By Nathan Molloy
In the past month, there have been a number of student protests about the high cost of accommodation across the country.
Recently, students at the University of Galway marched from the Quadrangle on the campus to Eyre Square to highlight the issues facing young people studying in the city.
They then spent the night camping out at Eyre Square.
Earlier in the month, students at Trinity College Dublin blocked the entrance to the famous book of Kells to holidaymakers for the same reason as their Galway counterparts.
So, the main question that arises from these protests is: Why are students protesting about accommodation and what do they hope to achieve?
Rising costs of accommodation
An article by The Irish Times has revealed that the prices for on-campus accommodation at most Irish universities have risen in the past year.
Dublin-based universities such as DCU, UCD, and Trinity College have increased their prices by 2%, which is the maximum amount permissible by existing Rent Pressure Zone Legislation.
The University of Galway was an exception and actually decreased its accommodation prices for this academic year. However, the higher level institution has faced criticism of its new on-campus accommodation, Dunlin Village’s prices.
Students looking to stay in the new village would be paying between €816 and €962 per month.
Inaction by the Government
The government has faced criticism from students for their inaction with the rising costs.
The Rainy Day Fund which was set up in 2019 by the Irish government in case of an emergency has €6 billion in reserve. Many young people think that this fund should be used to make studying in Ireland’s universities more affordable.
The government has recently supported student accommodation builds.
On 7 March this year, the Minister of Higher and Further Education, Simon Harris announced a state investment of more than €40 million to deliver 405 student beds at DCU.
This investment helps in making the prices of student accommodation cheaper as the university would not have to pay the full price for the construction therefore reducing the need for very high rents to pay it back.
An ‘investment in young people’
Speaking at the announcement in March, Harris stated that delivering more accommodation for students is at the heart of the policy.
It was also announced that the government is working on similar projects at UCD, Trinity, and UCC.
“At the heart of this policy is a commitment to deliver more student accommodation,” he said.
“This is a policy departure for the State but we firmly believe an investment in student accommodation is an investment in our young people.”
With the Union of Students Ireland’s protests set to take place on Wednesday, 4 October, the government is set to get a timely reminder of its promise to students.