STUDENTS are targeting backbench government TDs in an escalating protest campaign over college fees.
Almost 1,200 University College Cork (UCC) and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) students marched on the offices of Fine Gael Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer to highlight anger at what they called “tuition fees by stealth.”
It was the first in a series of 12 protests to target specific government backbench TDs over proposed fee hikes and threatened grant cuts.
Further protests will be staged nationwide.
CIT Student Union President Danny O’Donovan said that registration fees were effectively being used as a means of re-introducing tuition fees.
Students challenged Mr Buttimer outside his Glasheen Road offices to sign a pledge to oppose fee hikes and grant cuts.
He declined to sign — but promised to raise their fears with cabinet members.
“The important thing is that we live in a democracy. We are in a difficult budgetary situation. What you said today is important. Education is the passport for us as a society to regrow, rebuild and regenerate our country. There is, however, no easy solution,” he said.
UCC Students Union welfare officer David Carey revealed he had received 300 applications in just two weeks from students hoping to get support from an EU fund, set up to help those in financial hardship.
He said some students faced a choice between paying their rent, paying for food or paying for heating.
UCC business studies student, Niamh Forde, said she has been waiting for three months for her maintenance grant.
Students expressed anger that despite promises by Labour not to increase fees before the last election, college charges are set to soar to €3,000 by 2015.
– Ralph Riegel