'Stop Fees' Protest

'Stop Fees' Protest

IT Wed, Nov 16

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  • 12:15
    Hello, and welcome to our live coverage of today’s “Stop Fees” protest in Dublin organised by the Union of Students in Ireland. Up to 20,000 students are expected to attend today’s march in protest at Government attempts to increase college fees and/or reduce student supports. Eoin Burke-Kennedy here, bringing you live updates from what promises to be a noisy protest. By the way, feel free to send us any remarks, comments or observations.
  • 12:32
    The itinerary for today's march: A smaller protest assembling at College Green and marching from there to Kildare Street is scheduled to commence at 12.30pm. However, people attending the main event will begin gathering at 12.30pm in Parnell Square, and the protest will proceed from there at 2.30pm onto O'Connell St and D'Olier St and eventually to Government Buildings.
  • 12:33
    Guest Be an idea if they marched through an area where the people really need the money...
  • 12:42
    Next month’s Budget has long been seen by commentators as the unofficial end of the new Government’s honeymoon. However, the departure yesterday of Labour’s minister of state for housing Willie Penrose over the decision to close the Mullingar Army barracks may have fast-tracked that somewhat.

    As the Coalition gets ready to announce the first plank of its four-year austerity drive amid financial meltdown in Europe, the atmosphere in the country appears to be see-sawing between uneasy and fraught.
  • 12:56
    Guest Fair play to the students - it's about time we stood up to the inequities in our society! My 4 children will be in 3rd level colleges next year and we simply cannot afford the registration fees!
  • 12:56
    Guest Prediction: Between 2pm and 3pm a small section of the protest affiliated with some far-left organisation will break off, get violent, get legitimate protesters injured and blame the Gardaí
  • 13:26
    First pic of protest courtesy of @langobrien
    First pic of protest courtesy of @langobrien
  • 13:32
    With regard to student fees, there’s a confusing array of issues at stake. Here’s a brief outline of what’s in play.

    Most undergraduates attending publicly funded third-level courses do not have to pay tuition fees. Under the Free Fees Initiative, introduced in 1996, the Department of Education picks up the tab. However, students are obliged to pay a separate annual charge, known as the student contribution charge (formerly the student registration charge), to cover the costs of various college services and examinations – currently capped at €2,000.

    The problem is that there is an acute funding crisis at third-level and the Government has barely two coppers to rub together. As the saying goes, “something’s got to give”. The president of UCC, Dr Michael Murphy, said recently that student fees of €4,000 to €5,000 per year would be necessary just to maintain the quality of existing student education. The view seems to be typical of most college heads.

    Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn appears to admit there is an inevitability to an increase in fees in some shape or form. However, he has so far remain tight-lipped about what course of action he plans to take. The Minster is endeavouring to find a sustainable funding base for the higher-education sector which is estimated to require extra €500 million annually to cope with a projected 30% increase in admissions over the next 10 years.

    Quinn is thought to favour a gradual increase in the student contribution charge over several years. Other options, including the return of tuition fees averaging €5,000 per year and a student loan/graduate tax scheme, remain under consideration. Sources also indicated that student, in particular post-graduate, grants and supports may also be significantly curtailed in the budget.

