A campaign to increase the student levy and create the Gaeilge Initiative has launched ahead of a referendum next week.
YesGaeilgeTCD is calling for students to vote in favour of a referendum to grant Irish official status in the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) constitution and create a full-time Irish language officer (Oifigeach na Gaeilge).
The referendum also proposes the establishment of the Gaeilge Initiative, a dedicated fund to promote Irish in the union, the Central Societies Committee (CSC), Trinity Sports’ Union (DUCAC) and Trinity Publications.
The new initiative will require a €4 increase in the Student Levies and Charges (SLC). This would create a fund of approximately €80,000 for the Gaeilge Initiative.
According to the Electoral Commission (EC), the final wording of the referendum will ask students: “Do you support a student levy of €4 to create the Gaeilge Initiative: a dedicated fund for Irish language initiatives for the CSC, TCDSU, Trinity Sports Union, and Trinity Publications, and therein, the creation of a full time TCDSU Oifigeach na Gaeilge?”.
According to the EC, TCDSU will receive up to 70% of the new funding, the CSC would receive up to 15%, the Sports Union would receive up to 10% and Trinity Publications would receive up to 5%.
Voting will take place from Tuesday, January 30, at 10am to Thursday, February 1, at 10am.
No official campaign against the referendum has been launched.
Speaking on behalf of YesGaeilgeTCD, Pádraig Mac Brádaigh said introducing the Gaeilge Initiative would “substantially increase the presence of bilingualism across student life”.
“The upcoming referendum is a historic and important opportunity for all Trinity students to embrace the indigenous language of Ireland and say Yes for Gaeilge,” he said in a statement.
“Irish language services and facilities must be made far more robust and accessible in order to serve the wide-ranging levels of language ability in Trinity, from native speakers to brand new learners.”
Mac Brádaigh, who is the current part-time Oifigeach na Gaeilge in TCDSU, said the role needs to become a sabbatical position to fulfil all responsibilities.
“The diverse responsibilities range from education to comms to entertainment to welfare, with casework, translation, and language policy all intertwined in the job,” he said.
“If Gaeilge is to be fully respected, it must be everywhere from TBall to Blackboard to the Academic Registry.
“These goals require countless hours of sustained effort that can only be fulfilled with a full-time officer dedicated to them.”
The referendum was first proposed at TCDSU Union Forum and later passed at Council with the required two-thirds majority to hold a referendum.
While the initial motion only proposed creating the full-time Oifigeach na Gaeilge and a long-term Irish language policy, the motion was expanded to include the Gaeilge Initiative for the other capitated bodies after consultation with the Capitations Committee.
The current SLC is roughly €298, with a €125 Students Sport Centre charge, a €30 Student Space and Centre levy, a €135 graduation fee spread out across the duration of a course, and an €8 Union of Students in Ireland membership fee.