Over 100 students from Athlone Institute of Technology descended on the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone on Monday this week to stage a protest to coincide with the Fianna Fail ‘think in’ taking place at the hotel.
The students wished to raise awareness of their fears as the deadline drew to a close for the Cabinet to submit proposals to Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe about the possible reintroduction of third level fees.
AIT Students Union had a number of presents for the Minister, including 600 mock emigration forms signed by students from the college who feel they will have no choice but to emigrate should a graduate tax or a deferred loan system be brought into place.
There were also 1,000 letters to the Minister signed by Leaving Certificate students from Longford, Westmeath, and Roscommon, stating their worries about progressing to third level education.
Two representatives from the Students Union were then allowed to enter the hotel and hand in these presents. On entering the hotel they were met by the Education Minister himself, who accepted the letters and emigration forms.
During the brief encounter with the Minister he reiterated that no decisions had been made yet, and that hopefully there would be a definitive answer in the next month.
President of AIT Students Union, Gary Cassin, while empathising with the situation the Government is in, reminded the Minister that it is the Government who boast of the importance of a knowledge economy, and that the students of the country are the future and cannot be punished for the mistakes in the banking and construction industries.
On leaving the hotel the students were commended by members of the Gardai for their good behaviour while carrying out the protest.