UCD STUDENTS’ UNION (SU) were forced to issue an apology to Deputy Mary White, Green Party TD for Carlow-Kilkenny, after contributing to a newspaper advert wrongfully claiming the TD to be in favour of third level tuition fees.
The full-page advertisement, which appeared in the 17th August edition of The Irish Times, listed the contact details of each TD alongside their stated position on fees. Deputy White was incorrectly quoted as being in favour of a means-tested system of fees for college education.
The advertisement was compiled in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and other SUs around the country, and was timed to coincide with the Round One of this year’s CAO offers.
UCDSU then began a media offensive against the TD, claiming her given position to be a direct U-turn on her earlier policy, and contravening that of the Green Party. SU President, Gary Redmond, told The Irish Independent he believed Fianna Fáil to be “corrupting the once-principled Greens”.
Redmond later explained that the confusion arose when a UCDSU representative, while researching the advertisement, called Leinster House seeking to speak to the Deputy’s office and was mistakenly connected to the office of Senator Mary White of Fianna Fáil, an outspoken advocate for means-tested tuition fees. According to SU reports, Leinster House staff repeated this error on four different occasions.
Deputy White, who is the Green Party Deputy Leader, said she wanted “to re-iterate my view, which I have always held, that I share the view of my Green Party parliamentary colleagues that there should be no re-introduction to fees. I have always been opposed to them and remain so. The confusion arose because the USI [on whose behalf UCDSU were acting] contacted the other Mary White, asked for her views, and published them thinking that they were mine.”
The UCDSU Press Office told The University Observer that Deputy White “failed to respond to four letters – two from UCD Students’ Union, one from DIT Students’ Union, one from TCD Students’ Union – and so a call was put in to her Leinster House office to gauge her stance over the phone. The Leinster House switchboard put the call through to Senator Mary White, of Fianna Fáil, and her views were recorded in the full-page Irish Times ad.”
He went on to say that “UCD Students’ Union spoke with Mary White TD and clarified the issue and the Green Party reflected this through a press release on their website.” He concluded by saying the SU hoped “to rely on her in the fight against fees”.
USI Deputy President, Dan O’Neill, confirmed the dispute between the Students’ Unions and Deputy White had been resolved, describing Deputy White as being “as happy as she could be, being in a government who seem intent on bringing in fees”.