Clashes between gardaí and protesters broke out today after tens of thousands of students held a march in Dublin city centre against increases in registration fees.
About 2,000 people gathered on Merrion Row close to the Department of Finance after the main march on Leinster House.
Bricks, eggs and placards were thrown at the building and a group of about 20 protesters made it inside. Gardaí later ejected them.
Gardaí in riot gear drew their batons and mounted officers were deployed during clashes with the main body of protesters. A number of people suffered injuries during the violence.
The clashes broke out at approximately 3pm and lasted until 3.45pm when the students were pushed in the direction of St Stephen's Green. Some people were injured during scuffles with gardaí on Merrion Row, while three gardaí received medical attention after being injured by objects thrown by protestors. One garda has been admitted to hospital with a broken nose, the other two gardaí were treated at the scene.
A garda spokesperson said 50 people entered the lobby of the Department of Finance on Merrion Row but were removed a short time later by gardaí. Meanwhile, the Socialist Workers Party has accused gardaí of assaulting some of their members and other protestors. Spokesperson Karl Gill, a student at University College Dublin, said gardaí had aggravated a peaceful sit-in at the Department of Finance this afternoon. Mr Gill said a small number of protestors who had occupied the Department were forcibly removed by gardaí. He also alleged that one protestor had his head stamped on by a garda member and he says another female protestor was 'attacked' by a garda dog.Mr Gill says six arrests have been made which the Socialist Workers Party is claiming were unlawful.
Up to 25,000 students from colleges across the State had joined today's march and one section of the crowd held a sit-down protest at the gates of Leinster House on Kildare Street. The sit-down protest passed off peacefully.
The Union of Students of Ireland, which organised the protest, distanced itself from those who occupied the Department of Finance.
"USI is saddened by the actions of a small minority of people who staged a sit-in protest at the Dept of Finance, shortly after the USI protest march today. This anti-social behaviour was completely separate from USI’s demo," it said in a statement.
An estimated 40,000 people marched to Merrion Square, where they were addressed by student leaders. The last big student march was in 2008 when 15,000 people took to the streets.
The union said any attempt to impose cuts on students will meet with strong opposition. USI says thousands of students will be forced to drop-out of college if the registration fee rises again.
The Taoiseach refused to be drawn in the Dáil this morning on whether third-level fees would be introduced or capitation fees increased in the forthcoming Budget.
He also rounded on the Labour Party decision to abolish third-level fees, branding it 'not very socially progressive'. Brian Cowen said it was imperative that all areas would be considered for reductions and no area could be ring fenced or immune to cuts.
The Taoiseach said he could not divulge what was being discussed at Cabinet but no decisions had yet been taken. A good discussion was ongoing in relation to such matters, he added.
The Taoiseach was responding to Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore who said there was a commitment in the revised programme for government which said there would be no new scheme of student contribution for third-level education. He said that had been interpreted by the Green Party as meaning that fees would not be reintroduced by the backdoor by way of an increase in the student registration fee.
Mr Gilmore said the revised programme was produced in an economic environment that was not radically different from now.
He said it did not make sense to put more obstacles in the way of young people continuing education.
Mr Cowen accused the Labour Party of abolishing third-level fees for all in an attempt to hold onto its middle-class vote.
The Cabinet is considering other education cuts too, among them, Department of Education sources say class size at primary and second-level is likely to be increased.
USI president Gary Redmond said a rise in the registration fee would have a major impact on students.
“I think we’re looking at a horrendous situation where parents and families are going to have to decide which, if any, of their children can go to college in future.”
As well as the registration fee, which currently stands at €1,500, Mr Redmond noted that individual colleges also charged an additional levy of between €150 and €350 for student centres and other facilities.
I was at the protest today, and I'm pissed off that legitimate discourse has been overshadowed by all of this. Ireland is run by a company of fools.
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