UCD Students’ Union’s longstanding boycott of Coca-Cola products has been lifted after students voted to rescind the boycott. 52 per cent of students voted to rescind the 2003 embargo, while the No side earned the support of 48 per cent of voters.
In the aftermath of the referendum the agent for the No side, Aideen Carberry, expressed her confidence that that a large majority of the students would vote in favour of reintroducing the boycott if the matter was to be put to a student vote again.
Carberry remarked how some students she had spoken to said they would have voted No if they had had more details about the reasons for the ban, and commented that “there’s definitely room for a campaign here for next year.”
The prevailing opinion of the students, however, was to re-introduce the sale of Coca-Cola products, with a majority believing that the choice of whether or not to purchase Coke should be left to individual students. A large Facebook campaign was initiated to revoke the boycott, with the founders of the page claiming that a minority of students felt the urge to impose the boycott upon the entire student population.
In the course of the referendum, the No campaign was forced to remove all of its posters from the campus after it was found to have breached the Union’s election campaigns policy. Carberry conceded that her campaign had breached the rules but believed the punishment to be unfair, and suggested that a lighter fine – suggesting the removal of half of her materials – would have been more appropriate. Carberry also spoke of her dissatisfaction at the SU’s refusal to run an information campaign on the referendum, despite having made earlier assurances that impartial details would be offered.
The boycott was introduced in 2003 after Coca-Cola became embroiled in a legal case over its alleged involvement in paramilitary murders at two of its bottling plants in Colombia. The United Steelworkers Union and the International Labour Rights Fund, along with the Colombian trade union SINALTRAINAL, lodged the case with the US Federal Court in July 2001. However, the court decreed that Coca-Cola was not in breach of human rights in September of 2006, and in August 2009 the US Court of Appeals affirmed the Federal Court’s dismissal of the legal case.
UCD was the first institution in the world to put such a boycott in place and several other institutions, including the SU at Trinity College Dublin and the National Union of Students in the United Kingdom, have since followed suit. Trinity’s boycott was rescinded after a referendum there last year.
With this decision, the Students’ Union are now free to sell Coca-Cola products including Fanta, Sprite and Lilt, and are allowed to seek sponsorship from the Coca-Cola Company. Coca-Cola was already available in several of the SU shops as The University Observer went to print.