Students from around Ireland took to the streets of Dublin today in protest to the ongoing housing crisis and to highlight the struggles of finding student accommodation in the city. Organised by the Union of Students Ireland, the protest drew crowds from many of Ireland’s third-level institutions including, Dublin Institute of Technology, Trinity College and NUI Maynooth and Galway.
Pierre Yimbog, president of the DIT students union said, “there was a great turnout … we brought a good number of students and show that students do still believe that accommodation is a huge crisis that they should stand up and fight against.” He spoke of the success students have had with protesting in the past, in particular the issue of last year’s student-loans scheme which was ultimately scrapped following action from Ireland’s students.
With over 10,000 people in attendance, the atmosphere at the protest was electric. It was clear that students are tired of the state of the housing market and were ready to demand change.
Yimbog was adamant that if nothing changes “students will continue to rally and continue to protest” and when the next general election comes around “TDs that don’t believe in what students really need, students won’t be voted for them”.
There was widespread disruption to traffic and public transport in the inner-city as students marched from the Garden of Remembrance to Leinster House.
A driver with Dublin Bus commented on the protest. “I totally agree with it yes, when there’s an inconvenience caused it tends to get recognised more,” he said. He has himself felt the effects of the housing crisis. “I’ve been trying to save for a mortgage, and it’s taken me years longer than it should have, given the price of the rents and the likes of that so it affects everybody,”
The housing crisis had been on the forefront of many people’s minds over the last number of years. Rent prices have also seen an increase. According to the Daft quarterly report released in May 2018, the cost of renting has hit a new record high. Rent for properties on daft.ie has risen nationwide by an average of 11.5% in recent months. The average monthly rent across the country at the end of March 2018 was €1,261.
Students are particularly affected. Many, unable to afford accommodation in the city, now have to commute long distances to college. Some students are forced to live in substandard accommodation in cramped and often run-down buildings.
Siona Cahill, President of the Union of students Ireland, spoke at the protest today saying “we have not built enough student accommodation to cover this increase [in numbers of students expected to attend college by 2019] nevermind the shortage that currently exists. Those living in ‘digs’ must be afforded clear rights as a matter of urgency,”
Leo Varadkar has acknowledged there is a serious issues but insisted that “calling it an emergency does not actually solve the problem”.
With no clear solution on the horizon and the possibility of a General Election in the near future, the Government are scrambling to find a way to alleviate the pressure on the housing market, and the general public must take a long, hard look at their TDs and who they support in the next election. In the meantime it appears as though this crisis will continue for the foreseeable future.
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