Students Against Fees (SAF) organised a banner drop to protest the “hypocrisy of the official… commemorations” of the 1916 Rising today, March 27.
The group hung a banner calling for free education for all outside the Trinity houses facing College Green during the Rising commemorations. The banner was overlaid by the Plough and the Stars, the flag of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), which participated in the Rising.
In a post on the Students Against Fees blog, the group stated: “The real spirit of 1916 lies with those committed to transforming society for the better.” The post criticized the two largest parties in the Dáil (Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil) for advocating a loans and fees system for students.
Speaking to Trinity News, Rory O’Neill of SAF said: “We do not feel Ireland’s revolutionary, emancipatory tradition belongs to austerity politicians who have systematically attacked the right to education in successive governments and have forced hundreds of thousands of us to emigrate.”
A report from the government-appointed Working Group of Higher Education Funding, established in summer 2014, is soon to be published. Last December, a report from the group was leaked, revealing that it would likely propose third-level fees to be raised to €4,000.
In the blog post, SAF showed concern that the Cassells Report will continue with this proposal.
SAF’s post used the UK and US as examples of the flaws in student loans systems, saying: “The cost of education [in these countries] is inordinately high and excludes students from working class and low-income families.”
The post also condemned the increasing corporatisation of campuses, referring to an incident on March 23 last where Fossil Free TCD were evicted from the Blackstone Launchpad area in the Berkeley Library.
Speaking to Trinity News, director of Blackstone’s Trinity branch, John Whelan, said the site was designated for student groups that would generate capital, and that political activism was unsuitable for this purpose. Whelan described the space as “a place for capitalism.”
SAF was established in November 2015 after a motion to oppose student loans was defeated at a meeting of the Council of Trinity College Dublin’s Students’ Union (TCDSU). Some students opposed this result, saying that it had not taken fees into account. In December, the group brought a motion opposing loans and fees before SU Council, which was passed. On February 3, the group marched in solidarity with the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) in opposition to funding cuts to Institutes of Technology.