December last year, 11 members of the anti-fees campaign group Free Education for Everyone including three Socialist Youth members, occupied the constituency office of Paul Gogarty, the Green Party Spokesperson for Education, in Lucan. This was in protest at education cuts and the threat of college fees.
By Rita Ann Harrold, Dublin Socialist Youth
After a few hours, Gardai forced open the door with a battering ram and the protesters were arrested. After being photographed, fingerprinted, strip searched, questioned and generally intimidated all were released without charge.
Ten months later all protesters were asked to go to Lucan Garda station to receive adult cautions. We decided to fight the attempt to criminalise our peaceful protest. A fantastic solidarity campaign was started. Many e-mails and phone calls were made to both the Gardaí and Paul Gogarty himself (who made no attempt to stop the Gardaí from cautioning or even charging us.) The support we received from all over the world successfully rattled Gogarty and the Gardaí. Members of the Socialist Party in Australia even threatened to occupy the Irish embassy if Gogarty didn’t support the protesters! Solidarity assisted in the cautions being dropped and no action will now be taken against the protesters.
As this crisis continues it is essential that we fight all attempts to criminalise protests. College fees may not be in store while this government remains in power but the registration fee could rise at any time and cutbacks in primary secondary and third level must be fought.
A huge thank you to all those who participated in the solidarity campaign.