The majority of the UCD Students’ Union delegation left the floor of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Congress last Thursday in protest at the lack of time given to debate a motion on whether or not the USI should affiliate with anti-austerity groups. UCDSU claim that their request to raise standing orders to increase the amount of debate time was ignored.
UCDSU had hoped to speak against motion UO14, which mandated “Officerboard to set up a committee whose function it is to establish ties and affiliations with other groups in our society who oppose austerity.” The motion had been criticised for its vagueness by UCDSU, and the attempt to allow more time for discussion was also supported by Trinity College Dublin SU President, Rory Dunne.
Despite the protest, the motion was passed by a two-thirds majority. In a statement released by UCDSU President Rachel Breslin, it was claimed that “those who left the floor felt that the proposer deliberately exploited the Congress rules to ensure that not a single opposition speaker had a chance to speak.”
The statement went on to further clarify that “UCDSU members did not walk out because of the technicalities but because the proposer of the motion purposefully used the entire remaining time to make his speech, despite the UCDSU President walking onto stage and urging him not to summate in the circumstances.”
UCD students recently voted to disaffiliate from the USI in February, but as UCDSU is still affiliated for the remainder of the year, the sabbatical team chose to send a delegation to Congress. UCDSU also claimed that there had been continued hostility towards their delegates at Congress prior to them leaving the floor, which was likely a response to 63% of the referendum vote was in favour of leaving the USI.
Breslin stated that she felt that the UCDSU delegation’s presence was “negatively swaying votes due to an increasingly emotive and hostile atmosphere” and felt that they had no choice but to leave the Congress floor as they no longer felt welcome.
“UCDSU acknowledges that it is difficult for other colleges to respect and understand UCD students’ decision to leave while they remain members, but at delegation meetings UCD delegates reported increasingly hostile reactions. When it became apparent that it was no longer going to be possible for the UCDSU delegation to positively engage in the debate a majority of the delegates chose to leave Congress floor.”
Many students took to social media to demonstrate their frustration with both sides. Many criticised the fact that UCDSU wished to oppose affiliation with anti-austerity groups, while others questioned why there was no time to debate the motion when there had been time to debate the USI’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the previous day.
USI President John Logue declined to comment on the matter when contacted.