Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Union Divided- Inside the Union Council

While many members of this University fail to heed much interest in the various aspects of the everyday running of the Students Union, a number of politicos more commonly known as Class Reps take it upon themselves to meet every month for free tea, coffee and sambos and discuss, debate and vote on issues that concern Maynooth students. This months meeting took place the Tuesday before break and from what this Observer has heard, it was a rather explosive one.

The meeting had already taken a rough start with the failure of the Exec to provide the promised lunch, which I am sure many of the reps only bother to show up for. Some may say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but when the lunch fails to manifest itself, hungry bellies were in no mood to sit through the rigmaroles of the meetings formalities and a report on apparently how great “the Gathering” was.

While the usual aspects of the Council meeting went without incident, The minutes, The Presidents report etc, it was an agenda item proposing that NUIM S.U sign the Cairo Declaration that ensued what spectators say was a vicious and nasty debate. Now as I am sure what many of you are thinking now, as did I when I heard the name “Cairo declaration” , the phrase “what the fuck is the Cairo declaration” comes to mind. I had to Googleize it myself and it is basically a declaration in support of the people of Gaza who find themselves suppressed by the Israeli government on a daily basis. I will leave it up to you readers to investigate as a full explanation of its contents would take too long.

The reason the Cairo Declaration made its way to the floor was that the proposer wanted our S.U to add its name on behalf of its members in support of what is a humanitarian effort to end apartheid in Gaza. A fairly straight forward answer you may think, I certainly did. I was wrong and horrified to hear that people were opposed to signing it on that grounds that we as a union were being too political? Excuse me, It’s a Union.... A UNION!!!!! If its a T.Y project you want to be a member of, go organize a food drive or something.

The argument that was being spouted against the motion was that of a constitutional one and NUIM were not allowed to take part or support such political motions. This Observer took it upon himself to check this out and as expected found this argument to be RI-FUCKING-DICULOUS!!!!! The article in which this argument was based on was that of Article 16 which says in 16.2 that “The Union may not affiliate to any political party” followed by “The Union may not affiliate to any national organization that goes against its aims and objectives”. Now where does signing a humanitarian declaration against apartheid mean becoming part of a political party?

A further argument put forward was that it may offend Jewish students and interfering with their rights. I searched the names of people who have signed online and one of the first I saw was in fact a Holocaust survivor! Hmmmmm she seemed really offended. The statement made by our Welfare Officer was a pathetic one and when you think about it rather misconceived as yes there may be Jewish students at NUIM but does that make them Israeli? It’s like saying, I’m Catholic so i am offended by people criticizing Italy because Catholics live there too! Would Muslim students be offended by us not signing it?

This argument went unresolved, and while it did pass for the Union to sign it, it has been sent to the Guardianship to see if it can be ratified or not. It does however bring a bigger question to the fore which has gone neglected by the Exec and Council. How political should the Union be? Well I say very. Student Movements have been a the vanguard of political and most importantly humanitarian movements for centuries so why should NUIM remain out in the cold? Would we have neglected to show our support against the Apartheid regime in South Africa or civil rights movements in both America and closer to home in Northern Ireland?

This argument used by Fianna Fail members of Union Council and members who want an easy ride in life that Union Council can’t make decisions should cease immediately and grow themselves a pair of balls. The failure to show support for striking staff earlier last term goes against our own aims and objectives highlighted in the often misquoted Constitution. Article 2.3 “to keep students informed of developments within the Union and the University, and of national issues of student interest”. Would this not be in our interest to keep those that teach us provided with the necessary equipment and working conditions? Not supporting the strike was saying, “Yes we’ll have an inferior education please”.

If we are going to be taken seriously as a social group of this country who are against cut backs and not just a bunch of time wasting free loaders, we need to be willing to stand up and be counted, not just on national issues but on ones of a wider humanitarian one. Bring back the spirit of ’68, where the student voice was a loud, proud and vocal one, not like the timid squeak of today which is being trampled on by those who call us “young people”.

If you wish to read more on or sign the Cairo Declaration visit:

Likewise, if you wish to view our Constitution follow the link at the bottom of this page:

Your debate, reaction and correspondence is always welcome and encouraged at:

Till then,



  1. After reading the declaration, the statement
    "The continuing discrimination and repression faced by Palestinians within Israel" stands out.

    As somebody who has worked with Isreali Arabs, the impression I get is that this statement is far from true.

    I feel it would be wrong for the union as a whole to decide that I as an individual support a cause which I personally feel that we don't have both sides of an argument on.

    I mean as somebody who spends a lot of time around our nations capital these days, I'm always shocked by these pro-Palestinian groups, There always peaceful in the conduct on the street, but they suggest that members of the public stop supporting Irish business as they sell or buy products and services from Israel. But in many cases these business transactions are not clear cut. There is for example an outsourcing firm which deals in writing software, the company and its management is based in Tel Aviv, but its programmers are all in Gaza. They all get more then a fair wage and in return they work hard and have no issues with there Israeli employers...

