- Motion relating to Fascism, Far-Right Extremism and all Forms of Discrimination doctored after lengthy council sitting
By Ellen O’Donoghue
Never one for smooth sailing, NUI Galway’s Students’ Unions’ fifth Comhairle of the academic year was no different to those previous.
Beginning sixteen minutes later than scheduled on March 22nd, members were first asked to vote on new standing orders which were intended to ensure that things were run in a more efficient manner following fractious sittings earlier in the year.
The standing orders, which were ultimately passed, outlined how to speak, how long to speak for, and explained the meanings of procedural motions.
The issue of the Irish language needing twice as much time to be spoken upon allowing translation was brought up. It was stated then that this would be amended for the next council, and that council would be lenient at this sitting.
It soon became clear that standing orders made proceedings a lot trickier than in previous sittings, as Zoom chat functions were disabled and students could not unmute themselves.
Students were not informed of these changes prior to the sitting.
These changes were accompanied by alterations to the voting system, and class reps used YourSpace to cast their ballots with voting links circulated prior to the proposal of each motion.
The last motion brought forward of the evening was ultimately the most controversial.
Final-Year Class-Rep for Engineering, Conall McCallig proposed a motion entitled “Opposing fascism, Far-Right Extremism, and all Forms of Discrimination”, composed by himself and a cohort of around forty students.
The motion was accompanied by much debate and confusion, ultimately leading to numerous votes of no confidence in the chair and the chairs’ decisions.
None of these votes of no confidence were passed.
Council members spoke passionately both in for and against McCallig’s motion.
Speaking against the motion, Niall McGowan said that although he is not affiliated with any of the organisations mentioned in the motion, it failed to describe fascism and far-right extremism.
He also said that while he does not believe that the motion is a threat to freedom of speech, it is a threat to democracy.
Niall also commented on how he felt that it was inappropriate that People Before Profit were pushing their political agenda on the Union before proposing that the question be put at another time by way of proposing a 9B motion.
Welfare and Equality Officer, Róisín Nic Lochlainn spoke against this proposed 9B stating that the motion is not a People before Profit motion, but rather a motion brought forward by members of the Comhairle,
Adam Mullins spoke in favour of the 9B, who claimed that that while he agreed with the motion, he felt as though it was aimed and targeting, reiterating McGowan’s points.
The 9B motion then fell after being voted on via Zoom polls, where non-class reps could have voted.
Council then, continuing debate, let two speakers against the motion talk in a row.
One speaker, Wesley Wilders, stated that the motion was discrimination via discrimination.
It was then brought to Council’s attention that speakers had consistently been against the motion, and Council amended this issue by allowing two speakers in favour to speak.
Amendments were proposed to the motion via a 9C by Second-Year Engineering student Joe Mee, which saw the motion split into separate parts.
After confusion surrounding the purpose and function of a 9C motion, the Managing Director of the Students’ Union intervened.
The 9C was voted on a total of three times, with only the final vote counting.
After the second 9C motion was called, Rian Ó Donnchú called procedural motion 9E – challenging the chairpersons’ ruling – because Council called the vote on the 9C before the vote was done, which he argued seemed undemocratic.
Ó Donnchú asked for a vote of no confidence in the chair for the duration of the meeting, alleging that the vote was taking place when people were still deciding and voting. He argued that this could influence the way in which members voted making the procedure less democratic.
It was then realised that Ó Donnchú had intended to call a procedural motion 9F instead, a vote of no confidence in the chair.
Education Officer, Emma Sweeney, became acting Council Chair until voting was completed.
The motion was defeated with a 54% majority.
Upon returning to his position as chair, Council asked for all voting to be moved to polling website SurveyMonkey and sent out to links exclusively to class reps to ensure democracy.
It was here when numerous 9F’s were proposed and discourse began among students, before Council Chairperson Fionn Sexton-Connolly said, “this is a farce, and I am not entertaining it anymore. If there is a call on my decision, we will vote on it. If there is a call on my bias and non-bias, we will vote on it. But currently there is a vote to be had on the 9C”.
After this, the 9C was explained and voted on and passed by a 65% margin,
McCallig’s motion was then split up into eight parts, with section voted on individually.
The subsequent 9 Fand 9E procedural motions then fell, before Education Officer Emma Sweeney called procedural motion 9D, that the matter be referred back, and shelved until the next possible Comhairle.
This subsequently passed.
Five other motions were also put forward at the sitting.
The first motion tabled was a motion regarding the Irish language in NUI Galway, proposed by Reece McArdle and Anna Ní Nualláin.
