Students: Fees will lead to another ‘brain drain’

Students: Fees will lead to another ‘brain drain’

Around 60 students from Athlone Institute of Technology have staged a protest against introduction of third level fees at the Fianna Fáil think-in today.

The students were allowed into the hotel grounds for the brief protest.

President of the college’s students union Gary Cassin handed 600 emigration forms, which he said were from students who would leave Ireland if fees were brought in, to Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe.

“It’s a no brainer,” he said. “There’s going to be another brain drain if these fees go ahead.”

Mr Cassin said students would be expected to drive the future economy and shouldn’t be punished for the mistakes of the construction and banking industries.

Security remained tight at the two-day event in the Hodson Bay Hotel outside Athlone after hundreds of protesting farmers attempted to storm the building during the morning.

The Gardaí were forced to lock down the hotel when around 200 demonstrators, angry at agriculture cutbacks, broke through security barriers as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan arrived in his ministerial Mercedes.

About 50 gardaí, including trained riot officers with their batons drawn, fought to contain the surge as plain clothes detectives helped usher Mr Lenihan inside.

One protester was rugby-tackled to the ground as he ran towards the hotel while another bus-load of farmers that had just arrived were prevented from leaving the coach.

Tensions were eased only after Fianna Fáil officials vowed to arrange a meeting between Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Padraig Walshe and Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith.

A high-profile Garda security operation, including three vehicle checkpoints on the way into the hotel and Garda water unit patrols of the surrounding Lough Ree, will remain in place until tomorrow.

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