The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has sought legal advice concerning the decision taken by Dublin City University Students’ Union (DCUSU) President Paul Doherty to declare the USI affiliation referendum that took place there in February, “null and void”. The referendum had returned a 55% ‘Yes’ vote, voting to re-affiliate to the USI.Following a meeting last week with the Office of Student Life (OSL) in DCU, Doherty released a statement to all students, saying: “The constitutionality has been challenged in relation to Article 9.1.6 which states that “The Students’ Union shall be responsible for the posting of the wording of proposed constitutional changes and the promotion of each referendum.” In the case of the USI referendum, DCU SU Executive did not to hold an information campaign or promote the referendum. Therefore, as protector of the Constitution I must now declare the USI affiliation referendum null and void.”
USI have since distributed emails sent out by DCU’s Returning Officer and from a number of SU College Convenors to students, informing them that the referendum was taking place and outlining the voting options open to students. USI believe that this should fulfil the information campaign criteria, but at the time of going to print, were seeking legal confirmation of this.
USI have responded to the statement from Doherty, with USI President John Logue stating: “Our primary focus now is to protect the democratic decision of DCU students to affiliate to USI. It is evident from the events that have transpired since the result of the referendum that a small cohort in DCU is intent on subverting the students’ decision by any means necessary. This has culminated in the highly questionable decision by DCU Students’ Union today to declare the referendum null and void. USI will now take any measures necessary to ensure that the constitutional right of DCU students to join and form a union is vindicated.”
This is the most recent in a series of dispute following the result of the referendum. The day following the referendum, February 29th, Doherty had expressed the opinion that this outcome was as a result of an unfair campaign, as USI Officers were allowed campaign on campus, something which had not been permitted during the UCD USI affiliation referendum. Doherty stated at the time: “Given that the deciding result was so close it [USI officers canvassing] probably was the deciding factor, in my opinion”.
Further disputes arose when DCUSU Executive tried to put a motion to DCUSU Council, asking them to declare the referendum void because it wasn’t included on the ballot paper that students would have to pay the USI levy, leaving DCUSU to foot the bill themselves. This would amount to a total of €55,000, a quarter of DCUSU’s budget, something which Doherty believed to be an unfair result. Former DCUSU Returning Officer Steve Conlon asked that the motion not be put to Council as he said the SU cannot question the decision made by DCU students and this was accepted, three days before Doherty’s declaration voiding the result.