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By Eimear Rabbitt,
Campus.ie intern


It should have been a day of pride and dignified response, on which the country's student body would finally come together as one voice and one entity.  On a day that saw over 25,000 people taking to the streets of the capital and busloads of students making the pilgrimage from all over the country, it seemed that even the gloomy weather could not dampen student's spirits.

A small, minority group had other ideas. On the afternoon of Wednesday 5th November, after hours of marching in less than ideal conditions, many students turned for home, cold and tired yet buoyed by the strong show of support.  However the day soon descended into a chaotic shambles when some of the remaining crowd clashed with members of An Garda síochana.

After walking the few miles from Parnell square to the Dáil headquarters on Kildare street, protestors stood outside the government building and chanted, "I am vote, I am vote" in powerful unison for several minutes.  However many students including myself fear that all of the good of the march may have been undone with the decision of a few members of the protest to attack official buildings.  In what was no doubt an emotional day, anger reached boiling point for some who resorted to climbing poles and throwing plastic bottles and cans over the front gate of Leinster house.

{module Island Banners|xhtml}Things went from bad to worse when a group of approximately 40 people entered the lobby of the Department of Finance building forcing the Gardaí to then barricade in half of this number before enforcements arrived to escort them safely outside.  Physical altercations followed as Gardaí in full riot gear clashed with some members of the small group and several protesters were arrested as a result.

The Union of students in Ireland has spoken out against the violence, which they believe marred an otherwise positive event and many students are in support of this consensus.  They have expressed their regret on hearing that innocent members of the student protest were caught up in the violence as they made their way home and intend to investigate the incident thoroughly.  "USI is disappointed by the behaviour of a small number of people, which occurred during an incident at the Department of Finance. This incident was completely separate from USI's demonstration yesterday", said USI president Gary Redmond.

It was the largest student protest for a generation and many are still confident that the government has got the message.  Not content to be sitting ducks any longer, the students of Ireland must be taken seriously or the consequences of the slogan "education not emigration" will truly be felt by the economy in future years.  In the words of USI president Redmond: "The Sleeping giant that is the student movement has been awoken".  "Students are the key to Ireland's future prosperity.  We have sent a clear message that we will not stand idly by while being targeted in the budget".

It was a hastily organised march in response to daunting predictions that registration fees may be doubled to a staggering 3,000 euro next year.  However the anticipated crowd of 20,000 students was easily surpassed as students scrambled to have their say with creatively thought out banners and posters, reading sentiments such as: "Pay My fees or Pay My Dole", while another read: "BA Hons not BA to London."

 

It was an intense atmosphere to behold with everyone united in the belief that something needs to give if the country wants to keep the future of its smart economy from following in the footsteps of friends or siblings who have carved out livings for themselves elsewhere.  "Thousands of students are already struggling to fund their college education and any increases in fees will force many of these students to drop out of their courses.  It will also prevent thousands of potential students from entering third level education in the future", said Mr. Redmond.

The rebellious nature of the student body has seemingly been stirred with the announcement of a further demonstration by UCC and CIT to take place in their own city of Cork on December first.  As well as opposing the increase in registration fees, which CITSU president John Lane describes as; "a stealthy form of reintroducing third level fees", the president is also critical of the cut in the maintenance grant, which is a lifeline for some students and the severe lack of job opportunities available to graduating students. "Travelling the world is an opportunity that should be open to everyone, but it needs to be an option, not a necessity", said Mr. Lane.

With December fast approaching, I for one hope that the bitter ending to what was an otherwise unified outing will be nothing but a distant echo in the minds of Government ministers and the true plight of the average student is remembered as they sit down to effectively decide our future.

 

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