Student unions across Ireland having been contacting government ministers and TDs today to urge them to take action to alleviate the financial burdens that students face by attending college and to call for greater funding for the higher education sector.
Student unions, including Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), have encouraged their members to take part in the lobbying action by contacting their TDs on a number of issues that they want to see tackled in the upcoming Budget.
This lobbying effort was run in place of the “Break the Barriers ” demonstration which was due to see students from across Ireland take to the streets of Dublin today, but was cancelled because of storm Lorenzo. The march would have been the first action in what is set to be a year long USI campaign highlighting the barriers to higher education.
The demands of the campaign, which student unions asked their members to emphasise in their correspondence with TDs today, include reducing fees, a more flexible system for allocating SUSI grants, an increase in the Back to Education Allowance and financial assistance to cover the rising cost of rented accommodation.
In Trinity, TCDSU president Laura Beston invited students to her office today, offering free pizza and an opportunity to write to their TD or phone them using her office phone. The union had also printed out copies of a pre-prepared letter that students could send to TDs. The letter emphasised the accommodation issue, stating that Dublin is “facing a student accommodation crisis”.
Speaking to Trinity News in her office this afternoon, Beston said that the union was “incredibly disappointed not to be marching today because of the weather but we are trying to help students access their TDs and platform their voices to a government level so we are encouraging students to email, tweet write letters and just contact their TDs in any form that suits them best.”
She added that the intention of the action was to “make sure students issues and concerts are brought to a government level before Tuesday when the budget comes out.”
When asked if offering free pizzas to take part in the campaign undermined the action in way she said: “It’s essentially just allowing students who are giving up their lunch time to come and do this action without sacrificing anything.”
Also speaking to Trinity News, Jodi Milne, TCDSU’s access officer said the issues raised by the campaign “is something that disproportionately affects access students”. She added that her “friends and classmates are commuting for hours, living in unsuitable accommodation, couchsurfing, working multiple jobs and even dropping out as a result of these barriers”.
USI also ran a lobbying effort from their offices today, having taken the decision on Tuesday to call off the march. President of the USI, Lorna Fitzparick, said on Tuesday that it was with a “heavy heart” that she had decided to cancel the march but stated “we cannot risk students from the far west or south being [un]able to get home”.