Thursday, 30 June 2011

To Be A Student And Not A Revolutionary Is A Contradiction

It was Salvador Allende who once said "To be a student and not a revolutionary is a contradiction."  The logic of this statement seems to have been lost on the current bunch of hacks that run our national student's union, the Union of Students Ireland (USI). Yesterday (29/6/11), their ineptness to lead students in a fightback against EU / IMF brokered package of  austerity was illustrated clearly by two different events.  Early yesterday morning, the USI put out the following statement on its' Facebook page

"USI welcomes the 'Job Bridge- The National Internship Scheme' which will provide 5,000 people who are at least three months unemployed with a 6 or 9 month internship in a host organisation."

This is a scheme that will provide "internships" of 6 to 9 months to people who have been unemployed for more than 3 months. The scheme is not restricted to graduates so anyone on the dole can apply. For the "internship", participants will receive a paltry €50 per week on top of their dole for working a full week.  Apparently their has been huge interest from the private sector about this initiative. Of course there has been!! It is a slave labour scheme which will see businesses get employees for up to 9 months for just €50 per week. By taking on these "interns", these companies will have no need to create 'real jobs' and the wages and conditions of other employees across the economy will suffer because of it. This slave labour scheme will cost the government €20 million. This money would have been better spent creating real jobs in the economy. The fact that our national students union supports this is beyond belief, and this point was expressed by different FEE members on the comment section of the USI's statement.

Cue the RTE Six OClock News and we see Gary (Vote Fianna Fail For Jobs) Redmond, the USI President saying that this initiative was a bad idea, as graduates have to wait 3 months on the dole before applying for a place. Now I am not suggesting that FEE members forced Redmond to tone down his support of the scheme, but it seems that the USI has no coherent response to this slave labour scheme that the government has implemented as part of its "jobs strategy." 

Later in the afternoon I learned that the the USI planned to hold a protest outside the Labour Party HQ about the fact that they had been sold out by education Minister Ruair√≠ Quinn, who had signed a pre-election pledge with then not to cut grants or increase fees. Now this type of action is one that FEE supports, however by holding a low-level protest that has not been advertised to students, in the middle of the summer, what were the USI hoping to achieve? The USI has the power to mobilise thousands of students to protests, yet it refuses to use this power and instead engages in 'token protests' at Labour Party HQ. This approach will achieve nothing.  The USI needs to mobilise tens of thousands of students onto the streets in late September to march to the Dail to show this FG / Lab government that picking up where Fianna Fail left off is just not good enough for Irish students.  The attacks on education must be resisted, with students joining forces with  University, Secondary and Primary School staff and parents who have have been the victims of this vicious austerity.

FEE branches across the country will be at the forefront of the struggle against cutbacks in education. We urge all students to stand up for your right to a free education, and join us in the fightbacks that lay ahead. If the USI will not represent its' members, then its' members need to stand up and represent themselves.

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