WATCH: Thousands of students march in Dublin to protest against student loans scheme
Thousands of students marched through Dublin today to urge the Government not to impose a student loans scheme.
The huge number of students surpassed the expectations of student leaders who had estimated only 5,000 marchers would be present.
Gardaí said the numbers were considerably higher.
It took more than half an hour for students walking 10 abreast to pass The Spire in O'Connell Street on their way from Parnell Square to the Department of the Taoiseach.
Union of Students in Ireland (USI) President Annie Hoey with a megaphone at the ready, told Independent.ie that third level education has as much right to be funded by the State as other public services such as public libraries.
"Debt is debt. Young people don't want to be straddled with extra debt when they start making a living," she said.
"Graduates will end up paying taxes like everyone else....We don't believe college fees will be kept down if loans are introduced. Students in Britain were promised fees would be kept down but when loans were introduced they ended up rising from €1,000 a year to €9,000 a year," she said.
USI deputy president Jack Leahy said State investment in students' education is returned nine times in terms of the higher taxes they pay in the future and in terms of attracting multi-national companies who confirmed well-educated graduates are crucial to the reasons for setting up here.
DCU student Jade Byrne (19) from Ballymun, Dublin, who is studying law, said she would have to drop out of education and emigrate if the grants system was replaced with a loans system.
"I don't think the Government will take heed of us but we need to protest about this," she said.
A student loan scheme, contingent on income levels earned after graduation, was one of the options in the Cassells Report on funding for the third level college sector.
The chants of the thousands of students filled the city centre as they marched.
Among the placard slogans were: "Buy College? Bye College," "I'm a student, not a customer,"
"Ah here, Enda," "Study Now, Depression Later," "God hates fees," and "Dumbledore didn't die for this."