USI’s Busy Summer

Padraig McCarrick is back, and his dander is up

Gary Redmond: Sometimes TOO eager to sit on the fence

Like many students and graduates, I left Ireland this summer to find some form of employment on pastures new. I got myself as far as Swansea. Not as glamourous as say New York but as August soon became September, I found myself in a personal quandary.Up until this week, after spending four years in the third level system, I was calling it quits. For now at least. The decision was a combination of the usual factors, personal, little bit financial etc etc. But what struck me most about my decision was that with it came a large amount apathy. At the time, earning a regular wage (albeit minimum) instilled in me a need to go out and make it happen for myself rather than my usual ‘wait and see’ approach to life. Listening to current events at home had made my desire to stay in Britain even greater, even when many of its cities burned and its political establishement further proved its ineptitude. When I looked at the Irish news stories, in particular it’s disgusting treatment of the David Norris campaign, I knew Ireland, or more so the people who run and report it were never going to change any time soon, and certainly not over the course of a summer.

This apathy was extended towards student politics as well. For me this was surprising as for the most part of my university life, I have in some way or another been involved with grassroots activism and student affairs. However, through some luck and despite my previous militancy, I’ve decided to stay in university for one more year at least. This may seem as an extremely long-winded preamble to an article and I apologise. If I had written this a week earlier it would have been an entirely different article. Penned as an ode to my apathy with added piss and vinegar fuelled by gin. Basically it would have been a bad and negative article . This one will be different I promise. Instead, i’m going to look at what our friend Gary ‘Gaz’ Redmond and USI have been up to over the summer. Oh wait….maybe it won’t be so different.

To see what Gaz and the gang were up to, I decided to check through their Facebook page. My initial plan was to go as far back as June and comment from there. By the time I hit August (which took a surprisingly amount of scrolling time due to many duplicate and tagged articles and posts), I had facepalmed myself so many times I had to stop. If I had continued on to my original date, this wouldn’t be an article you’d be reading but the opening chapter to a trilogy akin to the Lord of the Rings. For the purpose or length, I will discuss two events of the last month.

First up, the old chestnut of ‘lobbying’ by the USI. If the last months are anything to go by, it proves that this strategy does not and will not work for the fees issue. For me, Lobby groups are for Tobacco companies and conservative house fraus who feel that popular music is rotting the minds of the youth. The ‘Election Pledge’ signed by Ruairi Quinn and the Labour Party sums up this failure. The picture of Redmond holding a giant novelty document with Quinn signing the bottom immediately reminded my of the Magna Carta of 1215. Like the Magna Carta, it turned out to be a load of crap. Such token populism was nice at the time in the midst of mass anti-Fianna Fail hysteria but Quinn’s recent comments on the possible reintroduction of fees out right or stealth fees in the guise of a higher reg fee are not surprising. The USI are apparently ‘outraged’ by Quinn’s comments. In reality, they should be embarrassed.

Nothing says serious political pledge like an over-sized contract

The election pledge itself was a farce with an article by Nicky O’Donnell of Free Education for Everyone Tralee claiming that very few of the parties actually signed this so-called pledge, with USI never even asking the like of Sinn Fein and the ULA who have rejected the Hunt Report in its entirety. It becomes clear that USI are as much to blame for the whole farce as Labour is for reneging. For the many students who voted for Labour, there is a special smack of betrayal as it becomes more and more clear that in order to play with the big boys, they have become them. While USI will none the less deflect criticism from itself back onto Quinn and the Labour Party for “misleading young people” this act of lobbying and signing pledges has proved time and time again to be an ineffective method of sustaining the rights won by our predecessors.

The most recent photo opportunity for the USI came last week in their campaign to combat rogue landlords. Calling on Minister Paul Hogan to establish a Deposit Protection Scheme for students, Gary and Co. did the unthinkable. THEY OCCUPIED A GOVERNMENT BUILDING. Well not exactly occupy. They camped out on the lawn of the Department for the Environment but it was full of the gusto of an occupation. In the true Republican tradition, Gary climbed the fence of the Custom House like a man on a mission. Although the last time the Customs House was occupied by members of Fianna Fail, it ended in the destruction of priceless historical documents so it was probably best that Gaz didn’t try to emulate the actions of FEE last November by going inside. There are photos a plenty on their page from the ‘Sleep Out’ although the photo of Gary leading the charge appeared in the University Times. While I’m glad to see that USI are now in favour of taking Government buildings, it appears that they only want people they know at such events. Notification about the event was at extremely short notice and I doubt any one outside of the organisation or its affiliate Student Unions were in attendance. It seems to me that perhaps, they were trying out the camping gear for the Electric Picnic rather than staging an actual meaningful and sustained protest.

While stats and camp outs are a nice thing for newsletters, blog posts, and election literature, it is not the answer to the problem of rogue landlords. How about putting them gaudy yellow t-shirts that everyone used once to good use and sending out students to reclaim deposits that way. To me that seems like a far more plausible system of reprieve than the creation of a new scheme in a political culture that fails miserably at bringing people to accountability.

-Padraig Mc Carrick

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