THE LARGEST student protest in a generation was marred yesterday by violent clashes in which bricks, beer cans, eggs and placards were hurled at gardaí.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI), which mobilised over 25,000 for the protest, distanced itself from a group of breakaway protesters involved in clashes outside the Department of Finance on Merrion Street, Dublin.
The USI blamed “left-wing” groups for the “destructive and anti-social violence” which it said would only divert attention from its campaign against higher student fees.
Supporters of Sinn Féin, the Socialist Workers Party and republican socialist group Éirígí were prominent among about 50 protesters who made it inside the Finance building, only to be swiftly ejected by gardaí.
Gardaí in riot gear drew their batons and mounted officers were deployed during clashes with several youths that lasted about 45 minutes.
Some protesters suffered cuts to the head and bloody noses during the scuffles.
One garda was admitted to hospital with a broken nose, while two others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.
There were three arrests. The suspects were taken to Pearse Street Garda station, and one had been released without charge last night. The other two were charged with criminal damage and breach of the peace offences and released.
Gardaí believe a core of “militant and aggressive” protesters not connected with the USI had hijacked the event.