The University Times SPECIAL PROTEST EDITION FRIDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2010
OCCUPATION TURNS VIOLENT FOLLOWING MARCH OF 30,000
Tommy Gavin and Ian Curran
Police clashed with student protesters at the department of finance on Merrion row yesterday. Riot police, canine units and mounted police units were deployed to disperse the crowd that congregated outside the building in support with the thirty or so students who staged a sit down protest in the lobby. Eggs were thrown at the windows of the building and nearby riot vans by a small contingent of protesters as the students in the department were occupying the building. Gardaí stormed the building from the back door and “forcibly removed” the activists as one Garda source indicated. This prompted a stand-off, with many students attempting to resist peacefully. However, projectiles including pieces of wood and at least one bottle were thrown at the Gardaí from a minority of agitators, some of whom were visibly drunk. Riot police responded with force and many students, including those sitting in the road in peaceful protest were injured in the clash, with several of them being hospitalized. USI sources claimed that at least 12 students were injured. Three arrests were made and one member of the Gardaí Siochana was injured and taken to hospital with a broken nose. Some of the students and many of the activists were at the protest on Merrion Street for reasons Continued on page 7
Left: The “Education not Emigration” protest march. Photo: Dargan Crowley-Long Right: Riot police suppress protesters outside the Department of Finance. Photo: Ana Araceli Lezcano Cadwallader
“A sleeping giant awakes” at protest march Caelainn Hogan Features Editor Hundreds of Trinity students took to the streets in protest yesterday, despite the persistent rain, to join the USI ‘Education not Emigration’ national march against plans to increase capitation fees and proposed cuts to the student matainence grant. It also aimed to highlight the soaring levels of graduate unemployment and the consequential ‘brain drain’ reality of emigration. An estimated 30-40, 000 students from all over the country joined together in Parnell Square to march together amid a deafening blare of whistles, drums and slogans, to government buildings in a display
of solidarity, with the message that students would ‘fight back’ against the proposed government cutback. Almost every college in the Republic was represented, with over 200 buses to transport protesters and large contingencies from Letterkenny, Tralee, Limerick, and Galway/ Mayo ITs, the bright yellow protest t-shirts giving a sense of unanimity. The turnout was at least double that of the last big student march in 2008 and has been called the largest for a generation. SU president Nikolai Trigoub-Rotnem, who declared that “The sleeping giant that is the student movement has been awoken”, led students from Trinity’s front square after a speech promising that all possible
endeavours would be made to fight the hike in fees which according to the USI would force thousands of students to drop out of college due to lack of funds. It is said the current registration fee of €1,500 will potentially rise to €2,500, perhaps even double. ‘I Am a Vote’ was a slogan chanted throughout the march and visually omnipresent whether on official placards printed by Trinity SU or homemade versions. The SU have organised voter registration on campus today and tomorrow to maximise student representation and further prove how serious students are about their political say in the government. Writing to local TD’s through TellYourTD.com is also
encouraged, making for a highly organised and multifaceted campaign developed to get the student voice across at all levels and with maximum impact. Placards such as “Don’t kill creative Ireland” emphasised the need to preserve Ireland’s reputation as a country with a highly educated workforce which has since prided itself on its provision of third level education to all, without the compromising condition of fees. As one placard put it: “Isle of Saints and Scholars My Arse” Many protesters also expressed resentment and anger towards the government for failing to counter the economic crisis in Ireland and now looking to students to make up
the deficit for their errors, with signs such as “88 Billion For The Banks, 2 Fingers To Education” and “Don’t Make Us Pay For Your Mistakes”. Other popular placards read “Future Tax Payer” and “Pay for My Fees or Pay for My Dole” and emphasised the need to protect education in order to ensure a strong working force and job creation instead of adding more names to the live register, with 70,000 graduates already signed on. As for slogans against emigration, among others was the succinct “BA Hons not BA Flights”. There were a number of mature students present who were disillusioned with the fact that after working hard for years and paying Continued on page 2
What exactly happened at the Dept of Finance? The University Times had four reporters on site at The Department of Finance as protesters clashed with riot police. In the course of the events one of our reporters was struck with a baton, and others were buffeted repeatedly with riot shields. As such, our recollection of events is somewhat patched together after the fact from several eyewitness accounts.
