Yesterday, Monday 12 March, Maynooth Student’s Union held a protest outside the Iontas building when Minister of State and European affairs Lucinda Creighton was visiting to give a lecture on opportunities for graduates in Europe. The talk was organised by the Maynooth Career Development Centre and Centre for the Study of a Wider Europe.
This followed an open letter they sent to the President of the College, Professor Philip Nolan, explaining why they were boycotting the event. Over forty people joined them in their protest including the Maynooth branch of Free Education for Everyone.
The open letter stated that every student has been in some way affected negatively by the cut-backs that have been implemented by the current Fine Gael/Labour coalition. Several of the points highlighted were the cut in the grant, the record numbers of students dropping out due to financial problems and the mass emigration of graduates. This point was stressed by the union in a direct attack on the minister stating, ‘Maynooth Students’ Union cannot welcome onto campus any Minister who supported that budget. This Government is running a country in which every single day another 110 graduates emigrate. This is devastating families, and yet the Minister has the audacity to come to Maynooth, point to Europe and say “Jobs are that way.”’
The protest got underway with good spirits within the crowd, who were all ushered away from the entrance to Iontas behind barriers at the edge of the square. The minister’s car arrived at 4 p.m. and was met with the infamous ‘no ifs, no buts, no education cuts’. The minister was then called upon to address the cutbacks that she has supported, but the call was ignored. Someone from the crowd could clearly take it no more and bellowed across the square ‘LUCINDA, Y U NO TALK TO STUDENTS’.
Many students, including FEE (Free Education for Everyone) then decided to enter the lecture address, but MSU as stated in their open letter were boycotting the event. What followed was a large number of students taking seats near the front of the lecture theatre and waiting until the Minister took to the stage. Student Ruadhrí Boland then interrupted, exclaiming, ‘Minister, I’m sorry for the disruption, but due to your party’s stance on graduate funding, fees and grants and your personal views on gay rights I’m leaving this lecture and asking Maynooth students to leave with me.’ Reports are that between thirty to forty students then left to which the Minister replied ‘ok’.
While most of the protesting students had now left at this point, about a dozen of the FEE activists stayed outside Iontas after walking out to continue their protest, talking with inquiring students. Some of the students exiting the talk early were overheard saying “Well that was no use at all. We do science”. Those waiting outside joked about Minister Creighton being parked on a double yellow line, although the presence of her driver thwarted any attempt to inform the now infamous clampers on campus.
As the minister made her way out through one of the building’s side exits, she again refused to engage with the students. This time the chants focused more on her often controversial views on gay marriage, with FEE activist Martin Grehan leading with a reworking of Kelis’ Milkshake to the lyrics “Two Dads, are better than none. They just, want a son”, as the minister’s car left the campus.
-Shane McNally with additional reporting by Pádraig McCarrick
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