Referendum cancelled as Executive is over-ruled

James Nolan discussing motion at previous CRC meeting.

The referendum proposing changes to the Students’ Union constitution has been called off, following a decision made at last week’s Class Rep Council. This comes after class reps convened for an emergency meeting, where they voted to reject SU President, Dylan Kehoe’s interpretation of the current constitution, which allowed the Executive to call a referendum at their own behest.

The Executive came under fire from class reps last week due to their decision to call the referendum, without first gaining approval at CRC, as is standard practice. The referendum was rejected at the emergency meeting on Thursday, November 17, with the issue finally being laid to rest at CRC the following Wednesday.


Some confusion surrounded the decision at the emergency meeting, however, with CRC Chair Callaghan Commons believing the rejection of the President’s interpretation by class reps was invalid. Similarly, upon hearing of Council’s decision, Returning Officer Cat O’Driscoll, believed she did not have the authority to cancel the referendum.

This confusion hinged on the interpretation of an article in the current SU constitution, which states that a referendum may be called at the request of the Students’ Union Executive. Both the returning officer and the Executive believed  that they could do so without bringing it to a vote at CRC.

At the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, Commons said that he would not accept the decision made at the emergency CRC.

This was not received well by class reps who had attended the emergency meeting, with Jacob Byrne, who stood in as chair at said meeting, saying it was “completely unfair.”

“All of us feel so disheartened that what we talked about and agreed upon can be nullified by email,” he said.

Interpretation by action

James Nolan, a former faculty representative, argued that by instructing the Returning Officer to call the referendums, the President had made an interpretation by action. This was supported by Steven Conlon, who served as the Returning Officer for four years and attended Wednesday’s meeting at the request of a class rep.

Conlon described the situation as a “shit show” and overturned the idea that the Executive can call a referendum without consulting CRC.

He stated that the Executive only have the authority to request a referendum, as is supported by precedent. Conlon said that while the SU President interprets the constitution on a day to day basis, CRC is the “supreme interpreter of the constitution.”

Called off

After 90 minutes of discussion about the President’s interpretation of the constitution, Kehoe verbally confirmed that he believed the Executive could call a referendum.

This confirmed and validated the motion put forward at the emergency meeting and with agreement from the Returning Officer, cancelled the referendum on constitutional change.

A motion to create a constitutional review committee, put forward by Séan Cassidy, was then passed. This committee will examine the constitution in detail and will be elected at the next CRC.

The remaining referendum regarding USI affiliation will still go ahead and will take place between December 1st and 2nd by way of electronic voting.

Rebecca Lumley

Image Credit: Rebecca Lumley

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