2:55pm A man with a megaphone urges the protesters outside the Dáil to head to the Department of Finance building on Merrion Row.
3:00pm A group of between 30 and 50 enters the lobby of the building. Roughly half of these are ejected by Gardaí, as the remainder are barricaded in. Several hundred people who had broken off from the USI march gather outside the building with Gardaí separating the mass from the building’s entrance.
Analysis: Who caused the DoF brawl? Deputy Features Editor Ian Curran examines the genesis of the Merrion Row ruckus as USI and national media outlets blame different groups The Irish Daily Star, dated the 4th of November 2010, tells us that a “small group of Republican militants,” were to blame for the street brawl that occurred outside the department of finance on Wednesday. The Irish Times mirrors the Union of Students Ireland’s reaction in saying that it was a “left wing” group of students; mainly Sinn Fein, Éirigí and Socialist Workers Party members, who occupied the building. The Gardaí have made a statement blaming “a core of militant and aggressive” activists for the egging of the building and the injuries sustained by the members of the Gardaí at the scene. While the blame game continues,
the truth about the nature of the sit down protesters in and outside the Department of Finance is becoming hazy. While photos show protesters with Éirigí flags and banners outside the building, the republican socialists have categorically denied that any of their members were among the activists in the lobby of the department. It is clear that there was a republican element involved in the throwing of missiles at the mounted police, but both Éirigí and Sinn Féin representatives have categorically denied to this writer that any of their members were involved in any kind of violence outside the department. However, it is clear from the experiences of University Times staff, myself included, and documented in photographs and videos taken by this paper, that some Sinn Féin, Socialist Workers Party and Éirigí members were involved in the solidarity protest outside the department. It was also clear at the time that a small minority of activists from these groups were involved in the throwing of projectiles at the scene. Many of the people involved in the agitation of the Gardaí were not carrying banners or flags and were in
fact not members of any party at all. We are by no means stating that the aforementioned parties were the sole perpetrators of violence on the day. It was a small cross section of people from these extreme left parties mixed with a large cohort of unaligned individuals who took part in the kicking of the riot police’s shields and generally contributed to the tension felt by the people involved in the protest. Equally, many people involved were wearing official USI tshirts, however, as so many of these were handed out, it should not be used as an indication of affiliation. So how much of the occupation of the department was pre-organised? Was the violence planned or merely, as one Sinn Fein representative put it, a “reaction” to the intimidating presence of the Gardaí? What we do know is that a notice was posted on Indymedia.ie asking people to join the “left-bloc” on the day of the protest. We know that an article was posted on the 19th of October on the Socialist workers party website urging people to “Join the Left Bloc on the National Student March.” In said article, reference was made to French students “barricading” themselves into their colleges to
Students raise their voices in anger
3:05pm Gardaí on horseback arrive with three riot vans. The protesters outside begin a sit down protest.
3:10pm Gardaí in full riot gear arrive and start to push past the horseback unit to the seated protest. Rank and file members of the Gardaí start removing protesters from the lobby of the building. The first physical clashes between Gardaí and protesters occur and several students are injured by baton strikes by Gardaí, as a female garda is struck. Gardaí on horseback pu
3:15pm As the last protester is removed from the Department of Finance, riot squads push the now mostly standing protesters away from the door of the building. This pressure continues for twenty minutes, with gardaí using their batons and riot shields.
3:35pm Riot police charge the protesters back to the Shelbourne Hotel, followed by the horseback unit as gardaí with dogs arrive. Pressure continues to Anglo Irish Bank.
3:50pm The remnants of the crowd join a sit-down protest outside the gates of Leinster House.
protest “right-wing” austerity measures. We know that, according to Padraic O’Meara, chairman of Trinty Labour, that advances were made by the SWP to join the leftbloc on the 3rd of November. On the other hand, both Eirigi and Sinn Fein have told us that the occupation, and certainly the violence that came after it, were spontaneous. We have not been able to get in contact with the Socialist Workers Party but it was clear from interviews conducted after the events by staff of this paper that they were heavily involved in the, “peaceful occupation,” of the department. A representative from the Union of Students Ireland told this writer that the USI “were concerned about certain militant elements” and that they did “alert the Gardaí” to the threat of militant involvement in the protest. It is not yet clear whether the “left-bloc” did indeed pre-plan the occupation but it is certain that there was tension felt by the organizers of the actual march in anticipation of such an act.