    BUT one poster from one such pro-Palestine group suggested that the staff of a small Irish firm should be killed for doing business with this Israeli Company (I'm not kidding... kinda wish I was :/ )

    I think as a student body, we need to support humanitarian causes. But not get involved in the quagmire of international politics.

    I mean signing this declaration will send out a message, But its not as much a declaration of support for those in Gaza as it is an article declaring the unions opposition to Israel and its people, the majority of whom just want to live in peace. But the neighbours aren't too happy with that.

    I find myself thinking on an old Israeli saying, "If they had there way, they'd paint us blue and throw us in the sea"

  2. @Karl: There is no "other side" to this argument. The international community, via the UN General Assembly and the World Court, has stated explicitly on numerous occasions that Israel is in breach of International Human Rights Law.

  3. The Arab-Israel Conflict is a topic that has caused debate and argument since the end of World War 2, so I don't think an answer will come about it on this blog.

    I do not think though, that people have to take sides, either the Jewish or the Arabs. Like you said Karl, there are many Jewish Israelis who wish to live in peace and find themselves under threat from the apparently ever growing threat of fundemental Islam.

    However, the approach taken by Zionists and the Israeli Government is one that only breeds and festers anti-Israeli sentiment, both within the country and abroad.

    I too am slightly skeptical of some of these pro-Palestine groups based in ireland and I sometimes get the feeling that Irish sentiment for Palestinians comes from a certain chip on our shoulder about a foreign neighbour we had for 700 years :P But at the end of the day, Automatic Writing is correct in saying that they are in fact breaching Human Rights Law and the U.N have imposed economic sanction etc on countries before who have broken it before i.e Iraq, so why should israel be exempt?

    I could go on and on about Israel forever arguing both sides of the fence but you will always encounter someone who thinks differently with you, whatever you say. The aim of the article was to urge students to take a more pro-active stance in THEIR University, giving a united voice, not just on issues such as fees but on matters of humanitarian and world importance.

    The student voice can be a loud and strong one, if everyone unites together for their own common good.

  4. @Aidan: I'm afraid there is another side to this. It would be knee jerk to label something as right or wrong based on the sentiment of the international community.

    I think the point I made, which you might fail to see, is that Israel and all its people (Many of them Muslim/Arab) in the business of nation building and being told that the actions they are taking wrong by the international community, yet other states are doing the same thing and nothing is being said to them. Look at the Western Sahara Wall for example. Why aren't we debating about that? and the humanitarian problems it has caused? Most Israeli's I've met/debated with have made the point and it is a fair one, that while the international community was focused on Israel and its actions, wars, genocides and human suffering has slipped past its door.

    @Observer: The Previous approach taken by the Zionists was in fact quite a popular one, most of the water and electrical infrastructure was build by Zionist Companies, long before the existence of the state of Israel. Not a huge amount of talk about that these days.

    Make no mistake, I don't side with the actions of Israel nor that of Gaza or the neighbouring states, but in the eyes of its people, a lot of things Israel does seem just and completely justifiable.

  5. Personally, I think we have missed the point of this article. The main question is, how politically active should the Union be.

    Some of the 'against' arguements have been noted but there was something even more disturbing said, in my opinion, that was not alluded to.

    The recently re-elected Welfare Officer (by the way, when is the decision being made by the guardianship about the legitimacy of the ballot paper for that election or has that been swept under the carpet?) was the most vocal member of the Exec and led the 'against' argument. What she said during the debate is paraphrased accurately above. But it was what she said afterwards that I found disturbing. She maintained that the result of the vote on Cairo was the workings of a group of students who were politically active and that the result, as far as she was concerned, would possibly not reflect the wishes of the classes that they represented.

    Well woooops!!!!!!!!

    Does that mean that every time a decision is to be made, we have to refer back to our classes? I dont have a major problem with that but then the minutes have to made public early enough as must the agenda for students to dictate to their reps as to how to vote. Without that, you will have tyrades of that nature again every time a decision goes against the wishes of members of the Exec or floor who care enough.

    The main argument from the VP Welfare/Edu was that the Union's first job was to look out for the Students welfare. That's fine. But sometimes a proactive, and sometimes direct, approach is what is required to look out for students welfare, not bragging that your office is full of condoms.

  6. @Karl, I understand the point. I usually find with defenders of Israel that when they can't defend Israel's actions on their own merits they try to shift the conversation and talk about why I'm not talking about some other example of immoral conduct by a state. I'm not accusing you of that kind of intellectual dishonesty, I'm just pointing out that its entirely irrelevant to the discussion.