemen!!!!!!!!

author by Miriampublication date Tue Nov 18, 2008 22:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I've Googled this story every which way I can and there doesn't seem to be any other information about what happened.

This was the outlined protest plan on the ULSU website:

author by cspublication date Wed Nov 19, 2008 12:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Similar to the events in UCD where the Gardai entered into negotiations for Brian Lenihan to leave through the front door and have protestors line up on either side only for him to sneak out a side door and have to run to an unmarked car and make his escape. Hopefully this will be a lesson that you can't trust the Gardai and the folly of mediation and negotiation with them.

author by Jimbob - FEEpublication date Wed Nov 19, 2008 17:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's much worse than what happened in UCD - there our numbers had dwindled, the cops were threatening that someone could be run over if we tried to block every entrance, and so we agreed to negotiate that he would come out one way. They obviously reneged on what was agreed, and we learnt our lesson.

But in UL it wasn't a matter of the cops reneging on some agreement and then bringing Cullen in over some other bridge - that was the agreement! ULSU agreed with the cops to have a stage managed protest and then let him over the other bridge, all the while telling students on the protest that they were here to blockade a minister.

The mainstream press reports and quotes from Cullen make it absolutely clear that that was the pre-arranged deal. It's also clear that Cullen was somewhat dismissive of the protestors - is it any wonder?

The shower of "leaders" in ULSU are a throwback to some of the worst types of FF careerists seen in the student movement before - one Aonghus Hourihane comes to mind (for those of a certain mid 20s vintage)!

author by Pa O'Brien - ULSUpublication date Wed Nov 19, 2008 18:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Clarification of ULSU Protest

Some people have been raising issues with the ULSU protest which occurred on Monday this week calling it an ‘orchestrated pantomime’ amongst other things. Some conspiracy theorists have even claimed we had a long running deal with Minister Cullen and suggest that the protest was some kind of dramatic performance and way to facilitate him getting him to the opening!. This is all false.

What transpired on the day went like this, Firstly neither I nor any of our Union representatives spoke to Minister Martin Cullen on or before the protest. We were offered a private meeting, which we declined out of respect to our members who had showed up to protest.After our members had stood on the bridge for 2 hours in the rain I got a phone call from the Irish Chamber Orchestra to ask what our intentions were. I stated candidly that the Minister would not be allowed to pass over Thomond Bridge.

The ICO expressed that while we had every right to protest we were destroying their event. We outlined that it was nothing to do with them our action was aimed at the Minister. I said, that to maintain goodwill from the public and the campus community who were supporting us, we wouldn’t disrupt the actual opening, just the minister from getting there. If we had destroyed the event the Union we would have found many doors closed on us, and hence the students, in this University. That would have led to an all round drop in service which would have been unfair to the students.

Shortly after this phone call I was contacted to say the Minister would attempt to cross the bridge. The Gardai approached me and said that blocking the road was a criminal offence and we would be arrested. At that point I told them we would be blocking the road but agreed that the protest would not surround the Minister’s car. We had 300-400 18-19 year olds who were in a frenzy. I, as organiser of the protest and as head of the Union, hold sole responsibility over the actions of protestors who have been gathered together by the Union. These 18-19 year olds are Law Students etc. These are young people who are taking the lead from the Union during the protest, their careers and lives would be in jeopardy if we incited them to surround the Minister’s car and arrests were made on that basis.

For me the futures of our students is more important than getting arrested at this point, if I choose to do direct action I will do it in a small group who have previously agreed and fully understand the implications of what they’re doing, I wont lead 300+ 18-20 year olds into action which would adversely affect them and their lives. The futures of these students could have been put in jeopardy by the incitement of a few to escalate action that few were comfortable with but could have been caught up in.

After Minister Cullen’s car approached the bridge we stood firm and did not let him through. At that point he turned around and headed toward the living bridge. We had one member of the Union on the living Bridge, and two members following the Minister. I told the Union member on the bridge by phone to let me know if the Minister crossed but not to impede him because one student taking on Minister plus armed Gardai in a peaceful manner is impossible. All our guys were on Thomond Bridge because that was the focus of the protest. The members following the Minister were to alert us if he didn’t come near the bridge and the person on the bridge was to alert us if he tried to sneak past that way, at which point we would have marched to the ICO and made our point there.

Once we had made our point and could not feasibly stop the Minister from getting over the pedestrian bridge, we decided, after having our students standing in the rain for 2 hours waiting for the Minister, to march through Campus to show everyone else where they should have been, to celebrate the protest and to raise numbers for our next protest. We offered our students finger food, not free pints as the article above states.

The article above comes from a select group of students and non-students(more non) who want a certain level of action which is above and beyond what you can ask of 1st and 2nd year students who take their lead from the Union, these students could make the wrong decision while in a group without knowing the consequences at this point of their lives. Hence it is our responsibility to make sure that these students can protest peacefully and with dignity and not call their futures into jeopardy. The group that broke off which actually contained 50 people, most of whom went to watch one person deliriously banging on the window of the ICO and who was later removed by armed Gardai. I know most of those students just went to watch because most came back to the Union to complain about the “crazy” actions of said person and to say that it had soured the protest.

I can state that we had no agreement with the Gardai. The only contact between us was when they outlined to us that blocking a public road is illegal. Within 100 metres of the bridge at either side there Garda Vans stationed along with campus security. The suggestion that we organised a protest for the purpose of,

“Mobilising students on the pretence of a blockade, only to use it as a diversion to facilitate easy access for the minister to a building, was a sickening action for a union to undertake”

This is interesting, but I think it speaks for itself.

To answer the personal attacks on me above, well I don’t think I have anything to answer for. Since I took my job I have done nothing but represented the views of the Students of UL. Any political view I hold outside of my office is my own business and I would never let it colour my work. Since the fees issue has raised its head ULSU has taken the lead in Munster if not Ireland in the campaign. We organised the first city protest in Ireland, we organised a 5,000 strong protest in Cork with the other Munster colleges, we organised the first protest of this kind in Munster. We are doing everything we can possibly do. We are the loudest anti-fees Union in Munster without doubt. So to say that I was somehow secretly scheming with Fianna Fail I think speaks for itself. Anyone who knows me will know that the only people I represent in my role are the students who voted for me, no party or political view, just students.

I note that the author of the article doesn’t state what their politics are, if you are so willing to chastise me then maybe you should nail your own colours to the mast? As for the statement that I support a graduate tax you would swear I was actively campaigning for it. This is something I mentioned in a radio interview as preferable to fees but still not the answer. I stand by the fact it would be better than upfront fees but I still don’t think it’s the answer but according to you I’m chief advocate.

That’s all I have to say on the issue. If the above article is classified as worthy of Indymedia then I’m worried. The article is independent of what the truth is and that’s about it. UL Students’ Union will continue in their campaign against 3rd level fees and we’ll do it how we see fit. We won’t risk the wellbeing of our members to suit the agenda of a few. We stand by all our actions completely,
Pa O’Brien
President ULSU

author by Jacqueline Fallonpublication date Wed Nov 19, 2008 19:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Moral of the story:

You cannot negotiate with anyone who wears sun glasses on a rainy day, has the back up of a gun and who has one boot on your neck!

