FEE statement in relation to pepper-spraying at Galway protest.

A Statement by the Galway Branch of Free Education for Everyone originally posted on the campaign’s website.

Last Saturday, Free Education for Everyone Galway was involved in a protest march from Eyre Square to NUI Galway, which resulted in over a 1000 students, turf-cutters, single parents, anti-war activists and others breaking through a Gardai & Private Security barrier erected to stop the Labour Party from seeing the 1000s of people who have been severely affected by their actions over the past year.

It was already clear that 100s of people who had travelled from all over the country were not content with being penned off in a car-park, well out of sight of the delegates to the Conference. On entering the University, these people proceeded to march up to the barrier to at least make sure they could be heard by Gilmore and his party. The first push on the barrier was met with pepper-spray from the Gardai. This resulted in at least 8 people falling back and having to claw at their eyes and mouths from the extreme agony of the burning sensation. No warning was given that such a weapon was being used. 30 minutes after this, over a 100 people, angered by the tactic of the Gardai successfully breached the barrier.

The Labour Party are responsible for shutting down the campus and denying a student society from organising a conference on campus that same weekend as well as for the Gardai and private security being present. They have refused to condemn the use of pepper-spray on students and other protesters. One of our members, Sarah McCarthy said:

 ”I am auditor of the United Left Alliance Society here in NUIG. Over 2 months ago we booked the IT building to hold a proper left-wing conference on the same weekend. About a week or 2 ago, we were told that we couldn’t have that building anymore and we were forced to hold the event OFF-campus. Why? Because the Labour Party had got on the university because they didnt want to be embarrassed by having their sell-out highlighted and made damn sure it wasn’t gonna happen. So their money and influence ensured that they, a political party with nothing to do with the college bar the cuts they keep throwing at it, had more of a right to assemble and talk than a college society.”

One member of FEE Galway had this to say –

“I got pepper sprayed along with a few comrades. It was agonising. The day was still a huge success and I’m so proud of everybody who helped push through the barricades. I’m okay now, but wasn’t for like 30 plus minutes afterward. It felt like my face (and eyes in particular) was on fire and the flesh was burning from my face. Not nice. I’m just delighted we managed to break through the barricades. It was amazing.” 

For further comment of how it happened and how it affected those hit, please contact –

Joseph – 087 2729021
Sarah – 085 7477907
Fergal – 085 1653066

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