Stand up and be counted

Student campaigning and protesting from a fresher’s perspective

There’s a certain transition for every first year that occurs during their first few weeks in college. I’m not talking about that newfound sense of independence you rejoice in for cooking your first proper meal without parental supervision; I’m referring to the expansion of our minds, a broader sense of thinking and new ideas. Perhaps this is due to the environment of Trinity, a place of multiculturalism and diversity. As a first year, I have discovered that there is a sense of courageousness in college, a desire to “stick it to the man” so strong and unified that’s it’s almost contagious. And it’s with this bold attitude that we are introduced to student campaigning.

As an fan of superheroes, I grew up rooting for the underdog, a symbol of resistance in an often corrupt scheme. Unfortunately, like most of my fellow first years, being the underdog was not an encouraged practice. Throughout my time at school, I was taught to sit still, stay quiet and, most importantly, obey the rules. Freedom of thought was encouraged so long as it didn’t become a nuisance. In my few weeks here in Trinity however, I’ve learnt the opposite. Your voice is not only heard: it’s appreciated. Suddenly, I’m living as that underdog, tackling injustices head on and unafraid.

The underdog, I’ve realised, is never alone in their battle. That much became apparent during my first ever protest on September 30 for the Repeal campaign. Although campaigns rely on each individual’s willingness to rally, it is the solidarity that it embodies that gives a protest its power. It’s in the mass of flags fluttering in the wind as you stride towards Merrion Square, it’s in the sea of colourful posters and vivid t-shirts worn by both the proud and the shy protestor and it’s in the roar of voices as they chant their slogans. During my three weeks up at university, I’ve marched alone and I’ve marched with friends but the feeling of unity never fades. All you need is good shoes, some cardboard and a heart full of determination and passion.

Of course, there can be downsides to protest. Not everyone likes a fistful of fliers shoved into their face before every lecture or maybe the masses who scream for justice until their voices are hoarse can be a bit off-putting as you’re in a rush to get to your 9 am tutorial. And that’s entirely all right. Not everyone knows what exactly they believe in or if it’s worth fighting for. Sometimes you don’t side with the majority but you should never be afraid to say so.  Revel in new facts and different ideas. Campaigning is a broad canvas, so find a shade that works for you! Contribution can be about much more than marching.

Before coming up to Trinity, I never fully realised how powerful my voice was. I never grasped that I had the ability to implement change, no matter how small, that my choices could shape history, or that I could make a political statement.  Many of us have been rebuked for our age, our lack of knowledge or even our class, but none of that matters. All that matters is your willingness to stand up. During both the march to Repeal the 8th and the March for Education, I witnessed students  of all social backgrounds, ages and genders unite under a common purpose. It truly defines the saying “the power of the people is greater than the people in power”.’ To be one of those students is a privilege that I would encourage anyone to partake in.

Mairéad McCarthy

Mairéad McCarthy is a former Deputy Life Editor for Trinity News.