Best of luck to all who protested on the day.

p.s. For God's sake, have some respect for yourselves and put an end to negotiations with An Garda Síochána - all the evidence in the way ye were treated points to the fact that they don't give a shite about any of ye and would stamp ye into the ground if they could!

author by ULitsmepublication date Wed Nov 19, 2008 20:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As Cathaoirleach of Ógra Fianna Fáil in UL, I can confirm that Pa O'Brien has in no way let his political affiliation get in the way of doing his job. His personal views and the views of the President of ULSU are not intrinsically linked ideologically. They are separate views (which may be the exact same in any case), one with a "civilian hat" on and one with a "job hat" on.

He spoke to the cumann on the issue, following which a vote was taken on whether the cumann was to be pro or anti fees.

I spoke for pro, pa spoke for anti an it came out 60-40 anti fees.

So not only is the President in this case doing his job, he is doing it in an exceedingly effective manner.

Pa and other members of the Union Sabbatical staff with affiliations, have put their political views aside on this issue for the purposes of carrying their jobs out in a manner that is a appropriate in line with the decisions of the Union Executive

I am overwhelmingly pro-fees, and nobody will change that, but I can assure you that in no way has this view been expressed by Pa O'Brien as Students' Union President.

He is discharging the duties of President in a professional and effective manner, including a very vocal anti-fees campaign.

Paddy Rockett is quoted above as using the word "chaperoned". That is not, to put it in lay man's terms, a "Paddy Rockett type of word" and leads me to the conclusion that someone had a little too much imagination juice before writing the original article.

Derek Daly
Con Colbert Cumann
Ógra Fianna Fáil

author by Vivion Grisewood - ULpublication date Wed Nov 19, 2008 23:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Every word of the above article is tripe. The ULSU clearly stated "No minister would pass through UL unhindered" This does not mean they would stop them going about their business altogether, they did what they had set out to do, and made the minister walk in the rain.
400 U.L. students stood out in the cold and rain for 2 hours to show the rest of the country how passionately they felt about fees, why should they risk their health so close to the exams by attempting to block every entry to the ICO, and ruin their day aswell?

As for your so called quotes, the reporter has NO PROOF WHATS SO EVER on the so called "quotes" Paddy Rockett and Pa O'Brien said, either recording or signed statement, because THERE WAS NO QUOTE.

Your independant "reporter" did not report, simply made up lies to dramatise and twist the story for his/her own means.

I doubt infact if the author of the atricle was even out in the rain with the rest of us at all???

And to clarify an issue, those students harrasing the minister in the ico had nothing got to do with the ULSU's protest, and it is widely known and accepted by the students of UL that this is fact. The other protestors were an entirely seperate group with entirely different motives.

I would like to suggest to the editor of the website to carefully consider who you get to write your articles, and not to let any sort of rubbish be published on your site.


author by squid - The Limerick Bloggerpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 00:48author email squid at limerickblogger dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I would also like to know why no credit was given to either the person who took the first photograph, or the site the author lifted it from. no request was received by us to reproduce the photo

Like the photographer who took the picture, I have no problem with people using stuff I post, as long as credit is given.

author by Jimbob - FEEpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 01:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's nice to see these SU misleaders feeling under pressure to defend themselves - the second time in a week actually. (The first being when they left their free drinks/food in the bar to go and pressure students into leaving a protest that actually did set out to stop Cullen).

The one thing the SU heads can't distort is the contradiction between what was press released beforehand and what was said during the protest - that Cullen would be stopped, and the reality and the story afterwards whereby he was to be allowed in over a different bridge. This contradiction can't be escaped - it stands as an indication of your betrayal of the 3-400 students who came out to blockade a Minister.

Pa is being either incredibly naive or deliberately obtuse in expecting that a serious approach to impede Cullen's access would have resulted in mass arrests, young people's futures being damanged etc. That's rubbish - name me one student over the past decade who has a criminal record as a result of protesting against fees! If Pa was so worried about all the responsibility being in his hands he could have tried to have a discussion and dialogue with the protestors (who I have no doubt would have opted to blockade him). Instead he takes the decision for them and deliberately misleads them about what was happening.

Do Pa's Fianna Fail politics have any bearing on what happened? I love the way SU "leaders" can become the most non-political of all and I've heard it all before: "Anyone who knows me will know that the only people I represent in my role are the students who voted for me, no party or political view, just students." Oh how genuine Pa, if only everyone would follow your way and stop bringing nasty politics into it.

Is it a coincidence that Pa is a member of FF, presumably shares most of their conservative right-wing policies, and connived to betray the aspirations of UL students (his members) to blockade a FF minister? Clearly not. That isn't to say that he set out consciously as a member of FF to let another member of FF on campus - maybe not. But clearly his right-wing political beliefs influences how he sees the fight against fees. He thinks a graduate tax would be ok. He clearly doesn't think a militant mass campaign is necessary - instead his actions suggest that he favours photo stunts.

Students have seen his ilk before unfortunately, but fortunately those examples suggest that when people begin to become active around the issue of fees, these misleaders are quickly shown up and replaced.

What happened on Monday was a real shame. A protest of 3-400 people could have blockaded Cullen and sent him packing. It would have garnered far more publicity than Pa's stage managed stunt. But more importantly it would have sent waves through colleges around the country about what is possible. It would have given students a sense of their power and given an impetus to building the kind of mass movement that is necessary. Instead that opportunity was wasted by the SU leaders.

But lessons will be learnt by student activsts. The building of FEE on a national basis will gather pace. Pressure will be brought to bear by students on the SU leaders who try to avoid doing what is necessary.

We CAN build a movement to defeat fees. Unfortunately, it looks as if we won't be getting any help from at least some elements of the ULSU leadership in doing so.

Related Link:
author by Emma B - FEE (personal capacity)publication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 06:53author email stopfees at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

"There was an agreement that we would go up, recognise them, which is fine, I have no issue with that, and then I would walk across the bridge and I enjoyed the walk," said an upbeat Minister Cullen - from the Limerick Leader.

According to Martin Cullen there was an agreement over what would occur. This was reported in the Limerick Leader and Limerick 95fm. There were two routes to the building. If the aim was to block the ministers access to the ICO, why did the union decide to have 400 students on one bridge and one solitary union member on the Bridge Cullen eventually crossed? Why was this done when class reps had expressed their opinion that both bridges should be blocked? Why was this done when the press release said both routes would be blocked?

The press release stated, " students will gather in the Students’ Union courtyard before blocking both the vehicular Thomond Bridge and the pedestrian Living Bridge by 1pm, preventing access from the University’s Limerick campus to the Clare North Campus on which the ICO building is located." Why did this not happen when over 400 students turned up?

OBrien: "If we had destroyed the event [ICO opening]"
Nobody is advocating that you 'destroy' anything. The protest was held a considerable distance from the ICO and failed to prevent anyone, including the minister, from attending the event. Doing it properly would have only prevented one individual from attending, the individual who you claimed was going to be blocked.

O'Brien, ULSU President: "The Gardai approached me and said that blocking the road was a criminal offence and we would be arrested. At that point I told them we would be blocking the road but agreed that the protest would not surround the Minister’s car...These are young people who are taking the lead from the Union during the protest, their careers and lives would be in jeopardy if we incited them to surround the Minister’s car and arrests were made on that basis."
You don't seem to be au fait with the law but the Gardai could (but never would) have arrested you and students on various grounds, such as obstruction and refusal to comply with an order of a member of the Garda, regardless of whether the car was surrounded or not. Nobody advocated that the car be surrounded or that anyone should be íncited'to do anything. The way in which students lined up as a block across the bridge would have been the right tactic had 'an agreement' not been reached and had both bridges been blocked.

