Free Education for Everyone held its first National Conference on Saturday, January 31st. Over forty student activists traveled from UCD, TCD, Maynooth, Galway, Limerick and Cork.
The morning’s session was devoted to an internal debate on what kind of campaign is needed to defeat fees, reports from the five FEE branches around the country updating everyone on their recent activity and a discussion on developing a national structure for the campaign. A public forum entitled "How can we defeat fees?" followed with a panel consisting of Dave Curran, Vice-President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Aidan McGrath, chairperson of the National Youth Organisation, Julian Brophy (UCD FEE) and Aine Mannion (Galway FEE).
February 4th saw the long anticipated 'National Day of Action against Student Fees’ organized by USI. FEE put a lot of effort into building for this protest - both to ensure the biggest attendance possible, and to make crucial points about the need to go beyond this demonstration, and build a real movement across the country that can genuinely defeat fees. In the end, a slightly lower than expected but positive number of 15,000 students and supporters marched through the streets of Dublin.
At the end of the protest, FEE led a three hundred strong breakaway march to the Dail where a token sit-down protest was held for just over an hour. Afterwards, the group went en masse to the USI 'campaign training' open meeting in the Dublin Institute of Technology where we made the point that February 4th should be the start and not the end of the campaign to defeat fees. Interestingly, in his speech Dave Curran mentioned the possibility of a one day nationwide third level education shut down, a tactic that FEE had been encouraging USI to take for weeks.
With Batt O'Keefe bringing his proposal for third level fees to cabinet in April, time is not on our side. Get involved, email FEE at firstname.lastname@example.org