Earlier today, up to 200 students from NUIG, Occupy Galway and the Galway Technical Institute among others, engaged in a march from the NUIG campus to Eyre Square and on to Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh’s office that was followed by an over two hour long occupation of the AIB on Shop Street.
Entitled “Time To Get Angry” and organised by the Galway branch of Free Education for Everyone (FEE) as well as the NUI Galway Students’ Union, the march aimed at protesting against what are “continuous attacks to the education sector by austerity policies” says activist Joe Loughnane. For third level students, the recent announcements that third level fees would rise to €3,000 as well as the abolishment of the postgraduate grant were the impetus for the march along with the countless other cuts to education so far.
After the march reached Deputy Walsh’s office, a place FEE Galway activists had occupied in November, it was decided the march would continue on to the AIB. “Essentially the sit-in developed organically after the protest” FEE activist Evelyn Fennelly told the Observer. “We were chanting a lot about the link with the IMF/ECB/financial ‘system’ during the march, so it seemed like a valid thing to do” she continued.
“On the way back from Brian Walsh’s office we passed AIB Lynch’s Castle (on Shop Street in city centre) and it was at this point that about 35 members of FEE, parents, students and workers entered the building and staged a sit-in.”
FEE have worked extremely hard at building links with other anti austerity community groups and secondary schools in the Galway area of late. They have actively come out against cuts to DEIS Schools and many secondary school students were also present at the march today. As well as protesting against cut backs, the Galway branch have also initiated a free tutoring service, which we covered recently.
“The Gardaí arrived shortly. There was a good sized group outside, both of people who were on the march and others who came when they saw the banners etc. outside the bank. It was a great atmosphere with lots of chanting and comraderie”. Some of the protesters including Ms. Fennelly attempted to give those inside supplies including water and bread. Gardaí allowed one bottle of water but when the second person persisted in throwing the bread, she was arrested.
The protesters remained in the building until 4pm, closing time, upon which they left peacefully and continued chanting and marching to Mill St. Garda station to show solidarity to the person who had been detained. Chants included “Free, free free our friend. She only threw a loaf of bread”. She was released shortly after 4pm.
The action today was also part of a wider “Leap Day of Action” which was taking place across the globe. In Ireland, Rural campaigners marched in Dublin today from the Spire to the Dáil with people coming from Kerry, Donegal, Limerick and many more western counties. They were protesting against what they see as Dublin based politicians forcing austerity measures on rural communities.
Photographs courtesy of FEE Ireland.
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