Student fees and hospital cutbacks raise ire


PROTESTS:TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny and Cabinet Ministers were confronted by heated protests over the closure of Roscommon hospital’s emergency department and the student fees issue at the opening of yesterday’s Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting in Galway.

Two student fee campaigners attempted to block the entrance road to the Radisson Hotel by engaging in a “lock-on” demonstration, while up to 35 Roscommon Hospital Action Committee supporters also vented their anger outside.

Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Frank Feighan had to be escorted inside the hotel by gardaí after he was surrounded by protesting constituents – having already abandoned his car in an earlier confrontation which prevented him from gaining access to the car park.

Gardaí intervened after several campaigners thumped the car roof, but Mr Feighan turned around and drove away.

When he arrived on foot some minutes later, he was surrounded again.

Some 15 minutes later, Mr Kenny was approached inside the hotel by hospital action committee spokesman John McDermott who asked the Taoiseach if he would honour his commitment to Roscommon hospital.

Mr Kenny responded “okay,okay”, as he withdrew his handshake and backed away.

Outside, gardaí summoned members of the public order unit after supporters of the Free Education for Everyone group, joined by NUI Galway students’ union, staged a “direct action” protest.

Gardaí, including members of the public order unit, also intervened during a protest outside Galway City Hall last evening, where Mr Kenny and party members attended a reception.

Several groups, including the Socialist Workers’ Party, the Galway Alliance Against War, students, and Roscommon hospital campaigners, took part in two separate demonstrations at the city hall entrance on College Road.

When several Fine Gael TDs were sighted walking towards the city hall, the protesters ran down the road towards them.

A number of deputies — including Minister for Health and Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly, and Olivia Mitchell TD — were heckled and jostled.

Meanwhile, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan told journalists there would not be inspection charges for septic tanks under proposals he is drawing up.

He said that from next year the owners of homes with septic tanks will have to pay a “very modest” charge for registering their septic tanks with the local authorities.

The charge is expected to be in the region of €50 and will not be payable every year.