Indeed, the militant mass protests of young people have won a groundswell of support from workers and others who are also feeing the pain of wage cuts, job losses and cuts in services. The determined action of young people has had such support that the ConDem had to quickly retreat and make concessions, showing in the process that serious cracks can quickly appear in the government.
In Belfast and Derry, thousands of students walked out of school and university, to demonstrate and make their voices heard. The politicians in Stormont have a fight on their hands if they think of raising tuition fees or touching EMA. About 1,500 gathered outside Belfast City Hall and about 500 have joined walk-outs in Derry even though the vote at Westminster did not directly apply to Northern Ireland. The main road in front Belfast City Hall was blocked for hours. Guildhall Square in Derry was occupied. Young people have correctly responded in solidarity with young people in Britain. And it is clear that the politicians in the Assembly are sharpening their knives in preparation of carrying out further cuts to education in the North, raise tuition fees and even cut the EMA.
Fight the Assembly’s attacks on education
The Assembly Executive has had four years to scrap fees and introduce a living grant for all students. They have done nothing to alleviate the pressure on students. Instead they have introduced significant cuts to education budgets. In January 2010, £102.4 million was cut from education budgets. The Draft Budget announced in January 2011 contains further cuts of £67.1 million in the Department of Education over the next 4 years. ALL the parties in the Executive voted for these cuts and none of them can be trusted!
Minister for Employment & Learning Danny Kennedy has stated he wants to keep fees in line with Westminster. Even though local MP’s voted against the Westminster legislation, the Executive parties can very quickly find themselves voting through the same attacks on education in Stormont – just as the Lib Dem’s changed their tune when they got into power.
Mass action required not lobbying
The strategy of the National Union of Students to appeal to the better nature of politicians has failed miserably. Socialist Youth believes school students and university students must get organised in every school and college and organise against the cuts. The Northern Ireland Student Assembly needs to bring together students from all schools and colleges to co-ordinate protest action, including further mass walk-outs and occupations.