The Union of Students in Ireland’s (USI) “preferendum” to decide what the national student stance on third-level education payment should be was postponed from last week’s Congress until the next National Council.
An Emergency USI Council is being held on Thursday to decide what course of action should be taken for the preferendum. USI President Gary Redmond believes that the most likely course of action would be an Emergency Congress being called, at the earliest, twenty-eight days from Thursday’s Council. The only item on the agenda of the Emergency Council would then be the preferendum.
UCD Students’ Union President Pat de Brún was disappointed with the postponement of the preferendum, “I’m very worried that the can will get kicked down the road and that people who don’t want this preferendum will use it as an excuse not to hold it, and that’s why I was concerned. It was possible that at Special Congress we may not get quorum or not all colleges will bring their full delegations, and I’d be very worried that it won’t occur.”
Redmond disagreed with these sentiments and felt that despite the postponement, it was paramount that the preferendum go ahead with no delays. “I think that a decision will be made quite quickly, and it’s of the utmost importance that we make the decision before the new officer board come into office, because at that stage we’re six months away from the next budget and I think that it would be a ludicrous and farcical situation if we hadn’t got a comprehensive funding policy in place for the 1st of July. So while we’re taking some more time to consult membership, I wouldn’t accept for a minute that we’re kicking the can down the road.”
However, de Brún’s statement that “those that are in favour of continuing the free fees policy would be very happy for the preferendum to not go ahead because that would mean we continue with the same policy,” was confirmed by former Branch Secretary of Free Education for Everyone (FEE) in Galway, Joseph Loughnane, who stated that “we (FEE) believe that the USI should stand for free education and they should not really be putting these other options to students, because these other options are almost like they’re giving in to what the government wants.”
Loughnane continued to say that FEE were glad the preferendum did not go ahead as planned, “We thought that was a great decision because we believed that if the vote had gone ahead during congress it would have been very undemocratic because a lot of … the students were not being asked what voting model they would have chosen, so we were glad that it was postponed. We just hope now that this means that the preferendum will go back to the students.”