Clare Daly: Students’ unions became “totally corporate”

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

Students’ Unions have become totally corporate according to Dublin MEP Clare Daly.

Daly, who previously served as DCUSU president for two years in the 1980s, spoke to The College View about student politics and how it’s changed over the years.

“When I got into the Dáil, we were invited to the Shelbourne hotel the first time and they have these students organised from the different colleges kind of dressed up to shake your hand and tell you with a nice glossy brochure about the six priorities they had – it’s all very American and very corporate,” she said.

“You’re going to change absolutely nothing like that. Obviously they may just be looking for careers for themselves,” she added, “It’s very ineffective actually… I hate that sort of professional lobbying.”

Daly discussed how when she was elected to the Students’ Union she had a policy of bringing the union to the people. At the time, the president was the only sabbatical position within the union.

“The officers had to go out, and we constantly went out and addressed all the classes. Now I realise it wouldn’t be possible now because it’s so big,” she said.

Staff representatives were also brought in to increase student engagement according to Daly. This would have included Veronica Guerin and Kieran Mulvey.

Daly’s main piece of advice to students’ union now is to get out of the office and talk and listen to people. 

“I do appreciate it’s not as easy when the college gets bigger, but that’s not the reason. It couldn’t be – they have extra resources now, they have stuff we never had,” she said. “Nothing replaces that face to face and you’ve got to keep striving to do that.”

“They’ll only get involved in something if they feel that it’s purposeful. I think that’s why we had so many students mobilised on the same sex marriage and abortion referendum – because they feel their vote would make a difference,” she said.

She explained why it can be difficult at times to get students more involved, what with it being many people’s first time away from home. Additionally, there’s academic pressure as well as new financial burdens.

Student engagement was discussed at the last class representative council (CRC). A class rep surveyed around 200 humanities and education students on St Pat’s campus and found that 95 per cent of students didn’t know what CRC was and what happens at CRC. The five per cent who did were class representatives. 

Brendan Fernando Kelly Palenque

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