Protesters and gardaí face off in front of the Department of Finance. Photo: Ana Araceli Lezcano Cadwallader
My protest: garda response excessive Tommy Gavin Deputy Editor Denise McKenna is a student in NUI Maynooth from Swords in Dublin, who was at the clash between police and students on Merrion row. She attempted to calm the crowd and dissuade active resistance by standing in-between riot Gardaí and agitators who were seeking direct confrontation. In an interview with the University Times, she said that “the main march itself was planned and constructed perfectly,” but that what happened outside the Dept. of Finance was dangerously uncoordinated. “Nobody came out to talk to us, and it was obvious that there were certain people who were just there to cause trouble.” Denise and her friend were at the front facing the police, and her friend was struck in the face by a cone that was thrown from the crowd.
Denise and her friend were there because “we had heard that people had refused to leave and were peacefully sitting down on the road outside the Dept. of Finance” and assumed it was part of the planned march. The building was already occupied when they arrived, but it was after she got there that the mounted police appeared, followed by the riot police.” She noted the presence of anarchist, socialist and republican flags. “It got out of hand when the Gardaí decided to get the occupants out of the building by force, and thats when people got rowdy,” with some provocateurs kicking the shields of riot police. “There was a lack of communication of what was going to happen exactly when we got to the building, and a lack of communication between the crowd and the police.” This prompted Denise to attempt to try and calm people
down, following the example of a lone student who tried to disarm the confrontation, pictured on page 6 of the November 4th edition of the Irish Times. “I thought he had the right idea and I tried to stop people from kicking, but it had gone too far by that stage.” Denise acknowledged that she thought the police presence was justified, but also thinks that they used excessive force and noted that people resisting peacefully, including girls, were being struck with batons, and saw one girl being dragged by her hair. “It really opened my eyes, and made me want to learn more about my rights and the political situation. I don’t know whats going to happen next or what the government’s reaction will be, but it put a bad light on the march.”
Continued from page 1 their taxes they were now being faced with an uncalled for hike in fees. Members of the general public watching the march described it as “inspiring” and “about time”. The march culminated at Merrion Square, with the entire length of the street jam packed with protesters stretching almost as far back as St. Stephen’s Church. “I Am a Vote” reverberated in the air from protesters looking in the direction of Leinster House to the stage where USI President Gary Redmond addressed the gathering, as well as a host of public representatives, emphasising that students are “the key to Ireland’s future prosperity”. The march was peaceful in its intentions and remained so for the duration apart from one incident involving a clash between Gardaí and students attempting to hold a sit down protest outside the Department of Finance. While national news coverage inevitably focussed on this one unfortunate event, the success of the march which saw thousands of students come together and protest in a pro-active, peaceful and entirely democratic nature must not be forgotten or compromised. In fact when asked for comments on the protest Gardaí stationed outside the Dáil commented positively, saying students had been upstanding and impressive in their behaviour during the march.
