On Tuesday, barely a dozen students from Dublin City University Students’ Union (DCUSU) turned up to the union’s own protest against price hikes for student accommodation on Kildare St. It was an embarrassment for several reasons, but not least of all because a number of politicians, including Darragh O’Brien, Fianna Fáil’s housing spokesperson, and Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, had made their way out of the oasis that is Leinster House to support the demonstration, which didn’t even start on time.
One of the biggest issues for the student movement in recent years has been its struggle to be taken seriously by the country’s political classes. The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has made little or no substantive progress when it comes to expediting a decision on higher education funding – not to mention one that will actually be favourable to students. To what extent this is the fault of USI’s lobbying efforts is up for debate, considering the chronically under-engaged cohort of the population the union purports to represent.
But that’s kind of the point. Politicians in Ireland really orbit only one nucleus: that of the average voter.
So far, students haven’t convinced anyone that they actually make their way to the country’s ballot boxes in sufficient numbers, save for when marriage equality and, presumably, repeal of the eighth amendment are concerned. On Tuesday, DCUSU undoubtedly convinced a few politicians that students can’t even turn up to their own protest.
Though it may already be a few years since students “rocked the vote”, it’s only a few weeks since the perseverance of students captured the nation’s attention. Take Back Trinity achieved its aims in a kind of resplendent fashion that hadn’t been seen in decades. They say a week is a long time in politics because political fortunes can flatline in a matter of days, but also because the memories of those who shape the country are short.
DCUSU should make sure it doesn’t make it seem like the fervour of students is already in danger of petering out.