Thousands of students hold Dublin protest over fees


Up to 20,000 students have marched through the streets of Dublin today in protest at the prospect of a hike student fees in the forthcoming Budget.

The “Stop Fees” protest march, organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), left Parnell Square shortly before 2.30pm.

Students marched down O'Connell Street and around College Green before the demonstration culminated in a rally outside Government Buildings on Merrion Street which ended at about 4.30pm.

Chanting "no ifs, no buts, no education cuts", marchers held placards and posters accusing the Government of breaking its pre-election pledge not to raise fees.

Many also voiced opposition at reports that the Coalition was considering a major scaling back of student grants and supports.

Gardaí said the march passed off peacefully and paid tribute to both participants and orgainsers. A considerable security operation was in place after some violent scenes marred a similar protest last year.

The Labour Party and Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore were the focus of much of the criticism coming from students.

Both Mr Quinn and Mr Gilmore said prior to the election that they would not stand over increases in students fees or charges if in Government and the crowd repeatedly urged both to "keep their promise". Student leaders said similar claims were made in the Fine Gael manifesto.

In his speech at the rally, Union of Students in Ireland president Gary Redmond told the crowd that both parties had gone into hiding when it came to the subject of fees since coming to power.

He said that thousands of students had voted for the parties on the back of their education pledges and that students would not be slow to punish them if they proved to be empty promises.

He said the State spent about €70 billion per year and that less than €1.5 billion of this was directed into higher education, which offered a strong return on the investment.

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