O' Brien: "a certain level of action which is above and beyond what you can ask of 1st and 2nd year students who take their lead from the Union"
What level of action of you think I'm advocating? I'm simply on favour of doing what you were supposed do, competently. You don't need to be some kind of militaristic ultra-left wing nut to form a line or have a sitdown protest on two bridges. Rather than taking the 'lead' from the union, unions are supposed to be democratic organs with decisions coming from the bottom up. Class reps wanted both routes blocked, this didn't happen. It should be students who take the lead while officers follow, not the other way around.

O'Brien: "To answer the personal attacks on me above"
I have not enaged in any personal attacks. I have criticised the organisation of the protest.I am also highly criticial of the way students were misled into thinking that they had successfully stopped Cullen from getting into the ICO, as was the stated objective. Unless its union policy, as President you should not be publicy advocating a preference for graduate tax as you have done in the past and as you have here. If you are doing this in a personal capacity then you should make this clear and you shouldn't sign off a posting containing it as "ULSU President". You're membership of Fianna Fail is a point of interest to those reading. To leave out the fact that it's a government supporter who was organising this protest against a fellow member of the same organisation, would be to gloss over the facts.

Aoife Breen, ULSU Communications Officer: "The Students' Union did not press release on the intent to block the bridge until after 11:30am on Monday morning...Because we didn't want the Minister to back out of coming to UL, like Minister Conor Lenihan did in UCD recently." (ULSU forum)
The whole point of the old line, "if they block our access, we'll block theirs" which ULSU is paraphrasing, is that students genuinely attempt to block government members access. It beggars belief that part of a tactic (public pre-publicity) that has been used successfully, multiple times in UCD, was abandoned in favour of a 'tactic' which let Cullen be photographed with a smile on his face, stroll across campus unhindered, while joking with the press and being dismissive about the protest (Independent). Then the union officers present this a victory. Well done lads.

Breen: "we wanted to make sure that the Minister came on campus, saw our students and saw how serious and real the problem of the 67 per cent registration fee hike is to UL students."
He's hardly going to be surprised that students aren't chuffed about paying an extra €600 quid a year, find me student that is. Rather than blocking the ministers access, ULSU faciltated it. They made sure he wasn't scared off campus by advertising the blockade in advance and they made sure that one of the bridges wasn't blocked. Cullen came, had a look at students standing in the rain, then drove away in his Merc...great success. He came, he saw, he conquered, he made a laughing stock of the union and the people who stood in the rain for hours the naievity of the chief organisers.

Breen: "Only students were informed of the protest prior to the weekend, and only via student email and via Bebo. We didn't even post on our own homepage..."
And this is a good thing? If a minister is coming on campus, you publicise it properly - lecture addresses, stalls, hold meetings to encourage students to get involved in the union, use it as a good for getting information about the funding of education out there (including arguments against a graduate tax), give students a sense of ownership over the union, use it to build momentum for the next demo etc. Considering the methods used to inform students, the turnout itself was actually impressive.

Breen: "to have a ministerial Mercedes do a turnabout only metres from you was an intensely victorious moment."
Victorious? The union heads knew he was turning around to use the other bridge. Contrary to the stated objective in the press release, there was no attempt to "block [the] Minister from ICO opening." It can hardly be considered a victory when he mocks the protest (Irish Independent), as he saunters into the very building the union stated they were going to prevent him entering. Union officers treated students like mushrooms, they kept them in the dark and fed them shit about what was going on. What is genuinely an "intensely victorious moment" is when ministers not only fail to enter specific buildings, but fail to even set foot on campus because of grassroots student activity, as is happening in UCD. It is this kind of entirely non-violent direct action which builds momentum and encourages people to get involved in not only turning up for protests, but for organising them too.

When a group of students on the bridge realised what was going on, they headed for the building which Cullen was in. All of those who left the bridge for the ICO were clealry aware that the union protest had ended. They were again made aware of this outside the ICO building. The union officers then came down with megaphones and started harassing people until they left. Unlike the union, those that were left had a discussion about what to do. It was decided that there would be little point in trying to block Cullens car. All that the remaining students could do is chant at the minister as he exited the building.

Despite portrayals at the time, and what has been insinuated here, FEE is not a front group for the Socialist Party or any other party or group. There are people who are involved in several different political parties and organisations from Labour to anarchists. Since I was asked to nail my political colours to the mast, they're red & black, I'm a member of the Workers Solidarity Movement.

All of the people on the protest on Monday were adults and should have been treated as such. The union should have entered into dialogue with those present on the bridge and fully informed them of what the situation was. Instead, people were deliberately misled into thinking that they had prevented Cullen from gaining access to the ICO.

Vivion - Noel Dempsey attempted to reintroduce tuition fees in 2002/03. Easy on the caps lock.

Viv - "they did what they had set out to do"
They set out to block the minister from the opening, as they stated in the press release and as they informed people on the bridge. In the end the minister strolled into the building and took the piss out of those on the bridge. They also stated that they were going to block both bridges, which they failed to do despite having mor ethan enough people.

On the photo: It came from a google images search, apologies for the lack of accreditation. It was taken by Mark O' Brien. The bottom two photos come from
chemicalsunday(Denis Vahey)'s photostream on flickr - - press release - ULSU forum - Indo - Limerick Leader - Pa O'Brien on funding

Related Link:
author by Concerned Student - TCDpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 10:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Trinity Students are organising a protest today as Minister for Education, Batt O' Keefe, is coming on campus at 4.15 to launch a new PhD programme in the atrium. The Student Union have got on board but have decided to call a 'silent protest' where students will tape their mouths and stand silently to the side as Batt O' Keefe enters the building.

Any students or activists who are around town please come to the front gates of Trinity for 3.30 - 3.45 and bring your banners etc.

In light of the news of the Limerick protest it will be interesting to see what role TCD SU take in today's protest.

author by Aoife Breen - ULSUpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 11:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think Barry Duggan of the Irish Independent summed up this entire protest with his opening statement of his coverage in that paper:

"Students forced a government minister to trudge across two counties in appalling weather yesterday when they blocked a road bridge" (Irish Independent, 18 November 2008, page 10).

Let us go back to basics here. The Students' Union did not press release on the intent to block the bridge until after 11:30am on Monday morning. I have this evidence in my Outlook outbox, should anyone question it. Why? Because we didn't want the Minister to back out of coming to UL, like Minister Conor Lenihan did in UCD recently.

Only students were informed of the protest prior to the weekend, and only via student email and via Bebo. We didn't even post on our own homepage because we wanted to make sure that the Minister came on campus, saw our students and saw how serious and real the problem of the 67 per cent registration fee hike is to UL students.

Pa has outlined the events on the afternoon in question and I feel he has addressed them quite adequately. There was no 'pre-arrangement' with either the Gardai or the Minister as proven by the very fact that we refused to press release until such a short time as to pretty much negate a lot of coverage because we didn't want a cop-out like that which happened at UCD.

