Juvenal talks about why Wednesday’s protest was, in fact, a very positive occasion.
In the aftermath of Wednesday, I resisted the temptation to immediately write on both the good and bad events that marked such a publicised and important day. This was done in order to be able to write with a bit of hindsight and possibly distance my piece from the many rumours that marked some of the coverage.While the left-wing agitators and Garda violence has already been covered here, and virtually everywhere else, I have first decided to write on the National March and will leave the sit in at the Department of Finance for another article.
For myself and Pangloss, the March was perhaps our biggest assignment to date. For weeks we excitedly anticipated and were up bright and early Wednesday to soak up not just the rain, but a major event in the history of Irish students. Not since 2003 had Ireland seen a national student march on this scale, which when you do the math means First year students potentially were still in national school at that time. A new generation of students yes, but still the same issues and fears remained. As we made our way along the streets on Dublin on a wet and overcast day, nothing had prepared us for the student participation in this march. The fear that no one would turn up proved itself invalid quite quickly. Bridges over the Liffey were donned with large anti-fees banners, and every street saw snakes of yellow making their way across the city to the Garden of Remberance.
I lost Pangloss quite quickly, who went off to take some photos and get a sense of the wider scope of the march. I chose instead to mingle among crowds and get a sense of the excitement felt be everyone. As I made my way past the Ambassador Theatre, The “Left Bloc” had started to assemble. Observing them for a while (little did I know that I would be seeing them later), I continued on up the street to the main body of the march and in amongst the thousands of lined up students. I tried to make my way to the bottom but only got fifty metres passed the Gate Theatre before I was stopped and told to fall in behind the Trailer marking the start.
To my surprise I found myself relatively close to the NUI Maynooth S.U who from the get go were one of the most vocal of the students. It is estimated that over 3,100 students from Maynooth attended and this is just including those who went on the S.U organised busses. Credit must be given to those involved in getting that amount of students to attend and is testament to the positive and energetic attitude the Union Exec has taken this year. If the size of Maynooth students was reflective in the overall crowd as BBC reported around 40,000 students to be in attendance making it one of the largest public demonstrations in recent times. In his addressing to the crowds gathering at Merion Square, USI President Gary Redmond claimed that as the front of the march reached Merion Square, the back was still in O’Connell Street. This was received with much cheering and applause from the crowd.
The Maynooth contingent that I saw brought a great carnival atmosphere with the Samba Soc. providing a beat and sounds to which everyone found as a great morale booster. Onlookers revelled in the upbeat manner with many young schoolchildren looking on. I overheard one marcher say to another proudly, “We’re doing this for them as well. I wonder do they know?”. This for me summed up the march. Sure there were some there who saw it as an opportunity to drink on the street but enough for those cynics involved in such events as “National Go To College Day” to justify their moaning of alco students? I only wished they saw what I saw in the early part of that day. Students, regardless of class, geography, age or views coming together to remind the current Government of what they are: Able, vocal and most importantly A VOTE!
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