Opinion: is violent protest legitimate? Emma Dunne Staff Writer Democracy, in theory a system of government that is fair, impartial, and representative of all in society has in many ways failed to live up to its utopian image. It is an unfortunate fact that in our system of government, access to power and influence is undeniably unequal. It seems that in many ways, those with money, influence and political clout are the ones that call the shots, whilst the disadvantaged, politically feeble members of society go unnoticed and unheeded by those in power. Protest has long been used as a valuable tool to correct this chronic imbalance. Protest gives the voiceless in society a way to be heard, raises awareness of vital issues and sometimes acts as an invaluable impetus for real, tangible, effective change at a political level. In this way, true democracy and protest go hand in hand. Democracy and violence, however, do not. On Wednesday, around 30,000 students departed from campuses all over the country to participate in what they hoped would be a peaceful expression of their fear, anger and frustration with the government and its proposal to raise the registration fee and impose education cuts. The general public mood was benevolent, even those that feel some measure of fees to perhaps a necessary and unavoidable consequence of an under-resourced
government seemed not to deny the student’s right to express their dissatisfaction in a peaceful manner. However, as thousands painted banners, donned t-shirts and emblazoned themselves with face paint, a small minority were getting ready to take to the streets in a far less peaceful way. The Pictures of the protest tell a thousand words about what followed. Under the ominous gaze of a sodden November sky the student movement, the “sleeping giant” that USI President Gary Redmond spoke of, turned into a monster. While the majority of those that participated in the protest had no involvement in the violence, thanks to a small band of people, later said by the USI to consist mainly of “left wing groups”, the protest turned bloody. Violence such as this is not a legitimate way to achieve goals in a democratic system. Whilst peaceful protest may be used to great effect to raise awareness about previously ignored and important issues, violence just serves to push those issues into the background. This is evident from the fact that whilst every major newspaper in the state today carried (often substantial) coverage of yesterdays events, for the most part this coverage was not of what the students were protesting for, but rather an account of the violent clash that the day resulted in. Violence is also counterproductive in another, perhaps more important way. Whilst peaceful demonstra-
tions aim to increase public support for a cause, violent street clashes often have the opposite effect. The images of rowdy, aggressive students that have flooded the media today will not endear us to the general public, a fact recognised by Gary Redmond, USI President when he raced to distance the Union from those that caused the trouble, stressing that “this antisocial behaviour was completely separate from USI’s protest”. In most cases then, it is clear that the use of violence is not an effective, legitimate or permissible way of getting a political point across. However that is not to say that violence can never be justified. John of Salisbury, a 12th century English diplomat once famously said that “he who usurps the sword deserves to die upon the sword”. In other words, those who take power by wrongful means, for example ignoble dictators or theocrats, deserve to be deposed by violent methods. It is clear that this is not the case here. Whatever we may think of our decision now, the fact is that the government did not usurp this sword, by voting them into power we handed it to them. If we resort to violence now to express our opposition to what they are doing we do not, as John of Salisbury said, use the sword legitimately against them. In fact, as is evident by how Wednesday’s events seem to have damaged the student’s cause, we risk becoming impaled upon it ourselves.
Riot police attempt to push back protesters. Photo: Ana Araceli Lezcano Cadwallader
Eyewitness account of garda, protester clashes Oisín Fagan After participating in the Student Protest I was returning to college to finish an essay. I bought lunch in the Centra on Merrion. When I walked outside the shop I heard screaming and chanting. I ran over to the crowd and saw projectiles being hurled at a group of gardaí outside the Department of Finance and gardaí on horseback bordering the street. People were being violently ejected from the government building by guards. The crowd had surrounded the gardaí and were shouting and pointing at them, though a small number of people seemed close to a physical confrontation with these gardaí. I saw one girl lying unconscious on the pavement while another young woman attempted to put her in the recovery position. One member of the gardaí nudged her away with her foot. I saw three other members of the public with faces covered in blood. It was at this point that I decided to engage in the sit-down protest in front of the mounted gardaí. In the beginning there were about twenty of us. We held our hands in the air and shouted slogans at the mounted guards. These guards were being intermittently pelted by eggs, placards and other miscellaneous objects from the back of the crowd. They suffered a great deal of verbal abuse. I spoke to several people beside me who said they had been called over by a man wearing a USI t-shirt with a microphone, and there were many
USI t-shirts in the crowd, but on that day there were several thousand USI t-shirts given away and I even witnessed people buying them off other protestors. Several protestors outside the Department of Finance were bearing SWP and Eirigí flags, but the majority were wearing plain clothes with no insignia distinguishing them as any political faction. After taking account of the crowd, I heard the woman next to me say that the Riot Act was supposedly read out. We had both heard nothing and we were directly in front of the mounted guards, who stood in front of three riot cars, so we discounted this as rumour. At this stage the projectiles hurled at the mounted guards had become more infrequent due to public pressure by the sitting-protestors insisting on peaceful protest. All of us on the frontline had our hands up in the air to show we were peaceful. One protestor even offered tissues to the police to wipe down their visors, and the visors of their horses. The horses began to advance and we continued sitting with our hands in the air. The horses came forward, urged on by the slowly moving riot cars behind them. The two women directly next to me got caught beneath the legs of the horses and at least one young man was struck bodily by steel horseshoes. At this point most of the crowd in the back dispersed and in the front people began to stand up. The majority of these were told to sit down again. In the very front, peo-
