UCD Students’ Union Council carried three motions last Thursday to be brought before the Union of Students in Ireland’s (USI) National Congress, due to take place in late March.

The motions, if passed at Congress, would mandate USI to commence a financial review of the organisation; to lobby the government to take a tougher stance on gang violence; and to investigate the effects of decriminalising narcotics. If the motions pass at Congress, they will become policy for the USI for 2013/2014.

For the first time this year, motions to be brought by UCD at Congress were tabled at Union Council as UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin wanted Union Representatives to be “more involved in Congress [and] make sure that Council are aware of the issues that [the Union] feels are important.” Though the University may be unaffiliated with USI when Congress occurs due to the upcoming Referendum, Breslin feels it will be a useful opportunity to potentially “influence [USI] on some of the issues that might ultimately lead to us reaffiliating, if they were implemented.”

The finance motion was prompted by the €120,000 that the Union pays to USI in membership each year. This represents a €5 contribution for every student but Breslin believes that “UCD are not getting a good return from this membership” even though our contribution is the same per head as other institutions. She puts this down to the size of the University and has looked at the model used by the National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK which increased efficiency and decreased national dependence on the financial support of individual Unions which she believes could benefit USI.

The idea behind this is that “as part of UCDSU’s necessary review of all expenditure it is prudent for the organisation, if it remains affiliated with USI, to seek a comprehensive review of affiliation fees and USI’s financial strategy. It is equally important that UCD students feel that USI represents value for money.”

UCD Students’ Union Vice-President for Entertainment Eoin Heffernan proposed the two other USI motions on gun controls and the decriminalisation of narcotics. Noting the steady increase in gun crime and gang-related violence, the first motion mandated USI to lobby the government to take a tougher stance on these two issues “before it spirals out of control”. These will be dealt with as ‘national issues’ rather than USI issues, which are both separate sections of Congress discussions.

Due to the “out of date” nature of Irish drug laws, the second mandates USI to “research the possible effects of decriminalization of narcotics in Ireland and to perform a feasibility study on income it could possibly raise through taxes and fines.”

Each Students’ Union in Ireland is invited by USI to table five motions at Congress and Breslin “will look at other motions passed throughout the last twelve months to fill two remaining slots”. USI National Congress will take place in Ballinasloe from March 25th-28th.