Interview: No cuts to college & university places!

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Courtney Robinson is a member of Socialist Youth from East Belfast who was recently elected as Belfast Met Students Union President. She has been a consistent anti-sectarian fighter who has constantly challenged sexism and homophobia and has fought for working class and young people’s interests.

Through Socialist Youth and Youth Fight for Jobs, Courtney has helped to organise and build a fightback against the cuts such as the “March for a Future” in Belfast which marched up the Shankill Road, crossed the peace line and marched down the Falls Road demanding that we would not become a “lost generation” and that we needed “Jobs and Education Now” as well as opposing the Assembly’s cuts to EMA.

Why did you decide to get involved with Socialist Youth?
“Unlike others, socialists don’t stand for elected positions for any sort of personal gain. Instead we use them as a platform to help put forward our ideas and to help build a movement capable of furthering the interests of working class people. This is in stark contrast to the Stormont parties. Despite their grand gestures and promises to “Stop Tory cuts” or stop “Sinn Féin’s cuts”, they have failed to deliver. Instead they have came down on the side against young people through implementing vicious austerity measures. With unemployment remaining at 1 in 4 for under-24’s and with little prospect of well-paid work, young people across the North are in a dire situation. We may face the prospect of becoming a lost generation. The future they have offered is bleak. They have proven themselves incapable of providing a decent future for working class people in Northern Ireland. They could not stop the closure of Gallaghers and have announced almost 6,000 job losses in the public sector.”

Young people don’t seem to be very interested in politics, in particular young women, why do you think that is?
“I don’t think young people aren’t interested – I think young people are disillusioned. Politics conjures images of pin stripe suited politicians arguing over sectarian issues whilst attacking working people. To be honest they aren’t far from the truth. The only time the Stormont parties put aside sectarian interests is when they are attacking a women’s right to choose or implementing cuts. A lot of people, especially women, are turned off by this. As well as this women still continue to do the majority of housework and childcare as well as working in many cases. This can make it difficult to engage in politics. But if you had an active party for working class people that fought for our own interests and against those of the bosses we would see a different story. ROSA down South is a good example of this. An all-women group which fights for women’s rights against oppression and austerity; has attracted swathes of young women into its ranks precisely because it stands against the establishment and for ordinary people.”

Do you think students can defeat austerity?
“I don’t think a single president can. I don’t think any one individual can. What can defeat the cuts and build a better future for the 99% is the mass of ordinary students and working people coming together and getting organised to fight in our common interest. In the past that is what toppled Thatcher. Not one or two outspoken politicians or union leaders, but the organisation of workers and young people in the poll tax campaign. That is what brought the Tories down and managed to defeat the poll tax. We can do that again and defeat the cuts being implemented by Stormont. Having a voice for the working class in the President’s position can be important. It can give confidence for people to struggle and also resources that come with the position can be used to build campaigns.”