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The Union of Students in Ireland: The Dog That Won't Bark

category national | miscellaneous | feature author Wednesday April 11, 2007 01:06author by Red Wedge Report this post to the editors

featured image
Student Politics: where careerism meets "deeply uncool"

In advance of the annual USI Congress, Red Wedge previewed proceedings with an article "What is to be done with the Union of Students in Ireland?" In this article, he offers an eyewitness an account of the event and some thoughts on the future of the student movement.

It’s the first night of the congress. There is a hustings debate taking place between the two candidates for the presidency of the organisation. UCCs Richard Maurice Roe and the Eastern Area Officer of the organisation John McGuirk are going head to head.

Related Links: SIPTU taking unfair dismissal case against USI | Thread On Conference on UCDSU.net | FUCC Thread On USI Elections | FUCC Congress "Blog" | Transparency and Accountability in UCDSU and The Failure of USI | USI Accuses Education Minister of Political Cowardice over Grants | Union of Students in Ireland back Coke Boycott At 2005 Congress |

When the votes are counted on, it is Maurice Roe who is the clear winner. McCuirk polls 62 to Roes 85. The re-open nominations candidate option receives the support of 46 delegates.

The first really contentious motion has been put to the congress by the Waterford IT student Union. The motion proposes to mandate "The (USI) Welfare Officer to to re-establish links with MEAS and work towards promoting safe and sensible drinking amongst students". Delegates warn about the dangers of receiving sponsorship from this drink’s industry funded body. One delegate says that MEAS is a "PR scam, a PR sham". Another argues that the department of Health and other pubic bodies ought to take responsibility for funding such campaigns. Despite these concerns, the motion is passed.

The debate concerning USI’s relationship with SIPTU is the most ideologically charged of the week. The debate concerns the partnership arrangement in place between USI and SIPTU. A motion from Trinity Students Union asks that "USI cease its current relationship with SIPTU" and for the "USI Officer board to develop relationships with IBEC so that COs (Constituency Organisations) are offered necessary employment rights protection and information". The motion also proposes that "SIPTU often have a different set of interests to COs". This motion is proposed by the Trinity SU President. It is his only appearance on the platform all week.

Student union president after student union president line up to attack trade unions. The head of DITSU limited complains about SIPTU. So to does the head of NUIGSU who insists that the matter is not "about left and right". Former NUIGSU and USI President Tony McDonnell has a similar argument to make. He contends that the motion is "not about politics but a practical manner". The arguments are met with stiff opposition. Delegate's point out the Solidarity SIPTU and other Trade Unions have offered the Student movement in the past. They point to the practical benefits of the relationship for Students in the work place. Enda Duffy from the UCD delegation says the choice is clear. The choice for delegates is to see the Union of Students in Ireland as " a representative organisation, not a business". Delegates vote to pass the motion.

As Red Wedge predicted in advance of the conference, many worthy motions are passed, but there are few proposals for action. The debate on emergency motions that takes place on the final day of the congress offers some solace for students who seek a movement that engages in campaigns and seeks to have an impact on society through engaging with students on the ground. The congress votes to back UCDs motion in support of the Students against Climate Change march that takes place on Friday the 13th of April at one o'clock outside the Dáil. Delegate's also back a UCD motion in support of the campaign to shut down rogue pregnancy agencies.

USI’s industrial relations difficulties have been covered elsewhere on Indymedia. However, debate on this matter is ruled out of order by the standing orders committee who Chair the Congress. An emergency motion from UCD-proposing that the Congress support the rulings of the Labour relations commission and affirm support for basis of labour law-is not accepted by the steering committee.

Despite the decisions of the congress, Red Wedge remains positive and optimistic about the future. There is evidence to suggest that many of the student union leaders are out of touch with the grassroots. Consider this contrast: Trinity students recently gave an increased mandate to their unions boycott coke campaign in a campus wide referendum. Yet they were represented at the congress by a delegation who proposed the most reactionary motion on the agenda-the motion to break the link with SIPTU.

The challenge must be to engage with the issues that effect students on the ground, build up a campaigning culture and convince students that change can be brought about if people organise. There must also be a pivotal role for engagement with issues that concern the place of students in the wider world if the student movement is to realise its full potential.

As for the future, I conclude with these words, contained in an ancient Chinese proverb. "As for the best leaders, the people hardly notice their existence. The next best they hate and the next best they fear. But when the best leaders work is done, the people will say 'we did it ourselves'.

