- 24 Nov 21
Student Unions from colleges in Dublin and the surrounding areas were out in force yesterday to protest the "highest student fees in the EU".
On a cold November afternoon, third level students from across and near the nation's capital still managed to make it out in large numbers to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI)'s #FuckTheFees protest in front of Leinster House.
This week-long series of protests in Cork, Galway and, yesterday, in Dublin was organised to protest the €3,000 fees, the highest in the EU, that students pay every year on top of student accommodation.
The protest took place on a stage on Molesworth Street, directly in front of Dáil Eireann and featured speakers from many of Dublin and the surrounding area's third-level institutions, including Student Union reps from Trinity College, DCU and Maynooth University.
One of the first speakers at the event was President of the USI Claire Austick. She raised again that Ireland has "the highest (student) fees in the EU" and reiterated that students should only have to focus on their education, instead of having to couch surf or stay in Airbnbs.
President of the NACD (National College of Art and Design) Students Union Caoimhe Cronin brought up the fact that student unions are not included in Government decisions regarding third-level education and said that she was sick of seeing "friends chose rent over food".
Speaking after the event, Clare Austick told Hot Press that she felt the week-long protests had gone well.
"It was important for students to come out to demand that the government does better for students in this country," she said.
"Students are really struggling with the cost of college. That was the whole message and purpose of the campaign, that it's not just €3,000 in the student contribution charge. It's rent, it's finding accommodation.
The main thing we want is for education to be viewed as a right and investment into the third level education sector because it's significantly underfunded, understaffed and under resourced.
We want to have access to high quality education for all so that all students can reach their full potential and engage with it in a meaningful way."
DCU Student Union Vice President for Wellbeing Dean O'Reilly tweeted on the day his own reasons for supporting the protests, revealing his past struggles with the price of college.
"I was the first person in my family to attend University - lucky enough to get a grant. Still spent days without enough money for lunch," he wrote.
"I graduated with a 1st Class Honours, chaired societies & got elected to @DCUSU. #FuckTheFees for those like me who can excel but don't get the chance."
Sinn Féin Housing spokesman Eoin Ó Brioin also supported the event, with a video posted by Sinn Féin's Twitter account showing him attending as well as voicing his opinion that "Education should be free at the point of delivery."
The maximum allowed rate for what's known as a student contribution in Ireland for the current academic year 2021-2022 is €3,000. Students can avail of the maintenance grant should they meet eligibility criteria to have part or all of this covered.
I was the 1st person in my family to attend University - lucky enough to get a grant. Still spent days w/o enough money for lunch
— Dean (He/Him) ✨ (@Deaneoreilly) November 23, 2021
The Government needs to get with the program. Students have been let down by the failed housing policies of successive governments & this is having a profound effect on access and how equal our education system really is @EOBroin#USI #FuckTheFees #NoKeysNoDegrees #CostOfCollege pic.twitter.com/5x6KZu1LQZ
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) November 23, 2021