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UL Students Union Orchestrate Pantomime Blockade of Minister .. Demo broken up by Armed Gardai!
national | rights, freedoms and repression | feature Wednesday November 19, 2008 18:03 by Emma Beckett - Free Education for Everyone (personal capacity) stopfees at gmail dot com
"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.
"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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 - email@example.com
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday 29th Nov - Donegal: Fight the Education Cuts
INTO demo - details here closer to the date - http://www.into.ie/ROI/
Saturday 6th Dec - Dublin: Fight the Education Cuts
more details closer to the date - http://www.into.ie/ROI/
Examiners coverage of the Cullen protest -
Limerick Leader -
Independent - http://www.independent.ie/national-news/students-force-....html