USI plan mass protest to oppose fees


A MASS demonstration in Dublin city centre is being organised by students to protest against the introduction of fees for third level education. All university and college students have been invited to march on Tuesday 22nd October to express their aversion to paying fees to the government by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

Kieran Allen of SIPTU addresses students protesting at the lake on 26th September. PHOTO: Quinton O'Reilly.
Kieran Allen of SIPTU addresses students protesting at the lake on 26th September. PHOTO: Quinton O

Protestors plan to meet at 1.30pm on O’Connell Street, and intend to march to Dáil Eireann, where students from all Dublin universities will hold a rally to protest against government discussions of reintroducing third level charges. Describing the current fees debate as a “serious issue”, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Deputy President, Dave Curran explained that students are passionate about preventing any fees being introduced.

“I think people are starting to realise that these fees are very likely to hit them in the pockets, depending on what system is introduced, (fees) could be introduced as early as September 2009”.

The protest on 22nd October will follow a demonstration which took place on 23rd September when students gathered at the Belfield lake to highlight their opposition to the introduction of fees.

Following speeches by USI President, Shane Kelly and the President of UCD Services, Industry, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) branch, Dr Kieran Allen, students then marched to the Tierney Building. Stressing that the students sent a clear message to UCD President, Dr Hugh Brady and Minister for Education, Batt O’Keefe, Students’ Union (SU) Campaigns and Communications Officer, Dan O’Neill explained that he hopes to build up momentum for an anti-fees campaign by means of “small actions”, which will lead up to the planned USI demonstration.

Mr O’Neill stated that he does not feel that “education is a commodity”, adding that he does not believe that “going into a lecture theatre in front of a lecturer is just like going in and buying a bag of crisps. It’s a relationship and I don’t think lecturers want to have a consumer-seller relationship with the students.”

The possible introduction of fees has been met with criticism since the Minister for Education, Mr Batt O’Keeffe, proposed the idea in August. The proposed fees system is modelled on the current practice in Australia whereby students are given loans to pay third level fees, which they repay upon graduation.

Mr O’Neill expressed his opposition to such a proposal by claiming that the model was described by the Australian Education Minister as being at best complex and at worst, inconsistent and irrational.