Photographer: Luke Etherton

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) joined an anti-austerity march held over the weekend in Dublin. The march was organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions in association with a number of anti-austerity groups. USI attended the protest as part of the education block, calling once again, for an end to the contribution charge increases and grant cuts.

USI and affiliated Students’ Unions attended the march as part of the ongoing ‘Fed Up? Stand Up’ campaign, which was the incentive behind the recent UCD/IADT march to the constituency offices of Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. Students have called on Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, to maintain the grant at its current level and to freeze planned increases in college fees.

USI President John Logue said that the students joined the protest “in solidarity with other sections of society who have been targeted unjustly by this government.” The USI is “calling on the Government to exhaust all saving measures before targeting students again.”

These demonstrations are part of a comprehensive pre-Budget campaign strategy. USI officers have been travelling the country for the past month to engage with students at events, from class rep training to public meetings. They’re hoping to attract as much attention from both the media and politicians with the aim of getting as many constituents and consequently TDs on board before Budget Day.

The USI is confident that “the Government, and the Department of Education in particular, have monitored this campaign very closely” and Logue has met with the Minister for Education, as well as numerous TDs and Senators to discuss the issues he feels are at the heart of this campaign. USI were also in a position to prevent pre-Budget submissions to Government TDs at their annual Oireachtas lobby.

Further regional protests are scheduled to take place in Letterkenny, Waterford, Castlebar, Tralee and Carlow. These protests will run right up to Budget Day to encourage as many students as possible to come out in support of the campaign.

Logue believes that “Labour TDs must ask themselves what they’re achieving in Government. Prior to the General Election, the Tanaiste said that third level fees were a ‘red line issue’ for his party. Yet now, Minister Quinn is acting recklessly with the lives of students.”

However, he believes that it’s not just Labour that must question their role in the fees and grants debacle. He says that “we as a people need to examine what it is we want from our education system.” He sees it as a question between “equality and fairness” and a “family’s means” being the guiding principles in access to education and hopes that we as a country stay on track with the former instead of “veering” towards the latter.