A GROUP of students have warned government ministers and TDs to expect to be met with protests if they decide to visit UCD while the debate over third-level fees is ongoing. The announcement comes as a newly-formed student campaign group plan to protest at the arrival of Minister of State, Martin Mansergh at a Law Society (LawSoc) debate tonight at 7pm.
Describing the protest as “a tradition”, member of the student campaign group, Paul Murphy argued that “if these ministers are going to try to block students’ access to college, then we’re going to send them a message when they come out to colleges”. Stating that all government speakers should expect to be greeted with protests, Mr Murphy believes that political guests “shouldn’t be able to just waltz into colleges, speak at meetings and not hear the response of students which is opposition to fees”.
Aiming to have between 50 and 60 students at the event, Mr Murphy described the group’s plan as being for “a peaceful protest of students angrily giving a message to Minister Mansergh. I expect students to be angry and express their anger but not with violence”.
While acknowledging the group’s right to protest, Lawsoc Auditor, Niall Ó hUiginn commented that he didn’t believe the protest would be constructive and invited the students to a debate on university fees instead. “If I could talk to these people, I’d tell them that the week after next we’ll be having a fees debate and if that if they have any objections, that’s a constructive platform that they should use, instead of protesting ministers who are not speaking on that topic”.
The society have planned for heightened security for tonight’s debate and Mr Ó hUiginn is confident that disruption will be kept to a minimum, stating that he “won’t have anybody disrupting our debate”.
Describing Mr Ó hUiginn’s suggestion to solely speak at the debate as “just rubbish”, Mr Murphy stressed that the government’s proposal to introduce university fees will only change “if a movement of students develops and links up with workers and school students and actually forces them back”. He confirmed that members of the group plan to debate with Mr Mansergh, stating that “we’ll speak, we’ll have a go at Minister Mansergh, but we’re not trying to change his mind. It is more about involving ordinary students, that’s the only way victories are won, through campaigns on the ground”.
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan decided not to speak at a LawSoc debate on 30th October of last year, following a protest involving students from UCD Shell to Sea. Mr Ryan said that he was “disappointed” not to be able to attend the debate, but decided “it was better to withdraw not to press the issue”.
A UCD Shell to Sea spokesperson acknowledged that students had been involved in a “scuffle” with Mr Ryan but denied that protestors were in any way threatening towards the Minister.