On Friday the 13th of October UCC hosted a Government Cabinet meeting on campus. Such meetings are rarely held outside Dublin, with this event in particular a first for any university in Ireland. The last time Cork held a Cabinet meeting within its borders was 2005, with City Hall as the venue.
Taoiseach Varadkar and his cohort were greeted on arrival by UCC President Patrick O’Shea around 9:30am. A gardaí presence remained on campus through the day, and crowd control barriers were erected around The Quad and by the Boole Library. The morning kicked off with talks of Brexit, followed by discussions on health reform, and culminating in the Cabinet’s planned infrastructure projects for Cork in the future. Varadkar confirmed the inclusion of the Cork to Limerick motorway in the nation’s ten year capital plan. Also announced by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys was UCC’s hosting of the National Famine Commemoration in May of next year.
Minister for Health Simon Coveney was also in attendance, and previously voiced his approval of the unusual choice of venue for the meeting: “We have been anxious to bring a cabinet meeting to Cork for some time.” He continued, “Cork city needs a new hospital. There is a long list of investment needs in Cork, and obviously by holding a Cabinet meeting, there is an opportunity to talk about Cork and its needs. How it can be a real counterbalance to Dublin.” UCC also commended the event, with Dr Aodh Quinlivan of the UCC Department of Government & Politics saying that “local government arrangements can help or hinder Cork’s ambitions to be an economic driver of this region.”
Around noon protesters began to assemble outside the Boole library, with representatives from UCC’s LGBT* Society, Feminist Society, Labour Society, Greens, and Connolly Youth, among others. Their chants carried across campus with the aid of a megaphone, covering a wide range of views on topical issues like the 8th amendment and college fees.
One such protester, former UCCSU Deputy President Kate Moriarty, was protesting as a way of the campaign to repeal the eighth. She told the Express that “the biggest impact felt was by students who were passing by. The awareness of simply seeing the suitcases and signs were hugely beneficial to the campaign, in my opinion. I felt the protest went well, overall. FemSoc, LGBT* Soc, and Amnesty put in a great effort. It was nice to see the collaboration between different groups with different messages at the event; however this may have lead to the message getting a little muddled.”
UCC FemSoc Chairperson Aoife Delaney described the protest as “great overall, we gained media attention and made our voices heard, but the way some of the media reported it was problematic as they didn’t provide any context, leaving viewers wondering what we were doing and why we were there!” She continued, “We had many reasons to protest Leo’s visit: the homelessness crisis, education fees, and repealing the 8th, to name an important few. Despite our numbers, our voices really carried, so we think these student issues have been heard.”