Over the last number of months, the USI and Students’ Unions from around the country have orgainsed a multistage campaign including meeting dozens of Government TDs, taking advertisements in local and national newspapers, holding a mock funeral for higher education, sleeping overnight outside the Department of Education & Skills and staging a peaceful protest march where over 25,000 students, parents and families turned out to demonstrate their fury with the Government over the possibility of increased fees or cuts to student grants.
During General Election 2011 USI registered 15,000 students to vote for the first time and recently released statistics indicate that 71% of students voted, the highest such figure in decades, spurred on by commitments made by Labour and Fine Gael.
Since the election the Labour Party has refused to publicly stand over their pre-election promises to students, parents and families. The USI has therefore been left with no alternative but direct action. 10 Students' Union Presidents, led by Colm Murphy, Deputy President of USI have occupied the Dept of Jobs and will be not leaving voluntarily until the Labour Party clarifies its position.
USI President, Gary Redmond, said:
“Just four days before General Election 2011, Ruairi Quinn signed a USI pleadge on behalf of the Labour Party not to increase College fees or cut the higher education maintenance grant. Since the election, USI has repeatedly called on the Minister to clarify his position and he has consistently failed to do so.
The failure of the Labour Party to publicly stand over their pre-election promises to students, parents and families is simply unacceptable given the unprecedented level of access that the parties had to information on the public finances prior to the election.
Students and parents are desperately worried about the situation. USI's repeated requests for clarification have gone unheeded, and therefore USI has been left with no other alternative.
This action today further highlights the commitment of USI to continue the fight to protect education and Ireland future.'