If we released earlier and were just after a glorified photo opportunity, as this article suggests, we could have gotten a lot more national press coverage including a greater variety of media such as TV and radio. This was shown at the September protest in Limerick city when we press released well in advanced and organised numerous radio interviews to cover the event.

This event was not about a photo. This was about students - real UL students - making a stand against the Minister on a personal, one-to-one basis. We did not want to give the Minister the opportunity to cowardly shy away from the facts of real people who this will have a real effect on come next September.

400 students stood on Thomond Bridge on Monday lunchtime for the best part of two - three hours. They may have been there under the banner of the Students' Union, they may not have been, but for anyone who was actually there, to have a ministerial Mercedes do a turnabout only metres from you was an intensely victorious moment.

As a Students' Union we have a responsibility to our students and have a duty to care for their own personal safety and wellbeing. At the end of the day, students are here to further their education and engaging in irrational behaviour that could jeopardise careers and taint transcripts makes the whole point of demonstrating against a barrier to education a futile effort. It is ironic that those who are prepared to go to extreme, unnecessary and pitiful lengths to demonstrate against fees are very seriously risking the education that they are fighting for. Do they want an education? Or do they want to bicker, fight and potentially break the University's code of conduct by dragging the University into disrepute? Is the 'free education' that they are fighting so desperately for worth going to such measures that could potential harm their education completely and smear their names permanently?

I don't think so.

Engaging in a peaceful protest not only puts one's point across, but also earns the respect of those who are sitting in the middle ground of the debate, ie the general public who may know very little about the financial plight of the ordinary student to make it through a four year college degree.

Picture this. 34 year old Mary the shop assistant sitting at home reading the newspaper. She has never been to college, nor has she any kids. She sees an eye-catching photo of students in yellow t-shirts shouting against fees.

Now, which headline is more likely to make Mary empathise with those students in the photo?
“A Bridge too far as students force new ministerial U-turn”
“Armed detectives disperse student protest against university fees hike”

The opening paragraph under headline number one reads something along the lines which I quoted at the beginning of article.

The second, which appeared in the Irish Examiner (Jimmy Woulfe, 18 November, 2008) opened with, “Gardai yesterday prevented a small group of student protesters trying to barge their way into the Irish Chamber Orchestra building as it was being officially opened at the University of Limerick campus yesterday.”

Not all that positive. Why on earth would Mary want to lend her support to students when all they’re doing is engaging in hooliganism and preventing the opening of an Orchestral building? They’d want to cop on.

There is a precise way of approaching campaigns. There does need to be direct action, to put across the message that we mean business. However, we need for the opposition to realise that we are mature, rational people who are open to negotiation, and who won’t engage in criminal activities. We need to reassure them that we are mature enough to sit at round-table talks and negotiate an agreed way forward. We need to reassure them that we won’t behave like five year olds who didn’t get the sweets they wanted in the supermarket, and just bang on the windows shouting, yelping, screaming and aggravating all parties involved.

To get results we need to be proactive – not reactive – in our approach. We need to appear approachable and willing to negotiate. The ICO contacted Pa. This was their event. They are on our campus too, they are part of UL’s community and a fine embellishment to cultural assets of the University. Why should we aggravate them? They did not impose the €1500 registration fee. They did not sit on the fence with regard to the whole tuition fees fiasco. They are not bringing a document back to the Cabinet with a final decision on the fees. The government is.

We blocked the bridge. The Minister turned around. We set out what we achieved to do. It was a victory not just for every single one of that 400-strong contingent of dedicated students who believe in their right to protest, but for all those students who remained in their classes as well.

From a personal level, I would like to point out a number of things. On a note of accuracy, I appreciate that the author of the article in question is entitled to free speech and, as an editor of a student newspaper, I actively encourage debate.

However, I cannot condone this article.

It is full of factual errors and inaccuracies, and disgraceful ones at that which bring the integrity of the SU and its members (who, may I point out, are the 10,000 students of UL) into disrepute.

To point out some examples –
• If, as Paddy Rockett, has said, he did not say what he is directly quoted as having said, I ask the author(s) to produce evidence of such.

• Secondly, there was never a mention of ‘free pints’; I ask the author to produce evidence of this also. The SU offered free finger food to those who turned out because those involved had missed their lunch. And just on a point of information, those who did go to the Stables will realise that there was no reckless consumption of alcohol; of course, the author(s) were probably too busy banging on the ICO windows and walls to know what was actually going on in the Stables.

• Also, bringing the political affiliation of Pa into the discussion bears absolutely no relevance to the argument whatsoever. Pa is – and has been - blatantly going against the Party line since day one. He is out and out against fees.

• On that note, I also wonder why the Fianna Fail party is so inherently important to the debate? I ask the author(s) to declare their own political motivations and/or affiliations because, clearly, they have a prominent anti- FF stance –rather than anti-government who have been the people discussing fees and increased the registration fees. The last time I checked our government and cabinet was a multi-party affair so to point the sword at just Fianna Fail is makes me wonder if the author(s) has a vendetta against the Party.

I would suggest that the author(s) clarify the above points – either on this forum or their own – and I would also ask that they remove the inaccuracies, not for the Students’ Union, but for the 400 students who braved the rain and wind to make a very valid point.

Aoife Breen
Communications Officer

author by Gisabreak. - Nonepublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 13:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Contrary to previous commenters I do not welcome Fianna Failers contributors to Indymedia.Do you not think the Management of the business Ireland control and pervert enough of the mainstream media outlets already?

As for the comments from Ogra Fianna Fail,do you really think that any right and free minded thinking person would accept that the President of ULSUs political alligence did not effect his judgement in relation to the negotiations that led to the charade that was the sham of a protest whose purpose was genuinely to act as blocade and not just a tokenist protest.

This protest was sabotaged.If the SU Officials responsible for this and for misleading their comrades had a shred of decency they would step down their positions and allow them to be represented with pride by persons who cannot be so easily swayed or coherced.Shame on those responsible,downing free beers while others attempted to right the protest to their risk.

This type of protest by negotiation is futile.Lets have a quick revolution where nobody gets hurt and that includes peoples careers then we ll all head to the pub and drink free beer provided by who exactly?

This attitude is pathetic and if it remains the issue will easily be watered down by the Government.Have to go to work now,need to start saving in order to pay for the completion of my education.With leaders like this the revolt is over..........

author by ULitsmepublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 13:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Minister's quote has been taken out of context in regard to an agreement. FF HQ knew this protest was going to take place and had the minister wanted he could have entered using the north gate. Other ministers who had planned to attend the event could not as the delays caused by the protest meant they had other matters to attend to.

He appreciated that there was an issue, and agreed along with Don Barry to go and acknowledge that the students were aggrieved, which is essentially what the aim of the protest was.

He was impeded in his progress, which is an offence under Section 9 Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994

"Any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, wilfully prevents or interrupts the free passage of any person or vehicle in any public place shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200"

Anyone who thinks the completely unjust cause of free education for the wealthy (the poor get it already) is furthered in any way by pissing off the government needs to spend a little time in the cuckoo's nest.

