Incoming President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Laura Harmon believes the organisation and its members can affect significant change on issues including the landmark 2015 marriage equality referendum during her time in office.
The current Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship was appointed to succeed Joe O’Connor at the national students organisation’s recent national congress.
“I really believe in the collective power of the movement and I really believe we can affect change,” Harmon told The College View, adding that pushing for free third-level education and workplace rights are other priority issues for her presidency.
The organisation have been mandated to hold a national day of action as part of their pre-Budget 2015 campaign and a position paper on funding models for third-level education, published by the Nevin Economic Research Institute was launched at the congress.
“It sets out an argument for free higher-level education in line with economic recovery,” the former University College Cork student explained, outlining how “it’s going to be extremely important for us in lobbying TDs”.
The issue of student apathy, which was apparent in the low voter turnout (12 per cent) in DCU’s affiliation referendum earlier this semester, is not something that fazes Harmon.
“Young people can often feel as though they’re being excluded and that they’re not being asked for their opinions,” she admitted.
The President-elect wants to create an activist academy during her term to inform students of the USI’s work and of how best to effect change.
Ensuring students are registered to vote and have their say on the marriage equality referendum will be an important task over the next year, with outgoing President Joe O’Connor previously stating “USI will accept nothing short of full marriage equality for LGBT citizens”.
DCU’s outgoing and incoming sabbatical officer teams attended the congress in Athlone at the start of the month, with outgoing Welfare Officer Lorna Finnegan speaking on a successful emergency motion to support marriage equality in Northern Ireland.
In response to a question from Dublin Institute of Technology Students’ Union President Glenn Fitzpatrick on legislation supporting the Union’s voice at policy-making discussions, the Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn told the 200 students gathered to “get off your asses write it yourselves,” with the assistance of their university’s legal faculties.
Image Credit: USI