The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Deputy President Michelle Byrne has resigned, following the publication of a phone call in which Byrne appeared willing to hand over names of right-wing students to a student group posing as an antifacist organisation, who said that they wished to “slap them around”.
“With deepest regrets that [sic] I tender my resignation as Deputy President and Vice President of Campaigns in the Union of Students in Ireland,” Byrne said in a letter addressed to Lorna Fitzpatrick, USI President, today.
Byrne told members of a supposed antifacist group that she would pass on names of students associated with right wing and alt-right politics. The group said they intended to place these students on a “watch list”. The group revealed themselves to be associated with student-run publication the Burkean at the weekend. She told the presumed antifacist group: “Nobody can know you got the names from me.”
In her letter to Fitzpatrick, Byrne said: “I believe that the important work of the Union of Students in Ireland will only be overshadowed if I remain in post”.
“My actions were driven by a deep concern and anxiety around the direction of society in modern Ireland. It will always be my desire for Ireland to move in a more progressive direction. Our membership deserves a high standard of representation from elected officers of USI and my actions run contrary to that in this case, and ultimately caused disruption to the work of the organisation.”
USI acknowledged Byrne’s resignation, saying: “The former Vice President for Campaigns recognises that she showed a willingness to engage in activities which fall far short of the standards of probity and transparency members expect from USI officers.”
“For the avoidance of doubt,” the statement read, “USI is a politically active organisation with a mission which includes working against racism, discrimination and inequality. The Executive Team would like to thank the former Vice President for Campaigns for her work towards achieving this mission.”
Byrne said in her letter to Fitzpatrick: “We live in an age where the phrase ‘social justice’ is seen as an ideal that is to be scorned or opposed and seems no longer to be part of respectable public discourse”.
“What I have learned over the past week,” she wrote, “is that we need to redouble our efforts to champion and protect the more marginalised in society, such as those in the direct provision system. I remain committed to ensuring that prejudice finds no roots in our communities.”
She added: “It’s been an honour to serve as not only Vice President for Campaigns in this organisation but also your Deputy President, making USI history as the first time two women have led the organisation as President and Deputy, a trend of which I hope to see more often.”
This article was updated at 7:20pm to include a statement from USI.