The Big Freeze

Dave Ryan reports on plans for a national student march to freeze fees.

News broke on October 15 via the College Tribune that the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is planning a massive student rally on Wednesday November 16. The march, which is going under the banner of ‘Freeze the Fees, Save the Grant’, will hope to be as widely attended as last year’s ‘Education, not Emigration’ march, the largest student march in the history of the state.

According to the Tribune, USI President Gary Redmond has said:

“November 16th should be a completely peaceful protest. USI and indeed students’ unions across the country will do whatever it take to ensure that education is protected in the budget”

While USI’s move to march against cuts to education in the state should be supported by the students, we must ask ourselves how successful we can expect it to be. Firstly, we must consider that we have a new government in office, a government in whom the public has not yet lost complete faith. Last year’s protest was huge for a number of reasons, but a contributing factor was what spectacular pantomime villains Fianna Fáil had become by the end of 2010. We don’t know yet what a Fine Gael/Labour budget will bring, so will the student population be as easily mobilised?

The major incentive for mobilization is USI’s suggestion that Fees may raise to €5,000. An astounding figure if it is true; but it seems that USI are the only ones mentioning the number so far, so it remains an unsubstantiated rumour for the time being.

One must also consider that the march will require a follow up campaign to be successful. On that front, UCDSU Campaigns and Communications Vice President Brendan Lacey seems to suggest that a march will not be the limit of USI’s actions in attempting to freeze fees.

‘We are not ruling anything out and we know that we have to be more aggressive this year. There is a lot of anger out there and we have to capitalize on it, but in a safe and controlled manner…..We do think the campaign needs to be a lot more in their [the Government’s] face this year’

Dave Ryan

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