Students march through Dublin in fees protest

Dublin came to a standstill today as around 10,000 students marched through the city centre in protest against the reintroduction of third-level fees.

The march began shortly before 2pm at the Gardens of Remembrance on Parnell Square before heading to Leinster House where opposition politicians, trade union members and student leaders are to address the gathering.

Chanting “no cutbacks, no fees, no Fianna Fáil TDs” students from third-level institutions across the country took part in the protest organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

USI president Shane Kelly said the march is to show Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe that “students aren’t going to be a pushover anymore”.

Last month, Mr O’Keeffe reaffirmed his strong personal backing for the return of fees for the better-off.

Mr Kelly argued that such a move would make higher education “an unaffordable luxury” for many people.

“We’re not going to stand by and allow the Government to use us as scapegoats to fund massive deficits that have been allowed to develop by the presidents of the universities,” he told The Irish Times.

“We have registered at least 30,000 new students to vote in the next European and local elections and we’ll continue to do that until the next general election comes around and students won’t be found wanting when their voices need to be heard.”

Mr Kelly also argued that the Government needs to invest in the education system to make it easier for people who have lost work in the current crisis to retrain and find better jobs.

“Education has to form the very platform and the basis of our economic recovery plan and if it doesn’t then we are being led astray by our own government”.

John Coughlan, a worker at Waterford Crystal, said he had joined the protest today “to show a bit of solidarity” with the students.

“We feel that the kids today need to stand up, they need to say this is enough, treat us with a bit of dignity and let us get on with our lives,” he said. “They’re the future and they should be trained they should be educated and they should get to work in Ireland.”

The Government is expected to announce the establishment of a national strategy for higher education later this week when Minister O’Keeffe returns from official business in Bahrain. However, the possible return of fees is expected to be considered separately by the Cabinet in April.


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