University College Dublin Students' Union

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University College Dublin Students' Union (UCDSU; Irish: Aontas na Mac Léinn COBÁC) is the students' union of University College Dublin. It is the largest students' union in Ireland.[1][2][3]

The Union was founded in 1975 as the successor of the Student Representative Council, with Enda Connolly acting as the organisation's first president.[4] Its primary role is to represent its members views and defend their interests.[5]

All students of UCD who are studying for a degree or postgraduate diploma of the National University of Ireland are, on registration at the university, members. The Union is funded by a membership fee paid at the same time as the student services levy ("registration fee") at the start of the academic year. In addition to its campaign work the Union also provides many services, such as three shops; welfare and education services such as an online second-hand bookshop; and the provision of a full-time Accommodation and Employment Officer. UCDSU has offices in the Student Centre and hosts clinics down in Smurfit once a week.


The Union has been at the forefront of pushing social change in Ireland, selling condoms starting in 1979, when the sale of contraceptives without a prescription was still illegal. The Director of Public Prosecutions considered legal action against the Union but ultimately demurred, believing the Union was deliberately attempting to provoke a case and that the "clearly unconstitutional" 1935 law prohibiting their sale had "little or no chance of being upheld".[6][7] The sale of contraceptives without a prescription was finally legalised in 1985,[8] and their general sale legalised in 1993.[9]

The Union was also at the forefront of the fight for the right to publish information about abortion. In 1988, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Spuc) threatened the Union with legal action if information on abortion was published in its welfare guide.[10] The Union went ahead and published information on abortion clinics in Britain and a case was taken against it, Spuc v. Coogan, that was later joined by the Trinity College Student Union and Union of Students in Ireland in Spuc v. Grogan. The case was initially dismissed in the High Court on the basis that Spuc lacked standing but Spuc ultimately prevailed in the Supreme Court leaving the unions involved with large legal fees.[11][12] The case ultimately as far as the European Court of Justice,[13] which established that under the Treaty of Rome abortion was a service and a Member State could not prohibit the distribution of information about a service legally provided in another Member State. While establishing the principle that Ireland could not block the publication of abortion information from foreign clinics or their agents, the Court found it was legal for Ireland the block information from third parties, so establishing a principle of freedom of abortion information but ultimately finding against the students due to their status as unconnected third parties and leaving them with their costs. The provision of information on abortion services legally available in other European Union countries was ultimately legalised in the 1995 Abortion Information Act.[14][15]

In recent years the Union has had serious financial problems due to mismanagement. A 2012 audit found shoddy financial practices devoid of checks and balances since 2007, racking up €1.4m in debt including nearly €400,000 in liability to the tax authorities,[16] ultimately requiring a bailout from the University.[17] Following this the Union incorporated as a limited liability company in 2012[18] and made €1.1m in its first year of operation as a limited company, recording a surplus of €81,738.[19][20]

The Union has had a rocky relationship with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), disaffiliating and reaffiliating several times over the years.[21][22] As of 2016, UCDSU is not affiliated with USI, having decided to leave in a referendum which was held in February 2013. Issues cited included the ineffectual leadership of USI and the large cost of affiliation. 67% of students voted to leave the national union. UCDSU ceased being a member organisation on July 1, 2013.[23][24][25][26]


The main governing body of UCDSU, subject only to referenda and General Meetings of the members of the Union, is the Union Council, which meets every second week of term.[27] The Union Council is composed chiefly of the Class Representatives elected in their respective constituencies. These constituencies are elected at a flexible ratio, far lower than a previously arbitrary ratio of one representative per 125 students. The power of Union Council is conferred in a de facto manner on the Union Executive outside of term. The Union Executive, composed of all elected Union Sabbatical and non-Sabbatical Officers as well as the Union Secretary, meets weekly during term and fortnightly outside of it. There are four Sabbatical Officers, who are involved in the day-to-day running of the Union. The President and two nominated Vice-Presidents, as agreed by the Executive, are student representatives on the UCD Governing Authority. A Sabbatical term of office is twelve months in duration and commences on July 1 each year, although the incoming officers are, in accordance with the UCDSU Constitution, given job training by the incumbents from June 15. Sabbatical elections take place in late February–early March of each year. Sabbatical officers take a year out from academic studies and work full-time for the Union.

