By Ann-Katrin Orr, UL Socialist Youth
ON 4 February, thousands of students marched through the streets of Dublin to vent their anger against the government’s plans to reintroduce college fees. This cannot be seen as the end but must be the start of a fight to force the government to back down. A mass campaign of thousands of college and school students, parents and staff must be built to achieve this.
Batt O’Keefe has said he will announce some form of fees in April, be it direct fees, a student loan or graduate tax system, which will probably be forced on students by September. Fees of any kind will ultimately burden those students who are already struggling financially and their families.
This will cut off access to college for large numbers of young people at a time when youth unemployment is soaring, with one in four of those made unemployed last year being under 25. This will leave many with no option but to sign on the dole.
The 15,000-plus strong protest on 4 February clearly indicated the anger young people feel about this proposal. The government must be shown that students and ordinary people are not prepared to pay for the economic crisis or foot the bill for further hand outs to the rich while our services are being attacked. As one placard put it: “Where is our bailout?”
Any attempt to introduce fees must be resisted by college and school students, parents, teachers and other staff. This will require serious action being taken in towns and cities across the country. FEE (Free Education for Everyone), a student campaign set up in colleges throughout Ireland and in which Socialist Party members are active, is calling for a 24 hour shut down of colleges. This demand got big support on the demonstration on 4 February, and at the FEE led protest after it, where 100 students marched to the front entrance of the Dail and sat down in front of the gates.
This sit-down protest discussed what was needed to defeat fees and decided to march to the public meeting of the Union of Students Ireland (USI) and raise our proposals for a shut down of third level. There the USI agreed, in principle, to the idea, but didn’t lay down any clear plans.
FEE around the country will now be stepping up the campaign to get the students’ unions to organise a stoppage. Fees can be defeated if ordinary students, staff and parents get active and build a serious, national campaign, uniting all those opposed to fees.
If you want to help fight fees, get active with FEE today email firstname.lastname@example.org