Students call for 'protection' from spiralling costs and grant cutbacks

Emma Jane Hade and Ralph Riegel

STUDENTS across the country failed to allow the rain to dampen their spirits as they gathered in their masses to protest over cutbacks to grants and spiralling education costs.

Thousands gathered in Dublin, Cork and Sligo to demonstrate as part of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) "Fight For Your Future Now" campaign.

Emotions were high outside Leinster House in Dublin where almost 1,000 students from Dublin and Maynooth heard USI president Joe O'Connor describe the Government's cuts to student maintenance grants as "stupid economics".

Speaking to the Irish Independent shortly before he took to the stage, Mr O'Connor said that the USI was calling on the Government to "protect" students in the upcoming Budget.

"This isn't about students suffering any more. This is about any more cuts to the grant being an anti-family measure, and it doesn't make any economic sense for this Government to force any more students out of education."

He also called on the crowd to vote No in Friday's upcoming Seanad abolition referendum.

Tom Lenihan, son of the late finance minister Brian Lenihan, also spoke at the rally. The Trinity College Student Union president told the riled-up audience that he refused "to believe the bank of education is bust".

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 students from all across Munster gathered in Cork at a rally led by the USI vice-president Ciara Guinan.

"Students cannot sustain any further cutbacks. We are here today in solidarity to send a simple, clear message to the Government – we cannot take any more," Ms Guinan said.