The Union of Students of Ireland has attracted ire after it’s selection of three Fianna Fáil linked speakers for this years Students’ Union Training in Athlone.
The selection of Higher Education Authority (HEA) chief Tom Boland, former presidential candidate Mary Davis and former Fianna Fáil minister Mary O’Rourke has gained much criticism from mainly left wing students within USI, who have been critical of the apparent softening of the Union leadership and its recent attempts to change its position on funding education.
A statement from the grassroots campaign Free Education for Everyone (FEE) have slammed the union for its selection of speakers. In a press release made by the group today, FEE stated its reasons for opposing the three speakers.
“Mary O’Rourke, also known as “Mammy Fianna Fail” has voted in favour of increases to the registration fee on numerous occasions whilst serving with her beloved party, Fianna Fail, in carrying out the neo-liberal agenda.”
In relation to Tom Boland, FEE stated that Mr. Boland
“has consistently called for the reintroduction of full fees. As well as that, at the last USI National Congress he told students that the only way they could resist cutbacks to education was if other marginalised groups were hit with austerity measures, including pensioners, the disabled and the unemployed.”
Mary Davis had also been criticised for her previous role as the “Quango Queen” for her many Fianna Fáil appointed board positions which has earned her a reportedly €190,000 over the course of their terms in Government.
Responding to criticisms on their Facebook page, USI have defended the selection of these speakers saying
“Tom Boland is the Chief Executive of the HEA and does not need explaining why he is speaking. That said, delegates are free to challenge him on any issue including funding. Mary O’Rourke is giving a presentation on how to effectively lobby public representatives not her opinions on funding. Mary Davis is giving a talk on Active Citizenship as she was the head on the Task Force on Active Citizenship.”
It remains to be seen whether the selection of these speakers will change although it does seem that the differences between USI and left wing students trying to work within it has started early this year.