This motion was brought to the council by the newly formed Students Against Fees Group, committed solely to the success of this motion and formed in the wake of the defeat of Ruane’s previous motion. During its formation meeting, it was reported by Trinity News that students had complained their “voices had not been heard” as most students fail to attend council regularly and had pointed to a lack of communication as a main reason for the defeat of the previous motion.
Five speakers on the motion all spoke in favour. Proposer of the motion, Oisin Vince Coulter, noted that the proposed introduction of fees would not protect the underprivileged or those with disabilities. Coulter also emphasised the fact that adopting a strong position against the introduction of fees is essential if students are ever going to “negotiate effectively” with government on policy issues and emphasised that education is a “human right.”
The motion saw many non class reps, who are not required to attend Students’ Union Council meetings and do not receive voting rights in attendance. Other speakers emphasised the fact that barriers to education on an income scale are unjust. Neil, self-described as a “middle income student”, noted that the previous introduction of loan based funding for third level education in other countries were plagued by “repayment rates which range from low to lower” and therefore do not solve funding problems in third level education.
Although a procedural motion was brought after the second speech, to cut speeches short with an immediate summary speech and vote, the motion was opposed by a majority of council members on the basis that speakers who were not required to attend council had chosen to attend to speak on behalf of the motion.
Prior to the motion being brought before council, the group circulated an information sheet hitting back against what the group determines are fictions in the education debate, such as the proposition that “Free education is an unrealistic goal.” The sheet included personal statements from two trinity students; Philip Doyle, fourth year psychology TSM, and Amy Delaney, first year social studies. Doyle made the observation that; “No one can fulfil their full potential under this kind of financial pressure.”
In the first speech proposing the motion, Oisin Coulter noted the leak which was reported by The University Times earlier this week: that the Cassells group, set up to examine the future of third level funding, planned to recommend raising third-level fees to €4,000, and introducing a loan system to cover the cost. Speaking to The University Times, President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Kevin Donoghue, has stated: “If that is the recommendation that comes out and what’s taken up by the next government, we’ll fight that tooth and nail. There’s no way we won’t fight against that.” In anticipation of tonights motion, speaking to Trinity News, SU President Lynn Ruane stated that this planned recommendation “is the most unjust, unequal and unacceptable solution to funding education I have ever heard. I will now and into the future continue to fight back against such measures.”
The exposure of the reports’ planned recommendations may have been the deciding factor in the result of tonight’s motion.
In opposition to Ruane’s previously defeated motion to oppose an introduction of a student loan system, it had been pointed out that rises in fees and the introduction of a loan based system were not the same thing, and that the premise of the motion was based on what deputy convenor for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Alice MacPherson, described as “media speculation about a report which has not come out yet”.