Tuesday, 14 December 2010

It fair gladdens the heart

WHETHER you are an unreconstructed Tory or an unreconstructed anarchist, the protests over increased student fees must gladden the heart.

As a Tory, you get to claim that the violent forces of malcontents, anarchists and bad ‘uns have run rampant, with only a thin blue line averting the breakdown of society. As an anarchist, you get to claim that the people are on the streets, brutalised by the police, and that only violent protest stopped the Poll Tax.

Meanwhile those of us who benefitted from halcyon days when fees were paid and grants offered to most must be a little confused. After all free higher education was a good thing in our day, we know someone needs to pay for it, but exactly who should and how much?

In addition, such confusion has been evident in the Northern Ireland Executive. It is apparent that NI plc would be delighted to be able to claim that it could subsidise higher education so that fees could be minimised, if not eliminated, but that ain’t going to happen; and if it does Sammy will be doing a lot of explaining to HM Treasury!

Instead, we have a complex financial conundrum being played out in simplistic terms on TV and radio.

Nevertheless, we must commend the inspiration of modern history students. Surely it must have been they who were behind the protest in Belfast. Sit down blocking a road...that would be the history of Ardoyne protests course. Causing traffic chaos at rush hour...that would be how a provo held up rush hour traffic with a bag of 10ps and a code word to claim devices were ‘planted’ throughout the city.

Alternatively it could have been a combination of art and drama students who made Belfast city centre into an extravagant avant garde performance art piece with the tableau captured for posterity by the hovering PSNI helicopter.

It certainly wasn’t the earth and environmental science students – all the pollutants pouring out of idling vehicle engines simply horrified the tree huggers. Whichever student group orchestrated the protest in Belfast should not be shunned by Minister of (un)Employment and Learning, Danny Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy should forthwith seek out the protest organisers, wrench them from the dead hand of law and order, bring them into a darkened room – and get them to explain how people from such a diverse range of backgrounds can organise themselves.

If they can manage to bring Belfast to a standstill with a few Facebook posts and text messages, solving the budget problem would be a doddle. Failing that, the English Literature students could at least help him cobble together a press release.

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