Students protest against reintroduction of fees

Wed, Aug 13, 2008, 01:00

The reintroduction of third-level fees would do “nothing for education and nothing for families”, the president of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Shane Kenny said today.

Addressing a gathering of about 100 students outside the Department of Education in Dublin Mr Kenny said third level education must be funded through taxation and not fees. The protest was called in response to suggestions by Minister for Education Batt O’Keefe that fees for third level might be reintroduced.

The protest began at the Spire in O’Connell Street where members of Young Labour, the Young Greens and the USI carried placards with such slogans as “Say No to Batty policies”, “No Grants, No Education, No Economy” and “It’s going to be a Dark Night Battman. Down with fees".

President of the Labour Party, Michael D Higgins, TD, said the issue went beyond fees but was “a democratic issue”.

“Anyone who has any sense of the real world knows that more and more it is required as a basic level that you have a third level education. It is anti-democratic and anti-republican to suggest that access to it would be restricted to those who could afford to pay for it.”

He described as “facetious” arguments put forward by some university heads that fees were needed to adequately fund the institutions and “bogus” the contention that Irish universities were unable to compete with British and American ones due to funding shortfalls.

Mr Higgins said the way universities were measured in some international indexes used criteria such as whether they had staff who had won Nobel prizes or who were regularly published in particular academic journals.

“They [such university heads] have lost the spirit of the university. The most important thing in a university is to be a teacher. They have let down scholarship, reduced staff morale, creativity and have lost the ethos of learning. A fundamental principle must be equality of access and universal provision.”

In a separate protest, outside the Department of Health and Children, a small group of teenagers succeeded in securing a commitment from officials to seek a meeting with Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews. Up to 20 young people were protesting at the lack of attention afforded them in the Dáil na nÓg, a youth parliament which convenes for one day a year.

Aidan McGrath (15) from Swords, Dublin, said politicians did not listen to young people about the issues that affected them “all year ’round”.