Students at NUI Galway, University College Dublin, NUI Cork and elsewhere have been involved in occupations of their universities in response to spiralling rents. The conditions being faced by students in Ireland will be immediately familiar to students in Britain.
Following the decision of NUI Galway to implement a 4% rent increase on student accommodation, we will be occupying the quadrangle day and night until it this decision is revoked.#ReduceTheRents #FreezeThe4 #BreakTheBarriers pic.twitter.com/WjHJvs0mf2
— Cian Mortimer 🏴 (@cian_mort) February 27, 2020
The Marxist Student Federation spoke to one occupier, Cian Mortimer, at NUI Galway about the occupations:
“For a long time the price of accommodation on the campus has been ridiculous, but it has now been announced that the rent will be increased by 4%. That is the maximum that landlords are allowed to increase rents in ‘rent pressure zones’ by law.
“I’m personally a member of People Before Profit, but students from various political societies at NUI Galway responded by coming together to erecting tents in the main quadrangle and occupying the building where the university president’s office is located. At any one time there are twenty students at the occupation. We will occupy the building day and night until our demands are met.
“People have to travel all over the country to go to University. If they can no longer afford to rent, they will be limited in where they can choose to study by the need to continue living with their parents. I for example have an hour and a half commute to get to University. Others are being priced out of third level education entirely.
“I am in touch with the others carrying out a similar occupation in Dublin, and there is an occupation Cork too. We are in the early stages of trying to connect this up into a national movement.”
These occupations are taking place in the context of a growing radicalisation in Ireland. This was reflected in the success of Sinn Féin at the election. The latter were able to top the polls on the basis of promising – among other things – 100,000 new homes. As capitalism has returned to a boom once more, house prices are spiralling out of control and wages are failing to keep up. Despite the boom, one right-wing government after another has been making workers and youth pay for the last crisis. The crisis never ended for workers and youth. Austerity and the marketisation of education are part of a class war being carried on by the bosses and their governments. As Cian explained:
“Tuition fees are still covered by the government in Ireland but in the last decades we have seen the introduction of so-called ‘registration fees’ that have now spiralled to over €3,000 a year, as well as a mandatory ‘student levy’ and other charges. It is the abolition of free education by the back door.
“Students have now reacted with disgust at an increase of rent in the middle of a housing crisis. NUI Galway and the company which runs the accommodation are supposed to be charities but it is quite clear that they are being run for profit. The occupation shows that there’s a will for change among young people.
“This is something we saw clearly in the election. Since its foundation the state has had only two parties in power, both representing the same centre-right, neoliberal politics. But there’s a shift now. Young people aren’t going to accept the status quo anymore.”
The Marxist Student Federation sends a message of solidarity from Marxist students at universities across Britain to the student occupations in Ireland. Sign the petition here: