Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Defiant Belfast student who threw eggs at Taoiseach Enda Kenny avoids being expelled from university

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

A student from Northern Ireland who threw eggs at the Taoiseach Enda Kenny during a visit to University College Dublin has escaped expulsion – but remains defiant.

Suzanne Lee (23), from Belfast, was one of three students given a formal reprimand instead and a fine which was suspended.

They were also told they must write a letter of apology to UCD's vice-president for students Martin Butler, who was hit on the head by an egg amid the melee.

The students said they had no problem apologising to Mr Butler, since they had intended to target Taoiseach Enda Kenny (below) and not him.

However, they are standing by their "legitimate protest" and said they considered it a "victory for the right of students to protest on campus".

The three students had acted with the Free Education for Everyone (FEE) group in highlighting opposition to Irish government cutbacks in student grants and the increase in registration fees during a visit by Mr Kenny to UCD last November. Their actions were opposed by the Students' Union since Mr Kenny was there as their guest, attending the opening of the new Student Centre that day.

The students appeared before a preliminary disciplinary hearing at UCD yesterday.

Mr Butler would ordinarily have been present on that committee; however he stood down to maintain the impartiality of the hearing.

About an hour later, the students emerged and spoke of their relief.

Ms Lee said they had always made it clear that Mr Butler had never been their intended target, adding: "Our target was Enda Kenny."

She said that while she was glad the process was over, in reality, she might not be back in college next semester anyway due to the rising cost of the fees.

When she first started college, registration fees were just over €1,000 (£865) but they are now up to €2,250 (£1,950) "which will more than likely just keep going up," she said, adding that there was "no way" she could afford that.

Aidan Rowe (22), from Co Mayo, said they considered this a victory for "the right of students to protest on campus".

"We'd encourage other students to take protest actions in the future against the government that seems intent on cutting back access to further education, stripping universities of assets in order to pay back debts of bondholders and bankers etc," he added.

Meanwhile, he said the students would be "apologising to Martin Butler but we won't be apologising for the protest itself. It was a legitimate protest".

Ben McCormack (24), from Chichester in England, said he was very relieved they could put the incident behind them but said they would "hopefully keep fighting for free education at all levels and particularly the cutbacks in third-level education".

A spokesperson for UCD would not comment following yesterday's hearing.

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