By Richard Manton, Galway
ON 2 February, Bertie Ahern was due to speak at the Literary and Debating Society in NUI Galway. The event was cancelled due to a protest by Free Education for Everyone (FEE).
FEE decided to block Ahern’s entrance to the university, applying the slogan “they’re trying to block our access to education, so we’ll block their access to our college”. This tactic of blocking FF and Green TDs is attractive to students who have become disillusioned with the students’ unions’ tactics of holding candles and asking TDs “awkward questions” in order to fight fees.
FEE held a peaceful sit-down protest at the main entrance to the college, with protestors linking arms and holding placards. Bertie was due to attend a public interview about his life, but before that he was due to have a “cheese and wine reception” in the President’s Drawing Room.
Unfortunately for Bertie he never made it to his cheese and wine as the Gardai were unable to get through the sit-down, despite their best efforts of flinging students, dragging them by the hair and kicking them. Ahern was brought in a different entrance and the protestors followed. The outrageously heavy-handed tactics of the Gardai, who were armed with batons ensured that chaotic scenes ensued, resulting in the event being cancelled.
Some, including elements of NUIG SU executive have criticised FEE for this. We will arrange a forum to debate this, in order to discuss the tactics and strategy for building the type of mass movement that can defeat fees.