Members of the students’ union at NUI Maynooth have voted for their union to become re-affiliated to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). NUIM left USI almost ten years ago in 2001.
USI President Peter Mannion expressed his happiness at the result of the referendum. While he says that USI are “always actively talking to the non-affiliated colleges,” he commented that the national union was “definitely going to look at [running affiliation campaigns in] Dublin City University and the University of Limerick.” DCU and UL are now the only universities in Ireland not affiliated with USI, while Cork Institute of Technology is the only institute of technology whose students’ union is not a USI member.
Mannion explained that the referendum had been brought as a result of a grassroots movement from within the NUIM student body, rather than from the NUIMSU sabbatical officers. Mannion told The University Observer that “it was the students themselves on campus who wanted the referendum, not the Students’ Union.” The motion was put to NUIMSU Council in early February, with a large majority voting that the referendum be put to students.
NUIMSU President Brian Murphy meanwhile explained that “there was an attitude that USI wasn’t going to be talked about” during the time in which NUIM was not affiliated to USI. Murphy said that he had put together a presentation to inform students of the role of USI, as he felt that “a lot of the students were very unaware of what USI did,” and that the campus had an “inherited negativity about USI.”
Mannion concurred, stating that “there was a lot of misinformation as opposed to wrong information about USI” on the NUIM campus.
Murphy was also keen to emphasise that “politically, it’s going to make [NUIMSU] much stronger.” It is understood that NUIM delegates will now be invited to attend this year’s USI Congress, and other USI events for the remainder of the current term, in a non-voting capacity before rejoining as full members in July.
Both Mannion and Murphy emphasised the importance of NUIM delegates attending USI meetings and taking an active role in the Union’s operations. Murphy described the transition period as “very important,” adding that USI had wanted to ensure re-affiliation “this year, so there’s a good crossover for next year.”
Mannion echoed these statements, adding that USI had “looked at some of the bigger colleges that could act as a ‘big brother’ to Maynooth.”