Minister 'right to restrain protesting student'

A Government minister today insisted he was right to restrain a protesting student after a noisy demonstration over education cutbacks turned nasty.

Minister for Community, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs Eamon Ó Cuív stepped in and grabbed a protester after he and his secretary were confronted by a 50-strong crowd.

Mr Ó Cuív held one of the students by the arms after his party was pushed against a wall as they entered the Quadrangle of NUI Galway last night.

“There was a bunch of students who wouldn’t let the minister in so the university security brought them up to another door,” a spokeswoman for Mr Ó Cuív said.

“They were going up there when they were stormed by about 50 students.”

The spokeswoman claimed the threatening crowd, who were protesting over Budget education cutbacks, crushed Mr Ó Cuív’s secretary against a wall and kicked her.

“The secretary was squashed up against the wall with students kicking her and one of them waving a big stick at her,” the spokeswoman said.

Mr Ó Cuív was at NUI Galway for the official launch of a new €50m engineering building at the university by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe.

One of the protestors, who claimed he did not see the the secretary, suggested the demonstration only turned sour when Mr Ó Cuív stepped in.

It is the second protest targeting Mr Ó Cuív in the last week after 30 students stormed and occupied his constituency office for more than an hour last Thursday.

Mr Ó Cuív was not there at the time but a number of female staff members were at work at the time. The secretary, who is aged in her 20s, said some of those protestors were at last night’s event.

It is understood a taxi driver who brought Mr Ó Cuív and his secretary to NUI Galway alerted gardaí.

The protest was organised in collaboration between the NUI Galway Students’ Union, and the group FEE (Free Education for Everyone), which was recently set-up in the University.

It was supported by NUIG Labour Youth, Ogra Sinn Féin, Young Greens and Young Fine Gael.

Student Breandan MacGabhann claimed it was a peaceful protest.

“We were blocking the ministers from gaining entrance to the building, with the intended message if they are going to block people from getting a quality education with the budget cutbacks, then we will block their entrance to the college,” Mr MacGabhann said.

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