Union of Students in Ireland

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Union of Students in Ireland (USI)
Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn
PresidentLorna Fitzpatrick
HeadquartersDublin, Ireland
International affiliationEuropean Students' Union

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) (Irish: Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn) is a 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 374,000 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 Executive Team of USI serve a one-year term beginning on 1 July. The current President is Lorna Fitzparick, former President and Welfare & Education Officer of IT Carlow Students' Union.[2]

Many past officers of USI have gone on to prominent positions within Irish society. Past USI presidents include former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, former Chief Justice John L. Murray (1966/67), and broadcaster Joe Duffy (1983–84). Recent former Presidents, Joe O'Connor & Kevin Donoghue, have served as Chairpersons of the Social Democrats and Labour Youth respectively.

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.


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

Annual Congress[edit]

Annual Congress is USI's supreme decision making body which takes place over a 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 students' 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 Executive Team[edit]

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

The Executive Team for 2018/19 are:

  • President - Síona Cahill
  • Vice-President for Academic Affairs - Oisín Hassan
  • Vice-President for Campaigns - Michelle Byrne
  • Vice-President for Welfare - Damien McClean
  • Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship - Aisling Cusack
  • Vice-President for the Irish Language/LU Don Ghaeilge - Aoife Ní Dhéisigh
  • Vice-President for the Border, Midlands and Western Region - Barry Clohessy
  • Vice-President for the Southern Region - Lorna Fitzpatrick
  • Vice-President for the Dublin Region - Colm O'Halloran
  • Vice-President for Postgraduate Affairs [3] - Andrew Forde

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.


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 leaders Pat Rabbitte and Eamon Gilmore, and former Chairman of the Labour Party, Colm Keaveney. 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.[4] Chief Executive of the Labour Relations Commission, Kieran Mulvey, was President of the Students Union in UCD and later Deputy President of USI.[5]

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 Séamus Brennan TD (Secretary of the Students' Union in UCG), Labour Senator Ivana Bacik (President of the Students' Union in TCD), Independent Senator Rónán Mullen (President of the Students Union in UCG), Socialist Party TD Clare Daly (President of the Students Union in Dublin City University[6]), 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,[7] 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 colleagues, former TDs Derek Nolan and Ciara Conway 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 MLA, 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. Jemma Dolan, Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone was Vice President for Campaigns and Communications for the University of Ulster Students Union.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] Sailing personality Enda O'Coineen was sports officer on UCG's Union Executive,[11] and debt relief activist and campaigner David Hall was Vice-President of the Students' Union in Maynooth in the 1990s,[12] where he served with others that later also became prominent in the Irish mortgage debt relief campaign. 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.[13]

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,[14] where she was the first full-time female officer in the Students' Union.[15] Eugene Murray, editor of Today Tonight and later head of TV Current Affairs with RTÉ was President of TCD SU in 1971.[16]


  1. ^ Union of Students in Ireland - About USI Archived August 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ McMahon, Aine. "Síona Cahill appointed new USI President". irishtimes.ie. The Irish Times. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  3. ^ http://usi.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Postgraduate-Students-Strategy-2018.pdf
  4. ^ http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:8HRRxkbkwQoJ:www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/1997/1206/97120600192.html+&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ http://www.nui.ie/college/docs/citations/2011/nui/mulvey.pdf
  6. ^ "Maeve Sheehan: How firebrand Clare left the Socialists reeling". Irish Independent.
  7. ^ http://www.thephoenix.ie/phoenix/subscriber/library/volume-31/issue-04/page-12-13.pdf;jsessionid=6FC9ED55DEB8759F4D07DC541E10D0CB[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Jemma is 'student of the year'". 2014-04-29.
  9. ^ SEARC'S WEB GUIDE - Osgur Breatnach (Born 1951) Archived 2012-02-07 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Former Officers 3 Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Enda O'Coineen - LinkedIn". Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  12. ^ "David Hall: Pugnacious, hyperactive defender of underdog". Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  13. ^ Gilfillan, Kathy (1 February 2012). Trinity Tales: Trinity College Dublin in the Seventies. Lilliput Press, Limited. ISBN 9781843513018. Retrieved 2 September 2017 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ "Journalist Mary Raftery dies". The Irish Times. 10 January 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  15. ^ "The woman who opened our eyes - People – Popular Stories, Obituaries & More – The Irish Times - Sat, Feb 09, 2013". The Irish Times.
  16. ^ Gilfillan, Kathy (1 February 2012). Trinity Tales: Trinity College Dublin in the Seventies. Lilliput Press, Limited. ISBN 9781843513018. Retrieved 2 September 2017 – via Google Books.

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