Students from across Ireland marched through Dublin on Wednesday, demanding the government increase spending to expand student accommodation and reduce student contribution fees.
According to RTE news, over 300 people took to the streets to signal the urgent need for more student accommodation.
Eoin Dowd, a first-year university of Galway student, described the housing situation to SIN as “brutal.”
“Currently I am in a dig. I have applied for three or four privately owned and on-campus accommodations, and did not get into any of them.”
Eoin said the government is not doing enough to address the situation. “People should not have to rely on overpriced private accommodation. Government and state should fund reliable, consistent places for students to live.”
Cost of accommodation was another point of contention from the protesters. “I’m paying too much for accommodation,” said Chirag, a postgrad cyber security student in the University of Galway. “Compared to other parts of Europe, Ireland has huge rental prices.”
Speaking to the crowd at Dublin, the University of Galway Students’ Union President Dean Kenny stressed that the students are not demanding for drastic measures.
“We are not asking for much. We are asking for access for basic facilities, for our basic human rights to be met. We say we have free education in this county; it is not the case. There are hidden barriers, there are additional costs that the government refuses to acknowledge.”
Eoin Dowd described being at the protest as “exhilarating. There’s a collective want to see change.”
The Irish Student’s Union spearheaded the protest, demanding that for less than 5% of the Government’s €65bn “Rainy Day Fund” be allocated to student needs. Sinn Féin TD Mairéad Farrell, Labour TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin and People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett joined the event in solidarity with students.
“The only way this government is going to be forced to listen and do right by students, is if we build a movement of student power on the streets that puts unbearable pressure on this government,” Barrett said to a cheering crowd.
Speaking to students’ demands, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said students “will not be forgotten” in next year’s budget. “Just since this time last year, there are approximately 900 additional student beds in publicly funded higher education institutions with an additional 2,000 being provided by the private sector.”
However, the recent housing survey revealed that student accommodation in Galway remains lacking.
“Out of 2,000 University of Galway students, over 30% of those respondents had not found suitable accommodation. These ranged from sleeping on friends’ couches, to living in hostels, commuting long distances every day, or simply not having a place to stay,” Kelly says. “For students, it’s raining right now, and it’s time for meaningful change.”
SIN reached out to Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív for comment, but received no response by time of publication.
“Many students have protested in years past, but there’s been no action taken,” said Chirag. Still, he remained determined to try. “We will try our best and do something for future students.”