If there are going to be accusations of politics at play here I think the members of FEE should drop the bullshit and tell us that they're just Socialist Youth trying to put a moderated front on, and failing miserably.

author by hmmmpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 14:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nice reply Aoife, full of rhetorical flashes, leading questions, pedantic worrying about the veracity of quotes regardless of how events actually panned out (way to miss the point), appeals to the lowest common denominator and media representationalism, posing as the median in relation to the "extreme, unnecessary and pitiful lengths" of others (?), claims of your own inherent rationality and maturity as opposed to the irrationality and immaturity of others, the assumed ignorance of the populace as to what third level education is and involves in terms of hardship, and mythical 34 year old shop assistants called Mary ((what?) Surely these Joe the Plumber argumentative techniques have been ridiculed and critiqued to the point of redundancy by now).

It may help if you were to actually read some of the responses that have taken place subsequent to the original report, particularly those that deal with; honesty with regards call outs for blockades (blockades that appear to only want to hinder rather than block), what constitutes a succesful protest and the ways in which it was organised (whether there was a "pre-arrangement" or not, despite what Minister Cullen claims himself), why people feel preventing government ministers from turning up on campus is meanigful and not a cop out (a value claim you make and yet fail to back up or explain why), the democratic structure of Student Unions they'd like to see and the conceited nature of those who claim to be there to represent students views also deciding to do their thinking for them and decide what is in their best interests (cause we all know those 18 - 19 year old students don't know what's best for them).
To re-iterate "It should be students who take the lead while officers follow, not the other way around."

"This event was not about a photo. This was about students - real UL students - making a stand against the Minister on a personal, one-to-one basis. We did not want to give the Minister the opportunity to cowardly shy away from the facts of real people who this will have a real effect on come next September" what does this even mean? Empty rhetoric given what actually happened.

Also, students weren't there to symbolicly "make a point" as you put it, but were there to block one individual's (Minister Cullen's in this case) access to the ICO. The point was in the doing, so to speak.

Many of your other questions and subjects raised, and some, have already been dealt with in the response by Emma. Go back and check it out.

author by ULitsmepublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 14:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There was no negotiation. How long is it going to take before you get that into your head!!

It is my understanding that the Stables provided the food as a measure of goodwill and support.

And if you still need further clarification on that I suggest you go and have a face to face discussion with Pa on the issue.

That will be all from me. It's a s bad as in here!

author by Irritated Plebpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 14:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Since we're dealing with a lot of hearsay here from the antagonists towards the protest, let's deal with some hearsay which I've heard from it. I heard that the students who assaulted the ICO were pissed off members of Socialist Youth who don't care if their actions are going to make the rest of the college look bad.

And no, I'm not going to back that up. Since there are unsubstantiated attacks being made on the SU (and that seems to be ok with who's making them), then a little of your own medicine will do no harm. I back the SU on this issue, and I trusted, and still trust, their judgment. Claiming that Pa's membership of Fianna Fail is going to affect his judgement is ridiculous... His personal mandate overrules any affiliation to a party which he has disagreed with already over a major issue. Shame on whoever is resorting to such a low-brow tactic.

author by mehpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 14:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"He appreciated that there was an issue, and agreed along with Don Barry to go and acknowledge that the students were aggrieved, which is essentially what the aim of the protest was."

Eh, not it wasn't. Nice attempt at rewriting history here, but the essential aim of the protest was to block Minister Cullen.
But its good to know he "appreciated there was an issue" and acknowledged that the students were "aggrieved". Fucking hell. *rolls eyes* I think at this stage in most politicians careers, they've become pretty adept at ignoring the vast majority of protests.

"He was impeded in his progress, which is an offence under Section 9 Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994"

Well, I'm sure all those 18-19 year old law students that were there (but who need the Union to do their thinking for them) were aware of this part of public legislation, which was brought in primarily to curtail political protest and its effectiveness, as well as giving far reaching powers to the police to harass and undermine those taking part in political protest.

"Anyone who thinks the completely unjust cause of free education for the wealthy (the poor get it already) is furthered in any way by pissing off the government needs to spend a little time in the cuckoo's nest."

Good to see that with so many HPSS graduates in the ULSU they've realised that if you want to bring about any real change in society you had better not piss off the government. Jesus wept.
Also, the poor "don't get it already" as can be seen by any research done in this country relating class to third level uptake (regardless of the quite high uptake anyway in Ireland, due to the fact that there is free education for everyone) not to mention the huge problems already existing with the current grants system and methods of means testing. Most of this is still beyond the point of the argument on this newswire piece or even of free universal access to third level education.

"If there are going to be accusations of politics at play here I think the members of FEE should drop the bullshit and tell us that they're just Socialist Youth trying to put a moderated front on, and failing miserably."

Eh, this has already been dealt with, but 7 out of 10 for the attempted straw man.

author by Jacqueline Fallonpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 17:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors


I fall into your mythical 'Mary' category. I have never been to University nor do I have children, although I have done some evening legal courses in DIT and other courses down through the years whilst working - for all the good they were ever to me (more of a disadvantage really). I am working class and always will be, and the detail in the article that got my sympathy and attention was the manner in which the armed Gardaí prevented students protesting - they had no right to kneel on a student's neck who was protesting about cut backs. Have ye nothing at all to say about that armed detective who knelt on the neck of a fellow protesting student? Some Union of Students ye have! Whatever happened to student solidarity and decency? Have some respect for your fellow students regardless of what you think of their political views and look after their welfare and denounce all excessively aggressive attacks on students by the Minister's armed henchmen - it speaks volumes about the Minister that he and his henchman could laugh the protest off.

author by UL blockaderpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 17:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

People should know that members of the UL F.E.E campaign were yesterday prevented from handing out campaign leaflets by the Students Union. When the SU was asked why they were preventing students organising themselves independently, F.E.E members were told that it was 'contrary to Union policy' to hand out campaign leaflets that didn't fall under the ambit of an official club or society, and also that such actions were contrary to the SU fee policy. When it was pointed out that the SU has no fee policy, they replied that it would be possible for the SU to draft one over the weekend to prevent independent action by students. People should know that this is the kind of petty minded bureaucracy F.E.E campaigners are facing in UL, and that the real position of the SU is very different from what they have been saying here.

author by Cian P - UL Student, ULSU, Socialist Youth, FEE etc (pers. capacity)publication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 18:23author email comradecianp at gmail dot comauthor address Limerickauthor phone 0868064801Report this post to the editors

I'm Cian Prendiville, 0731331, HPSS Second Year (UL), member of the ULSU Fees Working group, UL Socialist Youth, Palestine Solidarity Society, Enviro soc and the UL Chess club (but most affiliated with SY). I am from Caherdavin in Limerick, and I suppose I led the second protest as it was me who informed the students that Cullen was planning on crossing the living bridge and asked them to go greet him (i did that via megaphone). Not USI, UCC or any other 'outsider'.

I don't wish to simply re sate points made already, but I have just a few points to make.

1) The SU did advertise that they wanted to "to prevent Minister for Arts, Sports & Tourism Martin Cullen, TD, from crossing the Shannon River", thats what the vast majority of students at the protest thought the day was about.

2) At some point, the SU were informed that Cullen was going go to their protest, give the impression that he was giving up and then cross the living bridge. They agreed, or at least decided, not to try block him at the living bridge and instead to go to the pub. They didn't inform the students of this decision, nor have a vote on it.

3) When 80+ students decided to continue the protest by going up to the living bridge the SU officials came to try to break it up, opening up a debate with myself and others and when that failed they used 'red scare' tactics and then went around individually telling people to leave. When the minister did emerge from the opening the group of students at the ICO proceeded to chant anti-fees slogans (having voted not to try blockade), gaurds established a cordon keeping us at a distance and he drove off.


