Third level students across Galway are holding an accommodation protest in Eyre Square today to highlight the ongoing student accommodation crisis.
Protesters will meet at the University of Galway Campus at 6pm. They will then march to Eyre Square and set up camp for the night.
The Student’s Union at the University of Galway organised the sleep out in support of the many students that can’t find housing for the academic year.
The Union is also using the protest as a platform to call on the Government, to intervene and find solutions for the Galway students that are currently homeless.
Imogen O’Flaherty Falconer is the Vice President and Welfare and Equality Officer with the Student Union, at the University of Galway. Speaking to Galway Pulse she explained the union have a number of demands for the Government.
List of demands for Government
Earlier this month members of the University of Galway Student Union, presented Higher Education Minister Simon Harris, with a letter of demands.
Fast forward to today, and the same demands will be reiterated at the protest.
The demands include legislation to protect tenants living in digs, rent caps, and building state funded student accommodation.
Ms O’Flaherty Falconer explained: “Increasingly we are seeing the state sell off public land to private investors. They build whatever they want. That’s how we end up with buildings like the Westwood charging something ridiculous for studio apartments.
“If it was state funded, it wouldn’t be all about making ridiculous amounts of profit.”
The impact of the accommodation crisis on students
The lack of student accommodation in the city is having an impact on current and prospective students alike.
In the University of Galway, “92 students have deferred this year due to accommodation,” said Ms O’Flaherty Falconer. “But the Government tends to stick their heads in the sand.
“I’m hoping when the pictures go up in the media of students protesting by sleeping in tents, people will see this is actually a real issue. It is affecting real people. They are not just figures, they have faces.”
Ms O’Flaherty Falconer added the symbol of the tent has extra meaning behind it. “Sleeping in a tent is actually reality for some students right now. I think we have all seen that picture going around Facebook of the German Erasmus student who is sleeping in a tent because they couldn’t find accommodation.”
For Ms O’Flaherty Falconer, it is real life student stories like these, that motivates her to protest today.
“There are people paying €800 to stay five days a week in someone else’s house…I’m angry about this. You should be angry about this. If it hasn’t affected you, it’s affected your friends, neighbours and family. So, I think it’s really important to show solidarity today.”