ple were either covering their heads or lying flat on their back. I couldn’t hear much over the screaming, but I saw a few times a pattern repeat itself: the horses would advance, become entangled in bodies and then retreat, and aggression would begin against the guards and then would be forced into submission and noncombat by a group of protestors. The Riot Squad arrived and dispersed the majority of people outside the building. I didn’t see how this happened as we continued sitting in front of the mounted guards, one of whom was now bleeding from the lip. When the riot squad had cleared the pavement outside the Department of Finance, the mounted guards left, in which direction I don’t know. A group of photographers were forcibly ejected by the guards then, and then riot squad began to form a line against the flank of our sitting-protest. A great deal of people left the area at this moment. From what I could see, most of those remaining were either sitting in the street or were spectators. The Riot Squad edged slowly towards us without engaging in any dialogue. We continued holding our hands, either up, or on the ground, to demonstrate that we were peaceful. Two of the members of the Riot Squad I saw had their helmets manoeuvred in such a way as it was impossible to distinguish their identifying numbers. They began beating the legs of the people closest them. The two women next to me
were beaten repeatedly on the legs and then dragged across the street by guards who would run in while the beating was ongoing. Then some people began to stand up, either to retreat or just so they wouldn’t be beaten while sitting. Those nearest me continued to sit down, pointing and shouting at the gardaí. The beatings became progressively worse. People began to get beaten over the head and on the face. I saw one man beaten and, while in the act of retreating, fall over and continue to get beaten in the back while prostrate. One girl was held by each limb, and thus incapacitated, and carried away. While she was being carried away one garda said to another, ‘Beat that cunt over the head,’ and the garda brought the baton down across the side of her head. The method seemed to be that they beat people until they were down and then the gardaí would come in and drag them out. Even as they were dragged out, the gardaí continued to beat them. Most of the people were hit while lying on the ground: in the legs, the crotch, the torso, the face and the arms. What repeatedly happen is that one of us would get beaten and then we would try to pull the affected away from the blows and then we would be beaten in turn until we let them go and they would get hit again, continuously until a garda would drag them out. I was wearing a heavy coat. I was not nearly as badly injured as those around me. The four people next to
me, and even behind me, were hit repeatedly across the knuckles and the tops of their heads. Finally, after what seemed like a long time, none of us were sitting. We were beaten back against the wall opposite the Department of Finance. When we were against the wall the young man in front of me tripped and began to get batonned. The member of the Riot Squad worked his way up his body to his head, which I then covered in my body. He began to beat me then across the arm and the neck and I received a blow across the side of the face, even though I had drawn my hood up when I saw they were attacking the upper-body. By this stage, I had been pinned to the ground; for how long I don’t know, but while I was beginning to get up two guards grabbed me by each arm and dragged me past the Squad cars, forcing my body against the frame of the car. Then one of them hurled me outside the closed-off area and said, ‘Get the fuck out of here, you fucking prick.’ I saw the very few people left behind me receiving much worse wounds than I, and the strange sight of guards carefully guiding people in suits, uninvolved with the protest, carefully through the affected area. The riot squad’s actions against the sitting-protestors lasted approximately half an hour. From what I could see we were some of the final people to leave the area before it was surrounded by lines of guards, so nobody could get the area. That is, essentially, how it ended.
The day in pictures: Co
olour, fun and violence
Photos: Dargan Crowley-Long, Ana Araceli Lezcano Cadwallader, Tommy Gavin, Tom Lowe
continued from page 1 beyond the registration fee issue. John Donnelly, a member of Éirigí claimed to have been there “in solidarity with students, as to be free we must be educated.” A student from DIT Bolton Street said, in response to a question as to whether the protest would turn violent, that “violent protest will happen when people are up against the wall.” He continued, that in the context of the current protest, when the police move in, that sparks violence, citing his experience of the Love Ulster riots of 2006. The student asked not to be named but said he is back in college for his second degree. Although there is no exact figure, several photographs and videos taken at the scene identify a number of activists who suffered injuries in the skirmish. Video taken by University Times staff at the scene indicates that a large proportion of the students involved in the incident were part of a “radical left bloc,” comprising members of the Socialist Worker’s Party, Éirigí, Sinn Fein and various anarchist groups. However it is also clear that there was a very large number of people from these entities who were peaceful as well as a large number of unaligned individuals taking part in the protest. SU President Nikolai Trigoub-rotnem said that it was unfortunate the “groups that are not led by students hijacked the protest, damaging the march and damaging our credibility.”
