TCDSU pulls plan to hold referendum on political mandate of union due to legal concerns

The referendum was pulled over the reference to “Christian extremists”

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has pulled plans to hold a referendum on rewording the political mandate of the union.

The Electoral Commission (EC) had called for a referendum on the matter last Tuesday, January 30, following the submission of a petition with a sufficient number of signatures.

The referendum sought to change the wording outlining the aims of the union: “The Union shall pursue these objectives independent of any political, religious or

racial ideology.

“The Union shall pursue these objectives in a radical, egalitarian and autonomous

way, and shall not affiliate with far-right groups, including, but not limited to, white

supremacists and Christian extremists.”

After the referendum was called, the union received a complaint that the proposed wording may be “incompatible with statutory anti-discrimination legislation”, prompting the union to request legal advice on the subject.

“The legal advice noted that the “isolation and identification of Christian extremism” could potentially result in “a subsequent Equal Status Act claim from a member of the union who is also a Christian, where having been denied someservice, or perceive some other discriminatory slight”, the union stated.

“The claim becomes strongly bolstered by the assertion that discrimination against the member has been institutionalised in the Union’s Constitution due to extremism within Christianity being identified without reference to other types of extremism and by the potential derogatory association of Christianity with the far right and white supremacy”.”

As a result, the union has rescinded plans to run the referendum, saying it was “no longer in a position to run the referendum given its potential legal liability if it were to pass”.

The EC had been informed of plans to propose a Procedural Motion D – the mechanism used to put forward a motion to submit an emergency motion at tonight’s TCDSU Council meeting. The motion offered a change to the proposed rewording of chapter 1.4, removing the explicit reference to Christian extremists and white supremacists.

Council was to debate this motion, which requires a two-thirds majority of members’ approval. The emergency motion was discussed at a TCDSU town hall this evening, which replaced council after it failed to reach quorum.

SLLCS Convenor Niko Evans, the proposer of the emergency motion, called for a revote on the motion, noting that the previous motion only failed by a small margin.

“I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall,” Evans said, referring to the repeated raising of the rewording issue at council.

TCDSU President László Molnárfi also expressed his support for the referendum, adding that the current wording of Chapter 1.4 is “not fit for purpose”.

The change to the constitution was first proposed in November at council, but narrowly missed the two-thirds majority required to declare a referendum.

A petition was then launched by members of the union calling for a referendum, which reached the necessary 500 signatures in December.

Following verification of the signatures, the referendum was due to take place this semester.

Additional reporting by Kate Henshaw, Charlotte Kent, Evan Skidmore O’Reilly, Stephen Conneely, Gabriela Gazaniga, Conor Healy, Madison Pitman and Emily Sheehan.

Ellen Kenny

Ellen Kenny is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News and a Senior Sophister student of Politics and Sociology. She previously served as Assistant Editor and Features Editor

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.