Great news all round for Galway as three students from NUI Galway and GMIT are elected to the USI Officer Board. Jessica Thompson reports…
Current GMIT President, Joe O’Connor was elected President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) for 2013/2014 at USI Congress last week.
O’Connor served as President of GMIT Students’ Union for two years, and was previously Vice President for Welfare, proving that he has no shortage of experience for the position of USI President.
The GMIT SU President was the sole candidate for the position of USI President.
Speaking about his election, O’Connor said; “I am honoured to have received overwhelming support and a comprehensive mandate from USI Congress.
“With more and more families being priced out of higher education due to ever-increasing fees and dwindling student supports, the need for effective national representation is more acute than ever.
“At this time, 10,000 vulnerable students are still waiting on their first maintenance grant payment from SUSI and countless secondary school students wonder if they can afford to attain what should be their right; an education that best equips them to play their part in our country’s recovery.
“I have spent the last three years dealing with students facing these enormous difficulties first-hand. These experiences will not only inform my term as USI President but also provide the necessary motivation in our fight to protect access to higher education.
“While the challenges ahead will test the student movement like seldom before, I am ready to lead the charge and urge the students of Ireland to join me in the pursuit of a quality and affordable education system.”
Before inviting Joe O’Connor to close Congress 2013, John Logue, current USI President expressed his delight at the election of the new USI President, saying; “I realised very quickly this morning when he defeated me in a 9c that my time was up and his time was coming.”
Joe O’Connor responded to John by saying; “John, I’ve probably been a pain in your arse for the last year, but I hope a somewhat constructive pain in the arse, and if I’m able to take on the same kind of leadership […] that you did, we’ll be going in the next direction.”
Some of the main aspects Joe will focus on are SUSI, a long-time funding strategy, student poverty, mental health, and “trying to find a conditioner to make my hair look like John Logue’s […] it’s going to the be the ‘cross-over comb-over’.”
The last comment came following a tweet by NUI Galway SU Equality Officer Claire McCallion, for which she won the Best Tweet Awards; “John Logue’s hair fairly bounces when he runs. Joe needs to find out [what] shampoo he uses #usi13 #JoeFacts.”
USI President elect, Joe O’Connor closed congress with the following comments; “USI is not me standing behind this podium. It’s not the officer board. It’s every single one of you.
“I don’t want anyone here to leave this room with any sense of foreboding. I’m going to ask you all to leave this room with a sense of empowerment.
“This week has been the easy part, Congress. This week has been about passing the policies which we’re going to implement in the coming year. Now it’s time to do it. Now it’s time to bring about change.”
Congress responded with cheers, applause, and a standing ovation, proving that, despite the fact that Joe was the only candidate for presidency, he was a popular candidate, and the right man for the job.
There was good news all round for Galway as NUIG’s own Oifigeach na Gaeilge Feidhlim Seoighe was elected Vice President for the Irish Language.
“I am completely over the moon to be elected to the officer board for USI next year. It’s been a hard two months going around the country campaigning, but […] this has been one of the most fulfilling things that I have done in my life so far,” he said.
He continued; “One of the first things that I will do when I am in office is set out a list of all the goals I wish to achieve in office. From bringing in a Seachtain na Gaeilge road show to ensuring that every member organisation of USI has an Oifigeach na Gaeilge next year.”
Speaking about this year’s Congress, Feidhlim praised the NUI Galway delegation; “Congress this year was great, a number of brilliant motions [were] debated, two NUI Galway delegates were elected to the Officer Board, and as always, I believe that the NUI Galway delegation had the most impact on the week’s events.”
To top off a great day of elections, NUI Galway’s Kevin Donoghue was elected Vice President for the Border, Midlands and Western (BMW) Region.
When asked about his feelings after his election, Kevin said; “I am absolutely thrilled. I was a little shocked by the result but the mandate I received from the member organisations in the BMW region was fantastic and I cannot wait to get started.
“The first thing I will do is sit down with the incoming and out-going officers of each college and find out what they would like to see from their BMW officer in terms of support and how we can promote USI on their campus. I am very aware of the fact that very few people know about or engage with USI and I hope to change that.
He added; “Congress was a bit of a mixed bag at times. We passed a number of motions I feel will help me in my role as an officer, which was encouraging. However, congress is never without drama and it can sometimes damage the reputation of the organisation. Overall though, I came away with a sense of hope for the student movement.
“Joe O’Connor, the incoming president, is second to none in terms of commitment and Feidhlim Seoige, who is our Irish officer in here, has just been elected as Vice President for the Irish language and I know he will do stellar work for the language. I look forward to working with the two Galway lads and the rest of the team from July.”
UCD’s Paddy Guiney was elected to the position of Vice President for Campaigns. Guiney has stated that re-affiliating UCD with USI is one of his top priorities.
UCD recently voted in a referendum to disaffiliate with USI, and Guiney feels that this was the wrong decision and will strive to re-affiliate with the Union to have UCD represented nationally.
Results for other positions on the USI Officer Board 2013/2014 are as follows; Cat O’Driscoll for Vice President for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance; Denise McCarthy for Vice President for Welfare; Laura Harmon for Vice President for Equality and Citizenship; and Ciara Guinan for Vice President for the Southern Region.
Over 250 delegates from 24 Students’ Unions, including 22 delegates from NUI Galway, gathered in the Carlton Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe last week to discuss the future of the Irish Higher Education sector at the annual USI Congress.
Congress discussed and voted motions on Administration and Finance, Citizenship, Union Organisation, National Affairs, Welfare, Equality, Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance, International Affairs, Irish Language/Gaeilge, Constitutional Amendments, and Policies due to Expire.