TCDSU Council to vote on referendum on rewording of non-political constitution mandate

The motion aims to initiate a student-wide ballot on rewording a section of the TCDSU constitution to allow the union to pursue its goals “in a radical and egalitarian way”

A motion on holding a referendum to reword a section of the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) constitution on the union’s status as a non-political entity will be debated at Council this evening.

The motion seeks to change the current wording of Section 1.4 of the constitution, which describes the union’s objective to pursue its aims and principles in a manner that is “independent of any political, racial or religious ideology”.

If passed, a referendum would be held to change the wording of Section 1.4 to mandate the union to pursue its objectives “in a radical and egalitarian way, without intervention or control by outside parties.”

The motion was proposed by School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies (SLLCS) Convenor Nicholas Evans and seconded by several students including TCDSU President László Molnárfi and Citizenship Officer Ella MacLennan.

It criticised the current non-political wording of the constitution, saying many of the union’s activities are “explicitly and inherently political”.

“The current wording of the constitution inhibits the ability of the union to properly advocate for its members,” the motion said.

“Radical action is a necessary tool for a robust Students’ Union, and our constitution should reflect that reality.”

It suggests that attitudes towards the union’s position “has already taken place” among the student body.

Speaking ahead of the motion, Nicholas Evans said: “We’re bringing forward this motion because the constitution’s current wording is nonsensical.”

Evans said that if the current wording of the section in question is followed to the letter, the union would be “completely inactive and incapable of advocating for any causes whatsoever”.

“This union is in constant hypocritical violation of its own declared values. It’s time we change the letter of the law to match the spirit of the students. This referendum will let the students decide this issue, once and for all,” he continued.

The motion follows growing debate over the union’s increasing involvement in political affairs both on- and off-campus, including its decision to establish a partnership with the Community Action Tenants’ Union (CATU), as well as its widescale involvement in pro-Palestinian protests and activities in the wake of the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East.

On August 30, the TCDSU Electoral Commission (EC) asked sabbatical officers to avoid using the term “neoliberal” to refer to government policies, describing it as an action that is “not constitutionally valid” under their remit.

In a statement released via the TCDSU Instagram account and later deleted, the EC said that the proposed rewording would permit the union to “take a greater number of political and religious stances”.

“The term, “radical”, is an ill-defined term and would create further interpretation issues for future Electoral Commissions,” the original EC statement said.

The EC later released an updated statement, clarifying that the current wording of Section 1.4 means that the union is “permitted to take political stances provided such stances are not principally motivated by a political ideology”.

“Under the new wording, if the motion and subsequent referendum passed, the union would be permitted to take a greater number of political and religious stances. This could include endorsing political or religious organisations.”

It also said that restrictions would remain in place to prevent discrimination “on a number of protected characteristics” elsewhere in the concerned section, and that the reference to the union pursuing its aims without outside interference would “represent no meaningful change in how the union operates”, as Section 1.3 mandates the union to be a “self-governing body”.

“Council would still be restricted to creating mandates in furtherance of the aims and principles of the Constitution and long term policy would still be required if a mandate were to fall outside this remit.”

The revised statement made no mention of criticism of the use of the term “radical” and the interpretation issues it may pose.

Evan Skidmore O’Reilly

Evan Skidmore O’Reilly is News Co-Editor for the 70th volume of Trinity News. He is a former Deputy News Editor, and is a current final year Business and Politics student.