High hopes for march; Strong support expected despite grants controversy

Originally published in Volume V, Issue 4 on 10th November by Lucy Michael. UCD students will be marching through the city centre this Wednesday with students from the third level institutions around Dublin to protest student rights. The march is part of a national student action to draw the attention of the Government to the problems faced by students with accommodation and grants. Demand documents from Student Unions of Dublin colleges will be presented to the Minister for Education Micheal Mairtin setting out the need for housing and adequate grants for students. The Dublin march, which has been organised jointly by the Students’ Unions and USI, has been fully authorised and coordinated with the Gardai. It will begin from Parnell Square at 1pm and proceed down O’Connell St, and into Nassau St. past Trinity College, accompanied by Garda escort. The march will finish in Molesworth St. where the crowd will be addressed by student speakers from UCD, Trinity and USI. UCD students will be meeting by the lake in Belfield for a pre-march rally at 11.20am, where placards, t-shirts and whistles will be distributed. Student Union Officers have been encouraging students to join the march in lecture addresses last week, and by distributing posters and flyers throughout the college. The rally at the at the lake will be addressed by the Officers to explain the plans for the day and according to John Nisbet “why we want students to be energetic about the march.” The Union will be employing drivers to carry students by bus to O’Connell St. The buses will leave Belfield from behind the Bank of Ireland at 12am to arrive in town at approximately 12.30am.It is hoped that thousands of UCD students will turn up to support the march. Charlie McConalogue, Education Officer said, “I hope that UCD will contribute largely and be one of the biggest contingents on Wednesday.” He added, “there are enough grievances to get the students out to march.” Specifically in Dublin, the problems to be highlighted by the march are the lack of student accommodation and “pathetically low grants.” Problems such as these have been pointed out to the Government in recent years but as they continue to grow, student organisations such as USI and the Students Unions have continuously lobbied for recognition. “The march is part of the lobbying process” said Nisbet. “Student demands are clearly on record, but they need to fired home the the politicians.” Other grievances include the need for an extension of free fees, and specific grants such as subsidies for creche facilities. “The free fees system was introduced as a political sweetener and although it has made college more accessible, it has left it just at that - a lot more needs to be done.” The UCDSU demand document calls for graded rent capping and strict regulations of landlords, as well as an increase of the student grant to the level of the dole, the re-introduction of the Medical card for students and the introduction of measures to ensure that part-time students will be paid at least the minimum wage. Nisbet commented, “the support for rentcaps at council was almost overwhelming.” Despite a few dissenting voices at Council, the proposal has been included in the document. Other demands, in particular the raising of the grant to dole level, also caused some controversy at Council.