The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) are set to hold their National Day of Action on the 1st of October, with the initiative aiming to mobilise students across the country with marches scheduled in Dublin, Sligo and Cork.
The marches are aimed at protecting the Student Maintenance Grant, which has been cut in the last four budgets. UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) however, will be absent from proceedings on the day.
Protection of the grant is a key issue for USI at present, particularly in light of the serious delays experienced by students relying on Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) in delivering decisions relating to both new and continuing student applications.
UCDSU has decided not to partake in the march, citing short notice as the principal reason for its absence. UCDSU President, Mícheál Gallagher, has said that the Union was only informed of the march on Tuesday last, 24 September and that seven days was too short notice “to effectively organise a march.”
Gallagher says that his understanding of the situation was that all students’ unions were to be contacted following the USI’s National Congress, regardless of affiliation with USI. While UCD students took a referendum decision at the end of the last academic year to disaffiliate, this will not properly take effect until 2014.
Gallagher added that in this forthcoming academic year, UCDSU are more determined than ever to work alongside students and said, “engaging students on campus was top priority” and pointed out the fact that the USI march clashed with both the class rep elections and voting on the two referendums, regarding a smoke-free campus and abortion.
The Union felt it would be detrimental to move the focus away from the class reps and their efforts “before they’re even elected” and would have a major impact on voting turnout, which the UCDSU is looking to double.
Recently, USI centralised preparations for their participation in the LGBT Noise event March for Marriage for marriage equality in the Trinity College Dublin atrium, from which UCDSU was absent.
Gallagher confirmed that there were a number of calls between himself and a member of the USI officer board and it was expressed that it would be better for members of the UCDSU executive not to gather in TCD prior to this march.
Gallagher did, however, reiterate that the main reason for refraining from attending the National Day of Action is ultimately down to short notice and is in no way due to this previous incident.
When asked if this stance of absence was a permanent one, Gallagher reiterated that while UCDSU do care for and would campaign on behalf of USI’s causes, one week is not enough time to organise 25,000 students.