Trinity students have voted to remain affiliated with the Union of Students Ireland (USI) in a USI referendum. The referendum was held after last year’s TCD Student Union president Ryan Barlett said he did not think USI were properly representing the views of Trinity students.
The ‘No’ side won by 1,496 votes to 829 votes for the ‘Yes’ side, a difference of 667 votes. There were 2,431 votes cast including 106 spoiled votes.
The question on the ballot paper was ‘Do you want TCDSU to disaffiliate from USI?’. The campaign for the referendum lasted two weeks.
The ‘No’ campaign manager Jack Leahy told The College View he fully believes that “the students of Trinity are better served with a national voice”. He said his side questioned whether any capable alternative to the USI existed and believes students voted ‘No’ as they saw no better alternative.
‘Yes’ campaign manager Mark O’Meara told The College View his campaign made a number of mistakes and were overwhelmed by the manpower of the USI which lost them the referendum. In a piece to be published in Trinity newspaper, The University Times he said “it would therefore be wrong for anyone in the USI to take the result as overwhelming support from Trinity students for either their actions or the way they carry out their business”.
O’Meara was one of the students who in November 2011 emailed Barlett to complain about the USI. This was soon after the USI occupation of government departments in protest against student fees. He said the USI “were not representing our views, were incompetent in their actions, and embarrassing the student movement”.
In a statement on their Facebook page USI President, John Logue said the union are “mindful of the dissatisfaction felt by some students with USI. Mistakes have been made and too many students have felt that USI does not reflect their views”.
As part of their campaign the ‘No’ side said they would work for reform in the USI if they remained affiliated. Leahy told The College View he is putting forward a motion to the Trinity Students’ Union Council “to form a working group to look into ways in which that [reformation] can be achieved. Any and all students will be encouraged to contribute”.
O’Meara is sceptical of any reform taking place. He told us he has “no doubt some people will try to lead the change, but I doubt they will succeed. I think many in the ‘No’ campaign started to believe their own campaign message that all we need to do is to talk to other member organisations of the USI to change the organisation.”
According to The University Times, current TCDSU president, Rory Dunne said in a statement that “Trinity students have voted to remain affiliated with USI and as always, TCDSU will work within USI to ensure the interests of Trinity students are heard both within the organisation and at a national level”.