The motion noted that as Ireland’s only bilingual university, NUI Galway should provide all students in all colleges with access to Irish courses, instead of just three colleges.
Numerous attendees voting links would not work, however the motion was passed with an 87% majority.
The second motion was proposed by Niamh Lynch, who proposed a motion that the constitution of the Students’ Union be changed from binary pronouns to gender neutral pronouns. The motion proposed that Council mandates a change throughout the constitution.
This motion was passed with 88% in favour.
Sai Gujulla brought forward the next motion which was to mandate for better co-ordination of lectures and deadlines, so that students don’t need worry about overlapping deadlines.
The motion required the Union to campaign for lecturers as well as co-ordinate and discuss deadlines among each other to prevent overlapping and stress. The motion was passed with a 78% majority.
Joe Mee was next to propose a motion, this time regarding the release of provisional grades
The motion mandated that the Students’ Union ensure that results be released by the provisional deadline and that the Students’ Union should lobby for official results to become available during the early part of the second semester in future.
Erin Mac an tSaoir, Oifigeach na Gaeilge, spoke to highlight the work that Education Officer Emma Sweeney has done on the issue, noting that it is slightly outside her remit.
Sweeney further noted that although she sees the importance and value of the motion, mandating the Union to do this does not mandate the University.
Two students spoke against the motion, while two other students spoke for the motion.
Welfare and Equality Officer Róisín Nic Lochlainn further stated that this issue has been raised with staff and that it was being worked on.
Upon voting, 80% were found to be in favour, and the motion passed.
Oifigeach na Gaeilge Erin Mac an tSaoir brought forward the next two motions, one being that the video editing service of the union be changed to a bilingual company with bilingual subtitles provided, and the other being that the Union’s Irish Language Committee be made a standing committee of the Union.
Barry Sugrue, Societies chairperson, spoke for the first motion.
Both were passed with a majority of 87% and 80% respectively.
Mac an tSaoir proposed the seventh motion of the night, stating that the Union’s name be changed to the Irish versions on the email addresses.
This was brought to 9B, that the question not be put.
The 9B was passed with 77% in favour.
Mac an tSaoir further proposed a motion stating that the pronouns on Union business cards be changed from English to both English and Irish.
This was passed with 85% of members in favour.
Conall McCallig then proposed a motion mandating the union to support the establishment of a publicly funded education committee being set up.
The motion fell with 60% voting against.
After the proceedings on March 22nd, Students’ Union President Pádraic Toomey called for a special Comhairle to take place on Wednesday 31st March, beginning with McCallig’s anti-fascism motion.
McCallig began his speech by saying that the motion is not a People before Profit motion and that a platform is a privilege.
Joe Mee called a 9C almost immediately after the debate commenced and had a PDF document ready with each part to be removed clearly outlined.
He stated that extremism is bad on both left and right sides of the political spectrum, and that the organisation list set a bad precedent of blocking a group outright, without looking into their point at a given time.
Therefore, he asked for the motion to be split into parts including all mentions of the far right, right wing, and the organisation list, asking members to vote to remove these parts of the motion.
After Cian Mortimer spoke against the 9 C which was subsequently passed and debate on the motion continued.
Many points mentioned at the last council were reiterated with many passionate arguments being made on both sides.
These arguments went from authoritarianism to campus not being safe for some students.
Adam Mullins further mentioned that the motion fails to give any mentioned groups due process.
Orlaith McCabe said that in not passing the motion, the Union would be putting people of the LGBT+ community on equal footing with those who do not like them.
Saoirse Connolly also spoke against the motion saying it was biased as it only included far-right extremism, and questioned the definition of free speech asking if it is “actually inciting violence or is it something that you don’t like?”
Eve Regan spoke for the motion saying that healthy discourse is what students want rather than hateful discourse.
Another student further mentioned that Ireland’s revolutionary historical figures would have supported the motion.
Students’ Union President Pádraic Toomey called a 9A, for the question to be put immediately. His motion was subsequently passed.
In his summation, Conall McCallig said that “we need to check our privilege”.
Furthermore, he said; “a platform is not a privilege, a platform is us giving space to these organisations to speak. We shouldn’t be giving these organisations a platform to speak if they are going to spread hate against our members”.
He also mentioned the paradox of intolerance, saying that if we do not oppose intolerance then intolerance will destroy tolerance and there will be no tolerance left.
The amended motion eventually passed with a 64% majority after students voted to remove the terms “far-right” and “right wing”, along with the list of organisations.
Two constitutional changes were then briefly discussed, one being the implementation of an Environmental and Sustainability Officer, and the other being to appoint an External Council Chairperson.
Both of these changes were passed upon voting.