Tactical discussions on whether to blockade or not, and for how long etc do have to take place. It is not a point of principle to have a full blockade all the time, and questions over whether it risks people getting in trouble and whether they are willing to do that have t be taken into account, of course. That is not the issue. The issue is that the SU misled the students on the protest, saying they would try to stop Cullen crossing the river and making them think that Cullen had left campus. They didn't democratically discuss whether we should continue the protest, if people were willing to do that or if people though it was a bad idea. They went against the desire of students on the protest to block the minister, they went against the agreement at class reps and on the fees working group. It seems the president made the decision himself and decided to try trick others by not informing them. They then spent a lot of time and energy trying to stop students continuing the protest themselves, and have since tried to make it difficult for those students to inform people about what happened and to get organised.

I believe that what the union needs to be doing is fighting fees, not trying to stop student protests etc. I believe they need to organise a serious, activist campaign involving a broad layer of students in discussions and activities to build a real campaign to defeat fees. Serious protests, blockades, and occupations are all tactics that such a campaign would have to consider and use. It should also involve an information campaign to answer questions students may have on fees and the type of campaign needed. A campaign against fees must also link in with staff, parents and crucially school students, in the hope of building a strong movement that would cause a political crisis for the government when they try to reintroduce fees. As a member of the ULSU working group I have raised these ideas on a number of occasions, often they have been agreed in theory but not acted upon. Free Education for Everyone (FEE), UL, is a broad campaign involving ordinary students predominantely as well as being supported by a number of class reps, ul socialist youth society and ul sinn fein society. It is part of a national organisation. It seeks to push along the issue of fees, organising ordinary students, and helping build a mass campaign against fees.

author by UL Student - ULpublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 19:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So are you the imbicile who banged on the ICOs windows and turned a perfectly peaceful protest into a discraceful show of disrespect towards the ICO??

Fair enough if you want to continue to protest by why not do it peacefully?

Nice job for giving the students of UL a bad name.

In fairness Jacqueline how can the SU stick up for people who break the law infront of ARMED detectives?
Atttempted destruction of public property? (Window banging)

I wouldn't stand by anyone who tried anyof this.

author by graduatepublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 21:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

there is something very charming about someone trying to call someone an imbecile when they are unable to spell the word.

author by poucapublication date Thu Nov 20, 2008 23:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We used to insist that our student leaders resigned from their political parties when they took up office. At least there was a token to the notion that one cannot fight the government and be part of the ruling gang at the same time. I love the note from the FF boffin about civilian and job hats. In literature and psychology that idea is known as cognitive dissonance and its a small step from mental illness. Perhaps UL students need an impeachment campaign.

author by Black Flagan - UL VERMIN REMOVAL SERVICESpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 03:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

UL Students,

You were hoodwinked, bamboozled, mislead, conned, duped, tricked.

If I was a UL student I'd be very very angry with the Union.

I think its fair to say they should step down from their positions.

Also you should read their hyperactive responses posted on this site as a sort of admission of guilt.

Related Link:
author by tfy&qapublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 09:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Very funny how hard it can be to organise the proverbial piss up in the brewery......

Enough jokes,
Whatever about politics and opinion, when it comes to the execution of a plan, you must go through with it; you must stand together or not at all..........

Otherwise all that awaits your cause is failure.

Suppose that it all boils down to this:- Was there an agreement between the minister or any of his people and the student union? It seems mister Cullen believes so, as was quoted above ( might as well stick it in here again, as its verification/denial holds within it the resolution of this issue).

"There was an AGREEMENT that we would go up, recognise them, which is fine, I have no issue with that, and then I would walk across the bridge and I enjoyed the walk," said an upbeat Minister Cullen - from the Limerick Leader/Emma B

Anyway I'm sure you have considered that this statement from the minister may be just an effort to create diversion and dissent within the student voice on what should be a simple issue for students the length and breadth of Ireland. Do you want to pay for education or do you not want to pay?

Well, either he said that or he didn't say it. Either there was an agreement (obviously with someone involved with the organisation of the planned blockade) or there wasn't. He certainly appears to be on record as saying this. So who is going to refute him? Somebody must if they can, and surely the student union can or cannot.

If you support this issue then support this issue.
In an effort to rebuild the loss of faith within the student body, and to stimulate solidarity I suggest the union either accepts what the minister said as accurate and issue an unreserved apology for misappropriating the truth several times in this thread; or, call a spade a spade and officially denounce the minister as a liar, and illustrate governmental deviousness. Doing this openly and visibly is necessary, absolutely necessary to demonstrate unity and to render void any possible efforts by the minister to foster dissent within the student body on a cause they are all naturally inclined to agree on.
That is if you truly support this issue.....

Either way both parties cannot be accurate in the statements they have made. Someone has told a porky somewhere.....

Tis' better to admit an error and stand accountable, if that is the case, than to bring about mistrust in those young minds you told us you care so much about by letting this hang. And students, the reaction of your union (remember it is YOUR union as well as YOUR government) will let you know where you stand in relation to it, and it to you.

Either way, if you stand against this issue you must stand together in plan and execution, or you will fail as the evidence shows; you are now busy arguing amongst yourselves on a trivial issue instead of on your agenda, wondering who to trust, who to believe and who not to believe........

You know what to do, sort it out

author by Irritated Plebpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Cian, stop skirting the issue here with pointless drivel and that rhetoric with which you attempt to subvert everyone else's agenda. You seem to be completely ignoring what we're alluding to - Your actions have brought all of us into disrepute. How can you justify introducing militant tactics and forcing everyone else to be tarred with the same, filthy brush? You claim that the ULSU are ignoring what students really want - how then can you proclaim yourself the voice of the student prolateriat?

I honestly think that's a very hypocritical agenda considering that you can't claim numbers (since of 400 students who turn out for a protest, only a fifth at most follow to the ICO and apparently the majority of these went to watch in disbelief), you can't claim moral authority simply because of your political beliefs (I refuse to associate outside political beliefs with students politics, and since you guys are giving Pa such a ribbing for being a member of Fianna Fail, how is it any different then that you're a member of Socialist Youth or that Emma's a member of the Worker's Solidarity Party? Once again, I find that hypocritical.) nor, I would contend, can you claim ability to lead because those actions only confirm the worst of what people believe of left-wing politics - that they're incapable of solving matters through more diplomatic channels and have to resort immediately to extremist action.

It saddens me too because I don't want to step up here and say you're a bad guy. But I don't agree with your actions, nor do I agree with this mandate you appear to be assuming you have. Why don't you try supporting your union instead of attempting to subvert it? You crib about democracy - can I remind you that Pa won in a landslide in one of the largest turnouts in years? (and that was without the Alcohol Policy referendum to help draw in numbers as it did a few years ago!)

Here's my stop.

author by Monica Leechpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 11:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Since you guys are giving Pa such a ribbing for being a member of Fianna Fail, how is it any different then that you're a member of Socialist Youth or that Emma's a member of the Worker's Solidarity Party? Once again, I find that hypocritical."

