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University Times: USI Plans Walk Out Over Cost of Living and Accommodation Crises

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is planning a student walkout this Thursday, October 13th, at 11.11am. The walkout has been planned in coordination with students’ unions around the country, including Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU). Students have been asked to walk out of their classes and gather for a demonstration at the Dining Hall steps.

USI and TCDSU claim that students are being left “homeless”, or with no other choice but to “drop out”, because of the joint fiscal pressures of the cost of living and student accommodation crises.

In terms of student accommodation, the organisers are demanding affordable accommodation for students at university, reduced rents and protection for renters. For the cost of living crisis, the demands are to abolish fees, make the minimum wage the living wage and for higher education to be fully and adequately funded.

Both the USI and TCDSU are encouraging students taking part in the demonstration to “put pressure on your TD” to fulfil the demands of the walkout.

The walkout was organised in response to the government’s Budget 2023, which USI President Beth O’Reilly called a “missed opportunity”. O’Reilly was reacting to the announcement of a once-off reduction of €1,000 to the student contribution charge for 2023.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

The USI has criticised the government for not doing enough when it comes to supporting students through the cost of living and housing crises. Though it “welcomed” this once-off reduction in the student contribution charge, it accused the government of leaving students in uncertainty as the reduction is only guaranteed for the next fiscal year. Taoiseach Micheál Martin called the budget “fair and progressive” in response to criticism from opposition parties.

Over the summer, Trinity distributed leaflets to local Dublin residents, asking them to consider renting out a room in their homes to Trinity students to help ease the student accommodation crisis. Provost Linda Doyle admitted in a speech in July that “a shortage of affordable housing is freezing people out of higher education and eroding university life”.

A report released in June by Eurostat, the European Commission’s data analysis wing, showed Ireland to be the joint most expensive EU country for cost of living. Among the paper’s findings were that the cost of housing in Ireland was 88.5 per cent above the EU average whilst the cost of utility bills in Ireland was 88 per cent above the EU average.

As of August 2022, the annual rate of inflation in Ireland rose 8.7 per cent, down from 9.6 per cent in July, a thirty-eight year high.

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