‘DIRECT action’ taken by students, in the form of preventing Government ministers from visiting UCD, staging sit-ins or unpeaceful protesting, has been criticised by Vice-President for Students, Dr Martin Butler. Dr Butler has questioned calls by Students’ Union (SU) President, Aodhán Ó Deá for “more direct action” in the fight against the possible re-introduction of third-level fees.
Questioning the student reaction to the discussions over third-level fees, Dr Butler described these as being “horrendously inconsistent”. While acknowledging the rights of students to protest peacefully, Dr Butler was critical of actions which preventing visitors from speaking to UCD students, and of staging sit-ins. “Who are the winners in this? Are we winning when we are not bringing ministers to the campus – the people that sit around a table … and allocate funding and resources for universities?”
Dr Butler’s comments came as Mr Ó Deá called for a more direct action amongst students to fight increases in costs of attending university. “We have protested and sent 5000 letters to [Minister for Education] Batt O’Keefe and other TDs. They have responded in kind but they haven’t responded directly. So we now would be looking into direct action”, explained Mr Ó Deá.
Mr Ó Deá expressed that sit-in protests and barricades would be utilised by the SU in order to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s attention to university fees. “I think everyone is annoyed about [the increase] and at the Government. Any direct action, like marches, creates a lot of media attention, and that’s what is needed to keep [the issue] at the front of the peoples’ minds and to get sympathy from the people of Ireland.”
Mr Ó Deá stated that protesting against members of the Government and interfering with governmental buildings, “like the Dáil and the Department of Education” was a priority for the SU, he said he would consider occupying buildings on UCD campus if members of executive council and the students wanted him to.
“If the students wanted us to do it we would, but the way we see it is we should deal with the Government. Obviously, we have an issue with [UCD President] Hugh Brady, as he is the chair person of the Irish University Association (IUA), and therefore, he is supporting and proposing fees.”
Dr Butler was adamant in his criticism of any tactics involving protesting in Belfield buildings, referring to them as “bully boy tactics”. He argued that protesting against university staff, for example in the Tierney Building “would be wrong”, as he feels that the students’ argument is “not with the university”.
Mr Ó Deá stated that, as of yet, the SU have not organised such protest, but emphasised that any such demonstration would be entirely peaceful, adding that “If we feel that if it is in any way not peaceful we will leave.”