Union of Students in Ireland

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Union of Students in Ireland (USI)
Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn
President Laura Harmon
Founded 1959
Headquarters Dublin, Ireland
International affiliation European Students' Union
Website www.usi.ie

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) (Irish: Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn) is the national representative body for third-level students' unions in Ireland. The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is the sole national representative body for students in Ireland. Founded in 1959, USI now represents more than 354,000 students in over forty colleges across the island of Ireland.[1] The goal of the USI is to work for rights of students and a fair and equal third level education system in Ireland.

The Union's sovereign body is its Annual Congress, and its executive authority is its National Council, comprising representatives from each member organisation. Members of the Officer Board of USI serve a one year term beginning on July 1. The current President is Laura Harmon, who took up the role in July 2014.

Many past officers of USI have gone on to prominent positions within Irish society. Past USI presidents include former Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, former Chief Justice John L. Murray (1966/67), and broadcaster Joe Duffy (1983–84).

In Northern Ireland, USI jointly operates NUS-USI with the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom, with students being members of both national unions.

USI is a member of European Students' Union, was formerly a member of EURODOC and has provided officer-holders in both organisations.

Structure[edit]

The Union of Students in Ireland is an unincorporated body, organised by the affiliated Student Unions and governed by a Constitution.

Annual Congress[edit]

Annual Congress is USI's supreme decision making body which takes place over a 3-4 day period around Easter. All affiliated unions send a number of delegates based on the number of students registered in the college to which the union is affiliation to attend Congress. All student unions can submit motions and amendments for Congress.

Congress debates and votes on the various issues and motions submitted by member colleges. It also elects the Officer Board for the coming year.

National Council[edit]

National Council is USI's executive body, consisting of one representative from each Member Organisation and USI's full-time and part-time officers. It is convened at least four times a year for the purpose of directing the overall work of the national union, amending the schedules to the constitution and determining interim policies responsive to events. In practice it is convened on a monthly to six-weekly basis.

President and Officer Board[edit]

Officer Board is a Standing Committee of National Council and is composed of the elected officers of the Union. The board provides day to day leadership to the Union, produces annual plans for, and co-ordinates the work of the Union.

Regional Conferences[edit]

Regional Conferences are held for the main purpose of electing the regional officer for the region. The regions are autonomous and discuss and debate policy for the region to co-ordinate and direct the work of the officer.

Operational Bodies[edit]

There are two main non-political operational bodies within USI: the Steering and Elections Committee and the Finance Committee.

Steering and Elections Committee[edit]

The Steering and Elections Committee manages elections and the debate-side of Congress. Members are elected from former members of USI. The Chair of National Council is usually drawn from this committee.

Finance Committee[edit]

The Finance Committee is elected to oversee the finances of the organisation and support the development of systems in the areas of commercial, financial and HR management.

Staff[edit]

USI employs staff to manage the day-to-day, communications and logistical functions of the Union. Staff are non-political and have no voice or vote in union affairs.


Notable past officers[edit]

Former logo of USI, replaced by the current logo in 2010.

Chief Justice John L. Murray was President in 1966/67 and broadcaster Joe Duffy held the post in 1983-84. Several prominent Irish politicians also started their careers as Presidents of USI including former Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte, current Labour Party Leader and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, and former Chairman of the Labour Party, Colm Keaveney TD. Political strategist Frank Flannery, Cambridge University and Yale Professor Denys Turner and barristers Karen Quinliven QC, Grainne McMorrow SC and Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC all served as President, while SDLP Leader Mark Durkan was Deputy President and Minister of State at the Department of Health Alex White TD served on Officer Board. Broadcaster and journalist Howard Kinlay was the first President of the Students Union in TCD before becoming President of USI. The chain of student hostels owned by USI were called Kinlay House in his honour.[2] Chief Executive of the Labour Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey, was President of the Students Union in UCD and later Deputy President of USI.[3]

Other figures that have been involved in the student movement but did not progress to elected positions in USI include the ninth President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins (President of the Students' Union in National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway), Supreme Court Justice Adrian Hardiman (President of the Students' Union in University College Dublin), Stormont Minister for the Environment Alex Attwood MLA (President of the Students' Union in Queens University Belfast), former Minister Seamus Brennan TD (Secretary of the Students' Union in UCG), Labour Senator Ivana Bacik (President of the Students' Union in TCD), Independent Senator Ronan Mullen (President of the Students Union in UCG), Socialist Party TD Clare Daly (President of the Students Union in Dublin City University[4]), Jim Allister MLA (unsuccessful candidate for the Presidency of QUBSU), Fianna Fáil TD Charlie McConalogue (Vice President of the Students' Union in UCD and unsuccessful candidate for the Presidency of USI) and Senator Averil Power (President of the Students' Union in TCD). While Averil Power was President, current Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton was very active in the Union,[5] although she never held elected office herself. Paul Murphy MEP was an activist in UCD Students' Union, and former TD Patrick Nulty was a member of the Students' Union Executive in UCD Students Union. His Labour colleugues Derek Nolan TD and Ciara Conway TD were both Students' Union activists in NUI Galway.

Former Fianna Fáil Senator James Carroll was Education Officer and later President of the Students' Union in UCD; and Mayor of Derry Martin Reilly was a sabbatical officer in Queens. Christopher Stalford, Lord High Sheriff of Belfast and youngest ever member of Belfast City Council was a prominent activist in Queens Students' Union and a student representative on the Senate of QUB, and Simon Hamilton, Stormont Finance Minister also represented students on the Senate of Queens. Political activist and victim of the miscarriage of justice after the Sallins Train Robbery, Osgur Breatnach, was a member of the Students' Representative Council of UCDSU.[6] Irish Ambassador to the United Kingdom Dan Mulhall was Deputy President of the Students Union in University College Cork. Aviation Regulator Cathal Guiomard and Central Bank of Ireland Commissioner Neil Whorisky were both Presidents of UCGSU.[7] Sailing personality and private equity millionaire Enda O'Coineen was sports officer on UCG's Union Executive.[8] David O'Sullivan, later Secretary General of the European Commission, was noted during his student days as a rare moderate voice in the Students' Union in Trinity College.[9]

The ranks of today's broadcasters and journalists contain many former student activists. Aileen O'Meara and Cathy Grieve were both President of the Students Union in UCG. Broadcaster Vincent Browne was an activist and edited USI's monthly news magazine "Nusight" for a period, and barrister, broadcaster and GAA personality Joe Brolly was a member of the Students Union Executive in TCD. Nick Ross was Deputy President at Queen's Students' Union, Ryan Tubridy was involved in UCD Students' Union, Morning Ireland presenter Aine Lawlor was President of the Students Union in TCD as was fellow RTÉ journalist and presenter Mark Little, while broadcaster and journalist Mary Raftery held Students' Union positions in a number of Colleges, culminating in a term as Education Officer in UCD Students' Union,[10] where she was the first full-time female officer in the Students' Union.[11] Eugene Murray, editor of Today Tonight and later head of TV Current Affairs with RTÉ was President of TCD SU in 1971[12]

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