Last Wednesday, students from GMIT Castlebar were among the 20,000 students who took to the streets of Dublin to protest against the possible increase in student registration fees in the Budget. The students were also protesting against any cuts to student grant payments.
The protesters were also voicing their condemnation of the Government’s reported intention to scale back the level of grants and support on offer.
The ‘Stop Fees’ march was organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). The peaceful protest moved down O’Connell Street and around College Green before moving on to Government buildings.
Speaking to The Mayo News, GMIT Castlebar SU President Alan Judge said: “We are fighting to safeguard the future of our students who will play a vital role in the recovery of this country – and an integral part of that recovery will be a knowledge-based economy.”
A massive security operation was in operation in the capital city after some some violence marred a student demonstration last year. This year’s event passed off without any major incident, however.
“The atmosphere was very good,” said Judge. “There was some apprehension on the bus because of what happened last year, but once we got there we were all put at ease. The protest was marshalled very well all the way through by the police.”
Grant cuts a big issue at GMIT
Judge explained that threatened cuts to student grants was a major issue for GMIT Castlebar students: “The biggest fear at GMIT Castlebar is the grant, because we have a very high proportion of mature students and students from disadvantaged areas who depend on that, so it is a major concern.”
The Kildare native urged students and their parents to make their presence felt by using the Tell Your TD campaign via website (www.tellyourtd.com). The campaign allows respondents to send a letter to their local TDs to state that education should be protected in the upcoming budget.
Judge concluded, “There is a huge difficulty in some households where parents have returned to third-level as mature students and their children are also now attending. I know a mother and son who are studying here and there are countless other examples. Those people will find it increasingly hard to continue with their education if there are any further cuts.”