The composition of the Union's Council includes:[28]

  • The four full-time directly elected Sabbatical Executive Officers
  • The directly elected non-sabbatical Executive Officers, also known as Convenors.
  • Class Representatives
  • Ents Exec. These individuals are elected in at the last council of the year for the forthcoming year.
  • Equality coordinators. These individuals are elected in at last council of the year for the forthcoming year.

The President is the first officer of the Union in accordance with the Union Constitution, and the other three Sabbatical Officers are equally ranking Vice-Presidents of the Union. The four Sabbatical positions are:

  • President
  • Undergraduate Education Officer
  • Postgraduate Education Officer
  • Welfare & Equality Officer

Sabbatical executive officers[edit]

Directly elected by Union members (1975–2018)[edit]

President Undergraduate Education (formerly Education VP) Welfare & Equality
(formerly Welfare VP)
Entertainments VP
(formerly Social & Cultural VP)
Campaigns & Communications VP
(formerly Deputy President VP)
Graduate Education
1975/76 Enda Connolly Joseph Little Billy McGrath Billy McGrath
1976/77 Charles McNally Joe O'Reilly David Kavanagh Marcus de Cogan
1977/78 Conall Ó Móráin Mary Raftery Tommy O'Connor Anna Purcell
1978/79 Dave Waddell Brian Macaba Brighid Ruane Kenin Higgins
1979/80 Chris O'Malley Derek McDowell Colm de Bhaldraithe Oliver O'Rourke
1980/81 Marguerite Ahearne Billy Linehan Diarmuid de Paor/ Greg Byrne Lughaidh O'Clerigh
1981/82 Conn Gregg Aideen Hayden Moire Leyden Patrick Ralph
1982/83 Giollaisa Ó Lideadha Tony Medhurst Hubert Mannion Billy Linehan
1982/84 Giollaisa Ó Lideadha Catherine Neville Rosa Meehan Paul Hickey
1984/85 John O'Neill Sean Kinneane Josephine Kirwan David Ralph
1985/86 Diarmaid Fleming Sean Kinnane Stephanie Walsh Mickey O'Rourke
1986/87 Ulick Stafford/ Andrew Burke Yvonne Judge Finnola MacAodha Andrew Burke
1987/88 Kevin McDermott David Hughes Belinda Flaherty Dave Kilroy
1988/89 Diarmuid Coogan AnnA Farrell Anne-Marie Keary Francois Pittion
1989/90 Tom Duke Eoin O'Neill Joan O'Connor Lorcan Fullam
1990/91 Joe Delaney Denis Murphy Elaine Butler Mark Collins
1991/92 Denis Murphy Ollie Doyle Muireann Grogan Mark Collins
1992/93 Barry Roche Liam Kelly Cydney Foote Karl O'Hanlon
1993/94 Liam Kelly Shaymus Kennedy Noeleen Hartigan Paul Davis
1994/95 Aisling Ní Bhriain Malcolm Byrne Stephanie Leahgy Conor O'Kane
1995/96 Loughlin Deegan Garrett Tubridy Shane Fitzgerald John Mitchell
1996/97 Shane Fitzgerald Cormac Moore Fiona Hannon Darragh Purcell
1997/98 Ian Walsh Liam Dockery John Nisbet Darragh Purcell/ Niall Donnelly
1998/99 John Nisbet Charlie McConalogue John Moynes Scott Millar
1999/00 Carol Fahy Eamon O'Lionáinn Alison Gibney Niall Donald
2000/01 Eamonn Ó Lionnáin Michael Shovlin John Paul Swaine Paul Burke
2001/02 Aonghus Hourihane Aisling Maguire Róisín McKeon Eoin Holohan Christian Hughes
2002/03 Aonghus Hourihane Abey Campbell Séamus Ó Maoinaigh Marc Ryberg Ross Higgins
2003/04 Paul Dillon Oisín Kelly Jennifer Allen David Sherry Aidan Regan
2004/05 Fergal Scully James Carroll Shane Hennelly Gearóid Cashman Ciarán Weafer
2005/06 James Carroll Jane Horgan-Jones Dan Hayden Anthony Kelly Dave Curran
2006/07 Dan Hayden Brian Doyle Barry Colfer Holly Irvine Dave Curran
2007/08 Barry Colfer Ronan Shanahan Vivian Rath Stephen Quinlivan Ciara Brennan
2008/09 Aodhán Ó Deá Paul Lynam Conor Fingleton Gary Redmond Dan O'Neill
2009/10 Gary Redmond Donnacha Ó Suilleabháin Scott Ahearn Mike-Pat O'Donoghue Paddy Ryan
2010/11 Paul Lynam James Williamson Scott Ahearn Jonny Cosgrove Pat de Brún
2011/12 Pat de Brún Sam Geoghegan Rachel Breslin Stephen Darcy Brendan Lacey
2012/13 Rachel Breslin Shane Comer Mícheál Gallagher Eoin Heffernan Paddy Guiney
2013/14 Mícheál Gallagher Adam Carroll Cian Dowling position abolished position abolished Dylan Gray
2014/15 Feargal Hynes Amy Fox Maeve DeSay Anabel Castaneda
2015/16 Marcus O'Halloran Danielle Curtis Clare O'Connor position re-instated
Cian Byrne
Hazel Beattie
2016/17 Conor Viscardi Lexi Kilmartin Róisín O'Mara Luke Fitzpatrick Cian Casey
2017/18 Katie Ascough Rob Sweeney Eoghan Mac Domhnaill Barry Murphy Niall Torris

