A walk out staged by the Union of Students in Ireland this morning saw third-level students across the country walking out of lectures at 11.11am to protest the accommodation and cost-of-living crises
By Ellen Cornelius
From 11am on Thursday morning, October 20, students gathered with placards in the plaza of the University of Limerick (UL) to protest the increasing financial pressures students face.
The move was part of a nationwide walkout staged by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
Despite not being a member of the USI, the Postgraduate Student Union (PSU) fully supported the walk out, encouraging both students and faculty members to join in.
With nearly two hundred people in attendance at the walk out, PSU President Louis Pemble spoke to the crowd: “None of this is normal, and that’s why we’re here. €450 plus in rent is not normal, four hour commutes a day is not normal.
“PhD stipends equating to less than minimum wage is not normal, searching for accommodation nine months in advance is not normal.”
“Today we are saying not only is it not normal, it is not acceptable. The failures of successive government policy and higher education authority policy has led to suffering across all levels of education and today we repeat our call for decisive meaningful effective action.”
Echoing the demands of USI, Pemble called for an immediate eviction ban, protections for students in short-term rentals and digs, the utilisation of public funds to build student accommodation and the abolishment of the student contribution fee.
His speech was met with chants of “Enough is enough” and “Gaffs not greed”.
UL students also took to the microphone to voice their frustrations with many referencing the lack of accommodation as their number one concern.
Andrew Doyle, a second year UL student, said: “I am speaking to international students, people who came to this country with a promise of better education, a promise of a better life and they are paying upwards of €820 a month just to live, just to have the privilege of attending this University.”
The Community Action Tenancy Union (CATU) were also present at the walk out.
UL student and CATU representative Tim Hannon said: “Students are being priced out of life. It’s no longer a housing crisis we’re dealing with, it’s a humanitarian crisis. In one of wealthiest countries on earth, people are now living in tents.”
“Our own university is also guilty of letting buildings go vacant while students and working people go homeless.
“In 2016 UL purchased the Park Point Complex, also known as Travel Lodge, for €4.1m. The upper four floors of the building remain empty at the moment, these should be retrofitted immediately, and students should be accommodated in these four floors.”
The walkout was well-supported in colleges across Ireland, with hundreds of students in Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City College, University College Cork and University of Galway also walking out.