Thursday, October 03, 2002
In a demonstration outside the Department of Education and Science last Thursday students from UCD called for an open publicly funded accessible education system for all. Around 60 students took part in the demonstration which was the result of a motion put forward by grass root councillors in the student union in response to the failure of the Union of Students Ireland to take any form of action over the grant issue this year apart from asking students to vote in the upcoming May general election, in an effort to apply pressure to candidates to take action on the grant.
Students chanted '1-2-3-4! The grants a joke and we want more! 5-6-7-8! Extend the grant to educate!’ ' Outside the department before listening to speakers from UCD union as well as Colm Jordon, an officer in USI.
When Aonghas Hourihane, UCD Union president and member of Fianna Fail emerged from the crowd to speak he was greeted with jeers, one student shouted 'Fianna fail are the problem not the fucking solution!' In his speech he commended
The students continued to demonstrate, ignoring calls from the union president to return to the busses and go back to college, the demo preceded across the Liffey towards the Dail. Upon reaching Trinity a sizable number of students attempted to gain access through the front arch, in an effort to pull Trinity students in to the contingent but were stopped by security that closed it off. Marching up Grafton Street the demonstrators chanted 'Grants, grants, grants for all! Not a corporate free for all! Fight! Fight! Fianna Fail’ At this point a handful of secondary students joined the demonstration which ended outside the Dail.
Members of Socialist Youth contacted socialist Party activist and TD Joe Higgins; he agreed to speak to the assembled students. At this point the Union president seized the union banner and abandoned the demo, calling it off and led students back to college.
20% of students in UCD receive some form of subsidy from the state to fund their education, less than 10% receive the full grant of e65 a week. Placards on the demonstration reflected the pathetic level of the grant through the slogan 'when your rent is e100-e65 doesn’t matter.' There is a real and persistent threat to even this pathetic funding of education as a result of the General Agreement in Trades and Services, which seeks to remove all barriers to trade in services. One such barrier is the third level maintenance grant, and government subsidisation of college fees. Recent government reports have called for an abolition of the grant and the reintroduction of tuition fees.Next week Michael Woods will take part in discussions with other European Ministers for education in Spain. The discussions will focus on the intensification of the Bologna process, which seeks to introduce a uniform system of education, in line with GATS across Europe. Massive attacks on public education across Europe resulted in mass regional actions before Christmas. On March 15, further student, pupil and teacher actions will take place across Europe to coincide with demonstrations taking place in Salamanca, the venue for the EU talks on education. In Ireland, USI have remained silent over the GATS threat, the extent of their discussion of it this year will be the discussion of a joke motion at upcoming congress put forward by members of the Fianna Fail Cumann in UCD. The motion says 'we should globalise now'.
Originally published on Indymedia.ie
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