 #   Title   Author   Date 
   IBEC motion?     ashamed    Sun Apr 08, 2007 16:23 
   Chinese Proverb?     Himself    Sun Apr 08, 2007 18:18 
   And the Winner is .... an Asset Stripper     Some Guy    Mon Apr 09, 2007 19:38 
   Shock! Horror!     The Insider    Tue Apr 10, 2007 14:25 
   Evidence?     know152    Tue Apr 10, 2007 15:12 
   TCD leadership out of touch     ashamed    Tue Apr 10, 2007 16:38 
   Disaffiliate     Libertarian Socialist    Tue Apr 10, 2007 16:55 
   SIPTU & Coke     ashamed    Tue Apr 10, 2007 19:11 
   Problem with USI is the people in it.     The Insider    Wed Apr 11, 2007 08:54 
 10   Do not Disaffiliate     UCD Socialist    Wed Apr 11, 2007 09:49 
 11   Hmmm...     RT    Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:24 
 12   Roe     Maurice    Wed Apr 11, 2007 13:39 
 13   took this from UCC forum...     USI Observer    Wed Apr 11, 2007 15:22 
 14   cut and run     Junebug    Wed Apr 11, 2007 15:51 
 15   Embracing finance     Sweetie    Wed Apr 11, 2007 16:15 
 16   Left Wing Libertarian Students Union     Cathal    Wed Apr 11, 2007 16:44 
 17   Dissafilliate     Tree dwelling Rodent with bushy tail!!    Wed Apr 11, 2007 20:38 
 18   Don't Disaffiliate     The Insider    Thu Apr 12, 2007 09:14 
 19   Left-Wing libertarian Union     Starstruck    Thu Apr 12, 2007 09:56 
 20   Fightback, don't dissaffiliate     UCD Socialist    Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:02 
 21   Took this from the UCCSU boards     UCCSU observer    Thu Apr 12, 2007 11:22 
 22   THAT Frank Milling?     I love Milling!    Thu Apr 12, 2007 13:28 
 23   Frank Milling     Peter    Fri Apr 13, 2007 14:35 
 24   No!     UCC Head    Fri Apr 13, 2007 15:33 
 25   to the insider et al     rodent    Fri Apr 13, 2007 23:47 
 26   Return of fees     Sweetie    Sat Apr 14, 2007 13:11 
 27   To Rodent     The Insider    Sat Apr 14, 2007 13:54 
 28   re insider     Rodent    Tue Apr 17, 2007 16:09 
 29   Class     Des    Thu Apr 19, 2007 16:19 
 30   Des:     tcd    Thu Apr 19, 2007 16:38 
 31   USI is cheap     The Insider    Fri Apr 20, 2007 08:52 
 32   To TCD     Des    Sun Apr 22, 2007 16:12 
 33   USI says woof?     From RTE    Mon Apr 23, 2007 12:01 
 34   maybe fees ,but...     union probs    Mon Apr 23, 2007 12:10 
 35   The LIDL Degree in Retail Management     DBS    Mon Apr 23, 2007 12:24 
 36   Unreconstructed bigots in the students union UCC     Gimp    Thu Apr 26, 2007 12:00 
 37   Dissent in the ranks of UCCSU     Ronald    Thu May 03, 2007 15:22 
 38   ICTU     Kris    Fri May 04, 2007 15:25 
 39   "The Sensible"     Keith O' Brien    Fri May 04, 2007 19:13 
 40   Doubt first, look later - great attitude to disability issues     Gimp    Fri May 04, 2007 23:02 
 41   Look first, understand little, complain on Indymedia?     Keith O' Brien    Sat May 05, 2007 11:26 
 42   Child prostitution - hilarious     TheWebRemembersEverything    Sat May 05, 2007 16:16 
 43   Rebuttal     Slayer    Tue May 08, 2007 16:43 
 44   Moderators must do their job     No    Tue May 08, 2007 19:57 
 45   Respect     Gimp    Tue May 08, 2007 21:10 
 46   Moderator super-powers?     Keith O' Brien    Wed May 09, 2007 00:34 
 47   Off topic     Kris    Wed May 09, 2007 14:16 
 48   Back on topic     Some Guy    Wed May 09, 2007 21:20 
 49   More than the likes of some guy     some other guy    Thu May 10, 2007 11:41 
 50   Leave me aside? Not likely...     Keith o' Brien    Fri May 11, 2007 11:40 
 51   Don't look, listen or speak out     Ronald    Fri May 11, 2007 21:46 
 52   Equality and quality     Some Guy    Sat May 12, 2007 15:02 

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