EDITORIAL: A SAD DAY FOR THE STUDENTS’ MOVEMENT On Wednesday, 30,000 students took to the streets in the largest street march about any domestic issue in a decade. The USI march was a triumph of organisation, completely peaceful and highlighted the real anger and discontent among students about the pain that appears to be coming down the line. The University Times had reporters present for the whole march, and for the splinter demonstration outside the Department of Finance. The violent actions of a few will inevitably usurp the media coverage of a remarkable show of student solidarity, of a scale not seen in the movement since the 1960s. First of all, let’s talk about the march. It was impeccably organised from start to finish, and before all of the ructions at the Department of Finance kicked off, one of our reporters was told by a member of the Gardaí that the students on the march were “impeccably behaved”. The march was relatively goodhumoured, respectful and peaceful. At around half past two, as the marchers dissipated, we received our first notifications about the occupation of the Dept. of Finance by members of the so called “left-bloc.” This was supported by several hundred students and activists who staged a sit in on Merrion Row, blocking traffic.
From our investigation and the testimony of several University Times reporters on scene, the sit in and the occupation were initially peaceful. It is not so simple a narrative as innocent students versus oppressive police, nor as radical militants versus protectors of the law, but a confused grey area in-between the two. It is impossible to say who used force first, the Gardaí or the protesters. It is possible that the crowd only became agitated after the police used force to clear protesters from the Dept. of Finance, but also possible that projectiles more threatening than eggs were flung before that. What is important to note is that the crowd was not a unified group under central leadership. The Garda Siochana are. Violence erupted because the protesters lacked direction, the police failed to communicate appropriately with the crowd, and a very small minority of the crowd sought violence. For this, peaceful students were bludgeoned. It is a shame that the actions of groups not lead by students, co-opted media attention of a carefully orchestrated coming together of thousands of students from all over the country. While it is true that additional media attention was granted in light of the Merrion Row ruckus, it was not the positive attention that the students deserved.
Movement can’t afford to lose steam Nikolai Trigoub-Rotnem Students’ Union President Wednesday’s protest march was the biggest march our generation has ever seen. I would like to congratulate all the 3500 Trinity students who took part despite the rain, and managed to show this government that we are no longer politically apathetic. When students took to the streets of our capital from all over the country, they showed solidarity and commitment to an accessible education for all. It was an atmosphere of good spirit and good-will, something which we see so rarely in these times of economic turmoil. Our country is in one of the worst states it could possibly be in, yet the government wants to punish students for their mistakes. As was repeatedly cried out on Wednesday: ‘Education not Emigration’ is the answer. WE are the future of this country, we will be the people having to deal with the governments and the bankers greedy decisions. And if the march didn’t prove just how angry we are about all this, then nothing will. Every single student who was at the protest on wednesday IS a vote. This is where our real power lies. What happens on Budget Day remains
to be seen, but this government has made a serious error in judgement if they expect us to accept a 3000 euro registration fee, further cuts in the grant, graduate unemployment, and for us to keep them in power. THis country is crying out for a general election, and when it happens (and it will be soon) it is up to YOU to ensure our voice is heard. Even though pictures of bloodsoaked young people and garda batons dominate newspapers which should have been carrying images of 40,000 students , we have succeeded in shaking up the Dail. No TD can deny that the student movement has been reawakened. Paul Gogarty was the first to come out and congratulate the marchers and has ruled out the government’s plan to increase the registration fee to to €3000. In the weeks to come, no doubt more TDs will show their support in search of the considerable student vote. Make sure you do not let this movement lose steam, contact your TD, tell them how angry you are and make sure you register to vote.