I would suggest the difference is this - Fianna Fail is the government party, which has just introduced a budget riddled with cutbacks in public services while refusing to increase taxes on the wealthy, which has increased registration fees and is threatening to re-introduce fees altogether. Socialist Youth and the Workers' Solidarity Movement oppose these cutbacks and support the principle of free education. Given this basic difference, it is natural to ask whether a SU president who is a member of Fianna Fail can be relied upon to organise protests against his own party. The issue is not whether he is a member of ANY political organisation, left right or centre - the issue is that he is a member of one particular organisation which is responsible for attacks on access to third-level (and second- and first-level) education.

"Nor, I would contend, can you claim ability to lead because those actions only confirm the worst of what people believe of left-wing politics - that they're incapable of solving matters through more diplomatic channels and have to resort immediately to extremist action."

Is this your idea of "solving matters through more diplomatic channels" - organising a protest with the stated goal of blocking a minister's access to UL, failing miserably, and having the same minister tell the media that he knew very well there was no danger of him being prevented from accessing UL campus? If "extremist action" means actually attempting to do what you claimed to be doing, and depriving the minister of the opportunity to thumb his nose at students in the media, then I suspect "extremist action" will find more and more support as Fianna Fail charlatans are exposed.

author by Irritated Plebpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 13:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

My quibble would be that getting into an altercation with armed gardai by trying to force entry into one of the University's own buildings is too far extremist action and really did nothing to "further the cause". All it's done is create a lot of fuss and attention (not of the good kind) for a few. It did *nothing* to promote further action being taken against fees being reintroduced so I fail to see your point here. How is extremist politics just for the hell of it going to be of any benefit? You're going to have to demonstrate a lot more convincingly than that ludicrous example unfortunately.

Also as regards Mr O'Brien and his political affiliation, as was already covered by Derek Daly earlier, he's completely against the party line on this issue. I trust him on this and I think any of the students who were around during the summer and saw the insane amount of work he and the other sabbats did, organising and planning events with the other Students' Unions, will back me on this one. He's not just doing this for a show or because he'll get his resignation demanded if he didn't - he is passionate about this because it's for the benefit of the students - students he was elected to represent. this is why I feel there's a core difference here - Cian is backing his party's politics the whole way here.

author by Monica Leechpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 15:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

And since the politics of Cian's party involve strong opposition to education cutbacks, there is no problem at all. We've heard this clapped out tune for years in many different universities - FF members magically abandon all their political beliefs when they become SU officers. Yeah right - when we have Martin Cullen bragging to the media that he knew the SU protest was a sham it's very easy to see what's going on.

Your definition of "extremist action" covers any form of action that is effective - that's another clapped out tune - any protest which the authorities can't ignore is defined as "violent", it's only "peaceful" if they can carry on with their business without any interruption. Fees certainly won't be defeated by photo opportunities that consciously deceive the students taking part.

author by Emma Beckett - FEE (personal capacity)publication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 16:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Despite the protestations, none of the substantiative questions raised have been answered.

In a press release issued by the SU on the morning of the protest, ULSU issued a press release stating : "From 12 noon today, students will gather in the Students’ Union courtyard before blocking both the vehicular Thomond Bridge and the pedestrian Living Bridge by 1pm, preventing access from the University’s Limerick campus to the Clare North Campus on which the ICO building is located."

Why did the SU communicate this shortly before the protest then decide not to do it?

Why did the SU go against the wishes of class reps and the SU campaigns working group in regards to having a protest on both bridges?

Why was the decision to overturn what had been agreed, made behind students backs with no involvement from them?

Why weren't students on the bridge told of this decision to alter the plan?

Why did the Union mislead protesters into believing that they had done what they set out to acheive, when the union had decided, on their behalf and without any dialogue, that access via the Living bridge would be allowed?

How does the SU account for Cullens statement that there was 'an agreement' over what would happen?

If the SUs position is that no agreement was made, how do they account for the fact that Cullen stated there was an agreement to let him cross Living Bridge in return for being seen to do a u-turn, that this occured, and that the SU failed to have a protest on Living Way like they stated they would? Are we to believe that these are coincidences and that Cullen is lieing?

If the SU had done what it stated it would do, none of the events which followed would have occured. Trying to gain access to a building is no more extremist than the blockade the SU called for, or occupations or sit-ins which student unions have previously regularly engaged in. Due to the fact that the union came to a protest they hadn't organised and harassed people into leaving, those that remained were left isolated. Somewhat miffed that students had decided to head over to the ICO, despite the agreement they'd made, the Gardai targeted those that were left.

ULSU officers do not have a monopoly on student protests or campaigns. Students are free to organise their own protests without being prevented from doing so by the union.

"Also as regards Mr O'Brien and his political affiliation, as was already covered by Derek Daly earlier, he's completely against the party line on this issue."
Pa O'Brien has stated here, and elsewhere, that he is in favour of a graduate tax. By stating his preference that people pay for their tuition through via a graduate tax, he is against free third-level tuition. A graduate tax would disincentivise those who plan to work in comparatively lower paid sectors of employment such as the community and voluntary sector. Education should be publicly funded through central progressive taxation on the rich and the corporations.

Fianna Fail have said that they are looking into the possibility of charging students directly for education, Pa has a preferred mechanism for doing just that. It's not exactly against party line, since the official party line is not yet tuition fees.

Related Link:
author by Vivion Grisewood - ULpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 17:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I like the way you have asked for everyone elses accountability and neglect to show your own.

Where is the proof of the quotes you have in your article?

Oh sorry, they dont exist. One rule should apply to all, why should they answer to you and you wont answer to them?

Try and sort out your own issues before you try and play make believe reporter.

Regarding my misspelled word- big deal, i didnt bring the University into disrepute by becoming involved with Gardai.

Dont try and deflect the attention away from yourself with petty arguments.

Oh by the way, your not fooling anyone with all those different names- everyone know its the same person posting under a different name. Your pathetic

author by Cian P - see abovepublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 17:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just to inform people accusing others of posting under a number of different names on this thread - from my knowledge of indymedia, that is not possible. It is called 'sock-puppetry' and is stopped. Anybody posting from the one computer (IP address) but under different names would be stopped.

author by hmmm & mehpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 18:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I reserve the right to my own anonymity but let me just say that Jimbob, Emma Beckett and myself (the two posts under 'hmmm' and 'meh') are three different people. You can tell by the different writing and argumentative styles for one thing but as for another I'm afraid you'll just have to take my word for it. It would appear you're only half right or not even.

That said and with quoting yourself "Dont try and deflect the attention away from yourself with petty arguments." How about less worrying about the existence or non existence of the quotes and dealing with the subject of the quotes (the ineffectivity of the ULSU organised blockade) and the other topics mentioned (several times now) in the above responses in the comments section. i.e. Stop skirting the issue and deal with it. Such pedantry and feeble mindedness, I don't know. *sigh*

The only person who miss spelled any words so far was someone posing as UL student, hmmm, now who is it with the multiple names for different posts? "Imbicile"

Cian, I don't think the editors keep records of IPs, but I'm sure they can confirm that they are all seperate people. None of this is really all that important though when it is merely a ruse of sorts to avoid engaging in discussion of the subjects at hand by members of ULSU.

author by Emma Beckettpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 18:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Where is the proof of the quotes you have in your article?" - Press Release from O'Brien - ULSU forum (further statements from O'Brien, Breen and Rockett) - Cullen Cullen. Pa O' Brien on graduate tax.

