By Aoife Coppinger
On 13 October, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), has called for a walkout to protest the cost-of-living crisis and its devastating impact on students. The Socialist Party supports the USI’s call and will be participating in the walkouts that happen on campuses across Ireland.
Young people in Ireland are currently facing a horrific accommodation crisis and inflation causing the cost of food, fuel and other necessities to rise. As winter sets in and energy prices soar, a large number of students paying already extortionate rents simply won’t be able to afford to live anymore.
Sleeping in cars
There are countless examples of students sleeping in cars, couch surfing, or commuting for hours every day to be able to attend college. This reality for students in Ireland is adversely affecting people’s access to third-level education, putting immense strain on their ability to learn and participate fully in college life.
Under these circumstances, it is no surprise that more than 70% of young people aged 18-24 are considering emigrating because they think they would enjoy a better quality of life elsewhere, according to research by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI).
Urgent action required
Recently, we have seen 5,000 people protest the cost of living crisis in Cork, and 15,000 attend the national protest in Dublin the following weekend, with many travelling from across the country to attend, including many students. These protests highlight the growing level of discontent and anger in society among workers and young people, and the beginnings of working-class people standing up against what are in reality attacks on their living standards. Urgent actions are needed now to resist these attacks and make third level accessible for everyone who wants to avail of it;
· Build public on-campus accommodation and slash rents to affordable levels
· No more extortionate travel costs – free and expanded public transport
· Students can’t afford to live – raise the minimum wage to €17 an hour to meet the spiralling costs of inflation
· Ireland currently has the highest university fees in Europe – abolish all fees and introduce free third-level education accessible to all
For real gains to be made for students and young people, they need to organise from below on campuses, in their workplaces and communities, alongside other working-class people organising against the cost of living crisis. The strike waves in Britain and the North are inspiring examples that prove that workers can and will fight back.
Students should support and fight for all demands that will better the lives of working-class people more broadly, such as calls to nationalise the energy companies under the democratic control of workers and communities, and for the mass building of public housing for all.
A capitalist crisis
The pursuit of profit and the chaos of the market are what’s fuelling this crisis. More than enough wealth exists globally to meet the needs of all, but under capitalism, this wealth will always be concentrated in the hands of a minuscule minority of the super-rich. Ireland’s billionaires’ wealth went up by €16 billion since the pandemic.
While our wealth shrinks, their wealth grows even further. This is not a coincidence. Capitalist crises like the cost of living crisis, the housing crisis, the climate crisis, wars and so on will continue unless we completely break with this inhumane system, and fight for a world where workers, young people and all the oppressed democratically run society to ensure the needs of all are met. This is the socialist world we need to fight for.