University of Galway students joined their peers across the country this month in walking out of classes to protest against high rents, accommodation shortages and the soaring cost of living.
Lecture halls were emptied as over 300 of people descended on the Concourse to make their voices heard.
Spirits were high as the significant turnout proved a welcome surprise for those who took the step of walking out to express their feelings.
Student and Social Democrat National Executive member Seán Burke was in attendance and was motivated by success of the event.
“There was a great turnout. It was certainly energising to see so many people that are sick of this. Seeing all the young people wanting to register to vote is a good sign for the future.”
He has little faith that the current government will listen to young people’s concerns but hopes that protests will cultivate change into the future.
“Obviously we want the government to act but they’ve a track record of not listening and not caring so I doubt these protests will change that.
“What these protests could change is what the next government looks like by mobilising and energising young people to get out and vote and campaign.”
Seán said students’ short-term demands include rent freezes, more housing and increases to SUSI grants.
University of Galway Students’ Union Mature Students’ Officer Benjamin George admitted he was worried he’d be one of just a few people at the protest.
“When I was leaving my own lecture there was a lot of people, I was half afraid I’d be one of the few people. Then actually following them, they all came here to the protest so that was a great experience.”
He said that though protests can be “quite unpopular in Ireland” he hoped that this campaign might buck the trend.
“People generally have a reticence to stand out, be heard and be seen. But when you have a national campaign like this one that’s generated quite a lot of publicity, hopefully it will generate interest and will continue to build on the successes of the cost of living protests.”
He said problems the problems facing students are “institutionalised and systemic” and that more work must be done to solve them.
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris acknowledged the hardship faced by students and said they were right to make a point on the rising cost of living by protesting.
However he pointed out that Budget 2023 represents a “direct recognition” of the conditions students are fighting against and government’s effort to “change that reality”.