    Student and parent groups insist the reintroduction of fees or a significant increase the current contribution charge will make third-level unaffordable for significant swathes of the population.
  • 13:45
    Protesters in Parnell Square assembling for today's march
    Protesters in Parnell Square assembling for today's march
  • 13:49
    One of my colleagues who is out with the marchers tells me a group of students at the front are carrying a mock coffin with "RIP smart economy" emblazoned on it. Others are apparently carrying posters of the Minister with the word "Quinnochio" on them while chanting "No ifs...no buts...no education cuts". Kinda catchy that one.
  • 14:07
    According to USI president Gary Redmond, there'll be no political speakers at the end of the rally. He says students are "tired of broken promises". Nevertheless, we hear Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins and colleagues have been busy leaflet-bombing everyone in sight.
  • 14:12
    Michael So rather than cutting the pay of lecturers, they will introduce fees, college registrations will drop, very expensive facilities all over the country will be left idle and huge numbers of lecturers and admin staff all over the country will be redundant. Small towns like Carlow and Athlone will face serious economic pain. These are only the direct problems which it will cause. By the way, I aspire to be a lecturer someday when I feel that I have learned enough from working in the real world, and I would still aspire to be a lecturer if a 20-30 percent paycut was introduced.
  • 14:13
    Disgruntled Estonia fans, no doubt?
    Disgruntled Estonia fans, no doubt?
  • 14:21
    March about to get underway. Initial estimates suggest up to 10,000 people in attendance with more coming all the time. According to @garyred there are still students on the way to Dublin. Former general election candidate and Trinity student Dylan Haskins tweets that Sinn Féin supporters are "lurking, waiting to pounce in at front of march".
  • 14:29
    Marchers have commenced their noisy procession down O'Connell St. Many people are looking on from the sidelines. Students really seem to have it in for Minister Quinn, with many chanting slogans about broken promises. Both Coalition parties made very public pre-election pledges not to reintroduce college fees but now insist the troika has a gun to their heads.
  • 14:30
    Eamonn The #occupydamestreet assembly last night resolved to support the student protest taking place this afternoon. The #occupyuniversity working group who have been organising an ongoing series of talks and workshops at the site of the Dame Street occupation are also supporting the march and released the following statement yesterday: http://occupyuniversitydublin.tumblr.com/post/12843676506/statement-from-the-occupyuniversity-working-group
  • 14:32
    Here's a pic of that mock coffin, I mentioned earlier, emblazoned with the words 'RIP The Smart Economy'
    Here's a pic of that mock coffin, I mentioned earlier, emblazoned with the words 'RIP The Smart Economy'
  • 14:47
    Front of march has reached O'Connell St bridge and its train stretches all the way back up O'Connell Street. It will be interesting to see what the final estimate of numbers will be. Nevertheless, its definitely one of the biggest we've had in the capital for a while. Some Father Ted fans are carrying "Down with this sort of thing" banners.
  • 14:51
    Another pic
    Another pic
  • 14:52
    Not too sure what to make of this one
    Not too sure what to make of this one
  • 15:01
    Lots of students are sending their support to marchers via Twitter and Facebook as is their wont. @doniesullivan says some students who had scarves partially blocking their faces have been asked to remove them by gardaí. However, its all very peaceful and good-humoured at this stage. @conorfoxor tweets that spectators on the top deck of several Dublin Bus city tours are cheering the marchers. @nhgirffin says she's "knee deep in irish politics essay so cannot go protesting!" That's a first.
  • 15:09
    Here's a good indication of the size of the march courtesy of Una Mullally
    Here's a good indication of the size of the march courtesy of Una Mullally
  • 15:17
    A dark and portentous sky hangs over the city as the front of the march turns onto Nassau Street, led by a samba band, according to our man in situ. It's very loud and noisy as you'd expect. We could hear it from our perch on Tara Street. Dawson St and Kildare St are blocked off by gardaí.
  • 15:27
    We're hearing gardaí have blocked off all roads around Leinster House, anticipating attempts at occupation. Earlier an "unofficial" sit-down protest outside Trinity was stopped swiftly after gardaí and USI officials stepped in. @WSMIreland tweets that some protesters have smoke bombs and fake police sirens. One unconfirmed report of eggs being thrown at gardaí at the TCD/Dawson St junction.
  • 15:40
    Front of the march is now on Merrion Square, approaching Government Buildings. Several people in attendance are estimating the turnout to be between 20,000 and 30,000. USI president Gary Redmond says: “There are currently three choices for young Irish people – college, emigration or the dole. “Any increase in college fees or additional cuts to student supports will ensure that a third-level education is not an option for thousands of young people across the country.”
  • 15:48
    A Fianna Fáil delegation, including party leader Michael Martin, are present at today's march, presumably in an act of solidarity with the students. I'll hold my tongue on that one.
  • 15:53
  • 16:21
    Some 50 members of the Free Education for Everyone (FEE) group are reported to be engaged in sit down outside Fine Gael HQ on Upper Mount Street. Gardaí are apparently stopping more students joining the protest because the space between the barricades are full.
  • 16:22
    Sceptic If students wont accept an increase in fees then what out of the education budget do they propose Minister Quinn cuts? Primary school supports? Special needs assistants? Increase class sizes? Decrease capital allocations to schools? Somehow we need to fund our education system and until people realise this we will continue to have a second rate education system in Ireland. I am a 3rd level student of limited means.
  • 16:34
  • 16:40
    The UCD branch of young Fine Gael declined to take part in today's protest. Despite attending last year's 'Education not Emigration' protest, a spokesperson said "the economic situation in Ireland is completely different to what it was the time of the march last year." Tony McCole tweets: "I'm gone hoarse after voicing my frustration! I really will have to emigrate in Sept. if the registration fees go too high!"
  • 16:41
    Kieran Dunne @sceptic: All of the above issues you raise have already occured. Global research shows that fees do not increase the quality of third level education. We are also already the second highest EU member state in terms of cost of third level education?
  • 16:49
    Labour's newest TD Patrick Nulty, who won last month's Dublin West byelection, attended today's march alongside members of the youth wing of party, according to his Twitter account.  FF are now tweeting "students voice their anger at the FG/Lab Government's #brokenpromises on Education".
  • 16:52
    Mounted gardaí patrol student march at College Green
    Mounted gardaí patrol student march at College Green
  • 17:02
    Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn is examining the Higher Education Authority report on funding for higher education and will discuss it with Government colleagues “as part of our budgetary deliberations”, he has told the Dáil.

    FF education spokesman Brendan Smith, however, criticised Quinn over his pre-election pledge not to increase student fees. He called on the Minister to give a “categoric assurance that the pledge he made to the Irish electorate, knowing full well the fiscal position of the State in 21st February 2011” would be hounoured

    Quinn responded by saying: “I don’t know how many times this has to be conveyed to the FF party. This country has lost its economic sovereignty. It was signed away 12 month ago by the Government of which you were a member.

  • 17:14
    The protest is now over. It appears to have passed off peacefully in contrast to last year's protest when violent clashes with gardaí broke out. USI officials seem to have been quick to snuff out any possible unruliness. The attendance was put at approximately 15,000 by the gardaí this evening. However, USI organisers estimated  there was between 20,000 and 30,000 in attendance.
  • 17:21
  • 17:22
  • 17:23
  • 17:23
  • 17:26
    In his speech to protesters at the end of the rally, USI president Gary Redmond took aim at the Government accusing Labour and Fine Gael of making election promises not to raise student fees or charges. He said the parties had gone into hiding when it came to the subject since coming to power.
    Mr Redmond said that the State spent about €70 billion per year and that less than €1.5 billion of this was directed into higher education, which offered a strong return on that investment.

    However, he said 110 of Ireland’s best and brightest were being forced to leave the country to start new lives in countries where opportunities existed. He said that students wanted to contribute to rebuilding the country and that this could be achieved through investment in education and developing the smart economy.
  • 17:33
    Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin discusses protest issues with student journalists on Merrion St.
    Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin discusses protest issues with student journalists on Merrion St.
  • 17:51