It's been a quiet afternoon in Drama St Mary's as many of the students headed up to town to take part in the demonstration over the proposed trebling of student fees. I was really pleased to find out so many had gone. It's the first time since the march in protest over the invasion of Iraq that there's been a momentum to take part in some form of mass public protest and perhaps the first time this generation of students have been exposed to the immediacy of direct action. As the afternoon wore on it became apparent that some sections of the march had broken away and tried to break into Tory headquarters at Millbank, overrunning the ridiculously small amount of police on duty.
On the TV it began to look like a return to the eighties; lots of condemnation for the aggression from student leaders and politicians alike, but the story stayed top of the news agenda all day. Late this evening Siobhan sent a message to say that none of the SMUC students had been directly involved.
Meanwhile back on campus Margaret Ritchie, the new leader of Northern Ireland's SDLP, gave a fascinating lecture on the problems of being a moderate in the province. Since power sharing her party have been slightly marginalised as the traditional republican vote has solidified behind Sinn Fein. She talked about the threat of maintaining an entrenched position with regards a united Ireland and instead positioned her party firmly within a social democratic tradition of progressive change. The most fascinating thought was that more and more protestants are now joining her party, raising the hope that in some distant future the political debate might move away from purely sectarian concerns and begin to advance towards strategic issues over governance and representation. It was an optimistic view, but one based on a real belief that communities can and want to live and work together.