DCU set to have referendum on Irish unity

By Shauna Bowers

The logo of the national Sinn Fein youth. Image credit: DCU Sinn Fein Youth Republic

DCU Students’ Union received a petition for a referendum on the university’s stance on a united Ireland last week.

The petition, which was submitted by DCU’s Sinn Fein Republican Youth (DCU SFRY), is requesting that the university defines its stance on unity in Ireland and, if passed, they want to call on the Government to vote on a united Ireland.

The signatures and numbers on the petition have been tested and a referendum on the topic is set to be held in the beginning of semester two.

“We feel that a united Ireland is a real possibility in the next five to 10 years and we feel that we need to open up the debate on it. Our main focus is to really get the debate going on the topic of a United Ireland,” Aaron O’Ruairc, the chairperson of DCU SFRY, said.

O’Ruairc acknowledges that the current Brexit talks are definitely a defining factor in the debate of Irish unity.

“Irish unity was always a possibility within our lifetime but Brexit has definitely sped up the possibility of a united Ireland and we need to start talking about it.

“Many students don’t know how the reunification of Ireland could impact them,” he said.

DCU is not the first university to hold a referendum on Irish unity. UCD, UL and NUIG all voted to support the reunification of Ireland in early 2017 while Trinity voted to remain neutral on the topic.

Luke Mac an Bhaird was a key player in the NUIG unity referendum and is now using his expertise to help the DCU Sinn Fein group on their referendum.

“It’s great to have Luke on board because he is experienced so we can call on that experience during the talks,” O’Ruairc said.

Students’ Union President Niall Behan says that the petition is seeking students to engage.

“In the petition, it says they are requesting that this referendum is held. They are just asking people to vote.

“As a political union, it’s good that students are getting involved. It shows engagement on local and national levels,” Behan said

“My own personal opinion is irrelevant in this because my opinion is the students’ opinion. Whatever they decide on will be indicative of how the union operates,” he said.

Other referendums

This is the third petition that has been submitted to the Returning Officer in the last two weeks. The other two were submitted by a group of students called DCU Students for Fair Representation (SFFR).

The proposed referendums were to vote on the university’s abortion stance again since it was decided before the incorporation in September 2016, and to make the Students’ Union membership an “opt-in” membership.

DCUSU said that they do not know if these petitions have been accepted yet as the returning officer is still validating numbers.

Shauna Bowers