Other quotes were taken from responses to students questions on the day, in note form as is the standard in any print media.

Paddy Rockett: "I entered that protest just like every one else and answered any questions put to me by what I believed to be students (no one had made themselves known to me as any form of investigative reporter)".

At least Paddy was honest in his responses: " I stand by the agreement of not letting the minister pass thomond bridge and forcing him and ul's president to walk over the living bridge" -

So there was an agreement to let the minister cross Living Bridge despite the union telling people both routes would be blocked. Who was the agreement with? It wasn't with students, class reps or the campaigns working group.

author by Vivion Grisewood - ULpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 19:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors


How little you know is beyond me, i posted as UL STUDENT and spelled imbecile wrong, hence why my last comment said "my myspelled word".

I have no problem admitting this, i did it to see if it was possible, (posting as a different person) and i have been proved right.

I did not use a proxy server, i.p. blocker or anyother piece of software, so your so called 'sock-puppetry' is possible, and i have no doubt you have used it to show some apparent support for your cause.

Please dont try and argue your point without the facts, i have done what you said was not possible,

=> Hence you are wrong.

Will you accept this and admit you are wrong?

author by Cian P - see abovepublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 21:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors


The three main factual points I made were that it was planned and advertised that the protest would block both bridges, that at some stage a decision (at least, and probably an agreement) was made to not block the living bridge without discussing with the protestors and thirdly that the SU officials then tried to stop students, as individuals, from continuing the protest as planned.

Whether or not a formal agreement was made with Cullen (or the cops or Don Barry etc), whilst important, is not the key point (though I do believe one was made). Neither is the key point when a deal was made (though I would guess at Monday morning). The most important issue is the disgustingly undemocratic way the plan was changed and the role the SU officials played in trying to stop students from protesting. In addition to that the way that the SU officials tried to cut across the FEE meeting on Wednesday by trying to ban the posters and flyers also does not inspire confidence in their commitment to fighting fees.

I also wish to reiterate that I believe an anti-fees campaign will have to use a number of different tactics, e.g. petitions, symbolic protests, walk-outs, blockades, occupations etc. There is a debate to be had as to whether to have symbolic protests (as Risky Business, Pa and Aoife have advocated on this thread) or blockades (as I would argue and as was agreed at Class Reps Council and on the Fees Working Group) when ministers come on campus. I believe that the government are serious about cutting education spending and implementing fees and will only back down if they are forced, and that they can't simply be 'convinced', hence I am in favour of actions like blockades and occupations which actually effect their ability to conduct their business, photo opportunities and electioneering. I also think that a campaign against fees will need to appeal to school students, staff, parents and workers, in order to create a full-scale political crisis threatening the future of the government when they try to implement fees, hence I believe the campaign should go to schools, unions etc and have a strong media campaign especially before serious protests. I think a discussion needs to be had amongst those committed to defeating fees about how serious the government are to implement fees, how we can defeat them and therefore what tactics to use. FEE hopes to push along this discussion and issue and build a mass, democratic and fighting campaign to defeat fees. In my opinion, the SU officials (at best) underestimate the seriousness of the government and the fight against fees, and they are not conducting a debate on these issues and are instead making the decisions themselves. At worst, they are consciously trying to contain the anti fees campaign within boundaries acceptable to the government.

(I will make a few points later as to why I believe all the evidence suggests a deal was made, and why I would guess at Monday morning - even though these aren't the main point I wish to provide the reasons we believe this to be the case.)

author by Johnpublication date Fri Nov 21, 2008 22:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What were they doing there anyway? The cops with guns I mean

author by Joseph - FEE - NUIGpublication date Sun Nov 30, 2008 19:00author email uniteblasian at gmail dot comauthor address author phone 0872729021Report this post to the editors

This is a message to all members of FEE across Ireland, F??K Students Unions, we had a protest down in Galway on Thursday 27th and they didn't even snaction it, the ULSU seem to be a shower of right-wing hypocrites so the best thing to do is keep them at arm's length, we have the same problem with FF wankers down here in NUIG. Cian, fair play to ya, you should come to NUIG and discuss the possibility of a joint protest.

author by AtTheFront - Dissalusioned Protestorpublication date Mon Dec 01, 2008 19:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So the reps Council voted to block the bridge?
We Didnt, Why?
We werent told, we where politely informed that the minister 'had left'.
This was a lie to the student body assembled.

'We have people on the living bridge. its fine"

Im not sure which yellow shirt i heard this from but i was at the very forefront to this protest and thats what we were told.
I am 100% positive if the students union gave more responsibility to us, rather that shaparding us away, in an attempt to 'Show the rest of the college what they missed' (another phrased echoed by the yellow shirts), another figuritve and construct protest could have been achieved.

Ideas such as a sit down protest, hindering, not stopping his living bridge walk, or (as a rugby enthusiast, i find this one effective) creating a tunnel, either side of the living bridge, would have emphasised the point instead of the minister belittling us and smiling at us like children.
Silent even, as we see in thomond park, an effective instrument when used correctly.

I would have been against Cian's (if it wasnt him apologies), banging on windows stunt. I would have told him to cut the shit, making us look like hooligans but i would have agreed to carry out the protest and impede the minister if i was propperly informed to his movements. The stuwards had possesed walkie-talkies, so they where with-holding the truth from us for fear we would stray out from under their thumb. The way he disgarded our attempts was shameful. "i thought there would have been more [students protesting]", irish independent.

My trust now in the honesty of the students is now damaged and i have heard from various other member of my peer group that it was all a joke. I am not fond of the way the group is talked about as being 18-19year olds. This has given a certain hint of the crowd being young and niave, i was amoung a group of 25 4th years we could have made up our own minds, as we have all been trusted with voting rites, shame where not trusted with the power of information. O r freedom of speach in our own backyards.

author by Mark - Civil Servicepublication date Thu Dec 04, 2008 21:26author address Tipperaryauthor phone Report this post to the editors

Armed Gardai were there to protect the minister. Most drivers in the ministerial pool, if Gardai, are armed.

Armed Gardai are everywhere, so please act like its some big shock that they were there. Every half decent sized town has a District Detective Unit who are all armed and are always either in the unmarked car or on the street.

This doesnt include surveillence units who walk the streets in normal clothes (tracksuits, jeans & tshirt etc) all the time. Please dont go getting excited about the fact they were there, its no big deal and not something to put into the title line of this story to make it seem like there was a shoot out or something.

author by Balf - UL alumnipublication date Fri Dec 05, 2008 16:24author email Dave.0435759 at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dear All,
Firstly i would like to praise and thank the students of UL for finally making a public statement/ stand over their discontent with the way in which this country of ours is being governed, it’s been a long time coming.
Secondly I believe very public statements of discontent protests etc .. are the only way in which real change can be brought about, however it is without doubt that they must be controlled and well organised to ensure the safety both at the time and in the future of the participants. The wild accusation that members of the ULSU had made some form of deal with the authorities is absolute rot and should be utterly ignored by all, as ULSU President O’Brien mentioned in his retort. Fractions of the UL student population who know who they are should start co-operating with the union in order to constructively add to its activities rather than distort them from with in, it simply weakens our position against the really enemy the Authorities i.e. The government of this country.
Once again hats off the general UL student population the time for action is here and your stepping up to the plate with conviction, passion and ambition.

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