A sign of the times? Students get creative Photos by Dargan Crowley-Long
USI face backlash for denouncing Merrion Row protesters Caelainn Hogan Features Editor The group advertising itself as the Left Bloc, which encouraged students to join them in providing a strong left-wing presence at yesterday’s national march, has lashed out at the USI for denouncing the actions of protesters involved in the occupation at the Department of Finance. The Left Bloc encouraged students to join them specifically during the national march on Wednesday through a campaign on Facebook as well as articles published on the Socialist Workers Party website and event notices on various other sites. The two main proponents, Free Education for Everyone (FEE) campaign and the Students in Solidarity Network, also attracted student activists from a range of different political organisation including among others the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party, Workers Solidarity Movement, and Éirigi. FEE, which is active in Maynooth, UCD, TCD, NUIG, UCC and UL, claims to have organised a series
of protests, blockades and occupations against fees and also claims to be active within the respective colleges Student Unions. However Eoin Ó Braoin, a former elected representative of TCDSU, pointed out that: “FEE was soundly defeated in several votes at TCDSU council two years ago. To claim it is actively involved is incorrect.” He also commented that “The needless extremism will not garner any support nor will have any affect other than to antagonise those who stand opposed to your points of view and to alienate the majority opinion. Any public support or public sympathy towards the plight of students will fade if extremists keep hijacking protests like today.” The USI first issued the following statement in reply to the event which saw Gardai clash with student protesters: ”USI is saddened by the actions of a small minority of people who staged a sit-in protest at the Dept of Finance, shortly after the USI protest march today. This anti-social behaviour was completely separate from USI’s demo”
Articles published on the Edufactory Ireland website condemned the USI for this statement. One article titled ‘A letter to the USI President from a part-time student’ by Caoimhe Kerins, a part-time student in NUI Maynooth, claimed that the statement was hypocritical due to a similar occupational tactics during a similar anti-fees campaign on the 20th of May 2003 at which, she claims, members of the USI board were present. Another article claimed the USI had disowned its members and ignored Garda violence. In a new statement issued by the USI, president Gary Redmond assured that he would be meeting with Gardai, stating that he was “concerned at reports that innocent students were unnecessarily caught up in the events at the Department of Finance”. The USI have called for “an urgent investigation into worrying information that innocent students making their way back to buses and colleges after the conclusion of the USI event, were caughtup in the response of the public order unit.” and is
encouraging students who may have been victim to such circumstances to contact their SU. Conan Ó Broin, Vice President of USI, addressed the claims of excessive force by Gardai to The University Times, assuring that USI would be following up any evidence of such action, stating “We understand that there may be concerns of excessive use of force by the gardaí and some students might have been injured. We will be looking into any such claims and will be examining the video evidence and if there has been cases of excessive use of force by the guards which was unwarranted and unreasonable we’ll certainly be addressing that issue.” He fully accepted, in reference to the clash between Gardai and protesters, that “there were some students that were caught up and had nothing to do with it”. Emphasising the importance of not forgetting the positive results of the march, he reiterated that he was “deeply saddened that the largest student demonstration since 1964 in this country was overshadowed
by a small number of radical hard left groups trying to get involved in forms of direct action which resulted in violence” and regards to the USI’s disapproval of the occupation, that “certainly we could never stand over anything which would endanger the health and safety of our students”. Ó Broin said USI had contacted the gardaí to warn them of the potential threat of a separate protest which could result in violence. He claimed that this warning was shrugged off. The USI received no previous information that such groups were planning to launch a separate campaign within the march and Ó Broin was “Saddened they used the opportunity of a large demonstration which the USI and students unions around the country had worked extremely hard to promote, which had paid off in the enormous amount of students who came out yesterday” expressing his disappointment that “these groups tried to use that large demonstration to conduct actions of their own”.
