Today, October 4th, hundreds of Irish students marched from The Garden of Remembrance to the Dáil, urging the government to use the €65 billion budget surplus to alleviate the cost of living and rental crises for students.
The protest coincided with the USI’s Pre-Budget Submission, which was reportedly sent to every TD in Ireland. This year the government has a budget surplus of €10 billion which is predicted to climb to €65 billion by 2025.
Various unions, university staff and government opposition parties were in attendance. Professor Rory Hearne, Senior Lecturer of Social Policy in Maynooth University and author of Gaffs: Why No One Can Get a House, and What We Can Do About It, was the first to address the crowd at the main stage outside the Dáil.
Hearne stated: “The housing crisis is forcing students to drop out of college. The quality of education is reduced. College days are supposed to be the best days of your life. Now it’s a nightmare.”
He further contended that “the housing crisis is caused by government policy”.
Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) President Chris Clifford asserted that students are being priced out of university and demanded that the government put “the billions into building homes now”.
He continued: “Just to put the figures on it, rental figures have increased by 100% since 2011. They’ve increased by 60% since 2020. Reinstate the eviction ban, freeze rents […] there are so many solutions to this housing crisis. There are 160,000 vacant homes. There are so many thousands of Airbnbs. If the government wanted to address this crisis they could.”
Dean Kenny, the Students’ Union President of the University of Galway, spoke of having organised a student sleep out in “pissing rain” at Eyre Square in September to highlight student homelessness. Kenny said: “This crisis is not limited to any one place. It’s felt all over the country.”
Kenny noted a survey conducted by the University of Galway Students’ Union (UoGSU) taken by 2000 students. Of the 2000 surveyed, 600 students reported living in unsuitable housing conditions, such as living in hostels, couchsurfing or sleeping in cars.
Other topics addressed at the protest included the lack of Irish language teaching available for students in secondary and tertiary education in Ireland, the voting power of students and the inclusion of housing as a human right in the Irish Constitution.
TCDSU President László Molnárfi stated in his speech that “88% of students worry about finances”. He continued: “The system is not working. It’s time to say enough is enough. This is no longer about opposition to a government that does not care about us; it is about building resistance.”
USI’s Pre-Budget Submission asks for 5% of the government’s budget surplus to help fund students in higher education. Should this demand not be met, the Union plans to further escalate action.