Delegates from UCD Students’ Union chose to leave the floor of the USI Annual Congress last Thursday after a disagreement with the Steering Committee regarding the passing of a motion that was not debated.
The motion in question ordered a committee to be set up to form alliances with anti-austerity groups. Those who left the floor felt the proposer of the motion deliberately exploited the Congress’ rules to ensure that not a single opposition speaker had a chance to speak.
In a statement released shortly after the delegates left, Students’ Union President Rachael Breslin said the delegates felt that hostility was directed towards them at delegation meetings and this was clear during this motion.
“It became increasingly clear to the UCDSU delegation that their presence on Congress floor was affecting the outcome of motions and was negatively swaying votes due to an increasingly emotive and hostile atmosphere. This was damaging the debate and voting process of Congress”, she said.
The Congress, which took place in Ballinasloe, Galway, saw over 250 students from 24 students’ unions attend to discuss the future of third-level education in Ireland.
The Congress oversaw the election of Roscommon native Joe O’Connor as its new president for 2013/2014 following the end of current president John Logue’s term in office. O’Connor was the sole candidate for President and previously served as president of GMITSU for two years. He is the first President to come from an Institute of Technology since 2008. The USI Officer Board members for 2013/2014 were also elected to office.
The main objective of the congress was to discuss and vote on the 78 motions that had been proposed by the attending students’ unions, including an anti-cyberbullying campaign ‘Think Before You Type’. The campaign is being run in partnership with the National Youth Council of Ireland, Headstrong, SpunOut.ie, Headsup.ie and Reachout.com.
The Congress approved a policy “Combating Cyberbullying in Third-Level” and USI’s outgoing Vice President for Welfare, Denise McCarthy, launched the USI Guide to Cyberbullying. The guide includes tips on internet etiquette, advice on how to deal with cyberbullying and information on support services that are available to young people who become victim to it.
A motion regarding the USI’s strive for equality within and outside the organisation was also passed. This includes the election of officers to campaign for Equality Budgeting, which could see the Government pass budgets that prioritise education equality.
Former Governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan addressed the Congress on Monday. Lonergan spoke about his 42 years of public service which included his time as the most senior officer in the country. Lonergan also talked about how he thinks the education system is failing the young people of Ireland and how education should be made more accessible for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.