Protesting: Ireland v France, a shared failure for distinct reasons. Luc Tezenas Featured Contributor What makes the difference between an Irish demonstration and a French one? First, in Ireland, or at least on the 3rd of November, everyone (almost) knew why they were protesting. Not always the case in France. It also means that a fair proportion of the people in the streets actually care about the media cover of the event, despite all the mostly unfounded criticisms I’ve heard on the subject. This image awareness that I witnessed in Dublin isn’t the very first characteristic of French demonstrators. The “incident” at the Department of Finance relieved me a bit however, I have to admit. The occupation of the Department had started as a peaceful act. The problem being, as soon as the riot police started pushing people out, there was very few peaceful people left in front of the Department of Justice. Even if the ones that got beaten up were actually the ones sitting. This was pretty similar to France, the difference being that, usually, violent rioters in France are just there for violence, not for the protest. What I didn’t expect was the peaceful sitting in front of the Dail which wasn’t covered by the media as it should have been. I sat down there thinking “In a few hours, people are going to start coming back from work, the traffic will be jammed, there will be proper media cover, hopefully nobody will start throwing cans around and the riot squads will be excessively violent because they’re not used to this.” That would’ve actually been something we never get to use in France
because of the recurrent violence: a proper peaceful sitting being properly crush by squads. But we didn’t get that far. Why? Because the crowd in front of the Dail was happy enough to leave once the battery for the music was gone, at 4.45 p.m. They didn’t want it to get violent anyway. Being peaceful is not necessarily being passive. As a result, all you can hear, see or read about is on the violent incident at the Department of Finance and very few about the sitting (what sitting?). The success of a march is based on its interpretation by the media. In France, we have two types of marches: the conventional ones, which you don’t even hear about and the violent ones, which end up scaring the voters, not the government (they usually move up in the polls because of it). In Ireland, where you have inexperienced riot squads and enough properly involved students, it would be possible to use a third kind of protest, the most media-efficient: peaceful but engendering police brutalities. This kind of protest would win the voters’ sympathy. This is how you scare a government and manage to bring reform. But it seems that either involved Irish students are afraid of civil disobedience or they’re just a bit too lazy to push it far enough. Anyway, the result is the same in France or in Ireland. The reform passes. In our case, the government would have had to be more scared by the protest’s effects on public opinion than by the IMF threats. This goal is definitely not achieved yet!
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The protest in tweets Over the course of the protest, people kept track of the protest using the hashtag #studentmarch and The University Times’ livetweeting service @UTprotest_live. Here are some of the comments during the day. Alan Moloney @wrathofkang Cork, Ireland “It’s a disgrace! Those students were out yesterday headbutting those poor Gard’s batons! HAVE THEY NO RESPECT?” Tiernan Kennedy @tiernankennedy Temple Bar, Dublin “woulda gone to the protest had I known it was gonna be such an excellent riot. They should have publicised that better.” Laura Jean @malmuss Dublin, unfortunately. “Just saw my brother being arrested on the news in the #studentprotest. Fucking arsehole undermining the whole thing. Get him, garda!” Seamus Conboy @SeamusConboy Dublin “Silly rioters. They’ll never be able to emigrate if they get a criminal record!” Foras Teamhrach @forasteamhrach Dublin, Ireland “Worth noting that the same tactics of Gardaí attacking protesters and then saying they were being attacked was used in Mayo.” Rebecca Murphy @Smurphette85 Cork, Ireland “Re: turnout. Gardai say that the street the protest was on holds 80,000 - we took up at least half of that.” James Kennedy @jamesclonmel Tipperary “26,000 students protesting, 2 arrested, do the math.” Stephen Kelly @stephenTkelly Dublin, Ireland. “Standing in the porch of the Dept. of Finance and/or sitting on the street is not violent. Belting people with batons is.”
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Alan Farrell (Fine Gael Councillor) @AlanFarrell Malahide, Fingal, Dublin North “Appalled by behaviour of some students at the #studentmarch in the city today. Undermines cause. Notable presence of SWP & Eirigi posters.” Paul Gogarty (Green TD) @PaulGogartyTD Dublin Mid West constituency “Gr8 turnout by students outside Dail. No fees in PfG, so new tuition fee WILL NOT come in. Any reg fee increase CANNOT be 3k or indeed 2.5k.”
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Rónán Mistéil @ronnymitchell, Dublin “I actually now think they should raise fees so high that scum won’t be able to afford to be students and tarnish their name.”
Following the events of November 3rd, the editorial team of The University Times decided that they warranted a newspaper of their own.
Published on Nov 5, 2010
Following the events of November 3rd, the editorial team of The University Times decided that they warranted a newspaper of their own.