Other offices and administrators[edit]

The supreme judicial organ of the Union is the Independent Appeals Board as detailed in Article 18 of the Union's Constitution.

The individual who has been the longest involved and longest associated with the Union is Patrick J. O'Flynn, the Union's Chief Returning Officer and an employee of the University. Most of the ground-work involved in Union elections and referendums is performed by the Union Returning Officer, currently held by Morgan Shelley BBLS. Both of these office holders sit on the Independent Appeals Board.

The Union Legal Advisor is Richard Hammond.

The financial manager of UCDSU is Giselle Han Malone. She also acts as line manager to the other staff in the Union.[29]


  1. ^ UCD students union makes €1.1m sales in first year
  2. ^ Students’ union sees loss of €121k as relocated ball flops
  3. ^ USI criticised by UCD union
  4. ^ A brief history of the SU
  5. ^ Constitution of UCD Students' Union, Article 2 - Fundamental Objectives
  6. ^ DPP said ban on condoms would not be upheld in court
  7. ^ DPP considered legal action over condoms in UCD
  8. ^ Ireland allows sale of contraceptives
  9. ^ Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Act, 1993
  10. ^ UCD students’ union marks 40th anniversary
  11. ^ Supreme Court to hear abortion appeal
  12. ^ UCD students’ union marks 40th anniversary
  13. ^ Judgment of the Court of 4 October 1991. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children Ireland Ltd v Stephen Grogan and others. Reference for a preliminary ruling: High Court - Ireland. Freedom to provide services - Prohibition on the distribution of information on clinics carrying out voluntary terminations of pregnancy in other Member States. Case C-159/90.
  14. ^ Abortion information - the law
  15. ^ Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State For Termination of Pregnancies) Act, 1995
  16. ^ UCD student union racks up €1.4m debt
  17. ^ UCD bails out students' union with €750,000 loan
  19. ^ UCD Students’ Union nets €1.1m after first foray into corporate world
  20. ^ UCD students union makes €1.1m sales in first year
  21. ^ Slim vote points UCD out of USI
  22. ^ USI woos back uni' unions
  23. ^ UCD students vote to leave national students' union
  24. ^ USI regrets UCD students' decision to leave union
  25. ^ UCD students’ union marks 40th anniversary
  26. ^ UCD Students Vote to Disaffiliate from USI
  27. ^ University Observer report
  28. ^ Article 8, Section 3 of the Constitution of UCD Students' Union
  29. ^

External links[edit]