Photo: Union of Students in Ireland
Photo: Union of Students in Ireland

This week, between eight and twelve thousand students, teachers and union members marched through Dublin in opposition to proposed plans to raise university tuition fees and introduce a student loan system in the Republic of Ireland.

Dwarfing the 5000-student turnout estimated for the march, students came from all corners of Ireland- including Northern Ireland, where a loan system is already in place- to protest against plans to raise third-level fees, which were recently proposed in a report to the Oirechtas (Irish legislature) Education Committee.

Addressing the march, speakers included Blindboy Boatclub, of the comedy hip-hop duo The Rubberbandits, and Annie Hoey, President of the Union of Students in Ireland.

Blindboy, comparing the proposals to what is currently in place in the UK, told the crowd, “Let’s not turn into the US, turn into Britain. Let’s not create educational lines that are defined by class and how much money you have,” while Hoey is quoted as saying “We already have the second-highest fees in Europe, and we don’t want them to go any higher, we believe that education should be publicly funded and accessible to anyone who wants to avail of it.”

Other speakers highlighted existing student poverty and inequality in the education system, which the proposed increase in fees would exacerbate, and the likely raising of fees once they are introduced- citing the upward trajectory of fees in the UK as a precedent.

Students in Ireland currently pay a €3000 “contribution fee,” which under current proposals, would rise to €20,000 paid by student loans.

This week’s march provides a good show of strength for the student movement in Ireland, in the face of a right-wing Fine Gael government that has consistently pursued marketisation as its strategy across the Republic.