EC rules TCDSU #YesNo referendum endorsement unconstitutional

The EC ruling said union policies and stances must be decided at council or by a student-wide referendum

The Electoral Commission (EC) has ruled that an endorsement of a yes-no vote in the March 8 referendums by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) was unconstitutional as it was not approved by council or the student body.

A question was brought to the EC, the body responsible for interpreting the TCDSU constitution, on whether it is “unconstitutional for Union Forum, or any individual officers of the union, to unilaterally dictate the position of TCDSU with respect to a national referendum”.

In a report to be read at council, the EC noted TCDSU President László Molnárfi posted on X on March 3, which has since been removed: “Our student union @tcdsu, representing a diverse body of students, including those with disabilities and carers, is calling for a YES vote in the family referendum and a NO vote in the care referendum. The state’s utter disregard for disabled people must stop.”

A letter attached to the post outlined the union’s stance on the referendums to change the definitions of family and care in the constitution, which was co-signed by Molnárfi, Citizenship Officer Ella MacLennan, Disabilities Officer Keeley Jenkinson and Mature Students Officer Ailish Smith.

The EC ruled this stance was unconstitutional, referring to chapter 4.2 of the constitution that union policy must be decided at council. It also said that union forum (UF), made up of TCDSU’s part-time officers (PTOs), must bring proposed union policies to council before they are officially decided.

The report also noted that council decisions are “second only to the ability of Council to put such issues to referendum” with the entire student body.

A second question to the EC asked whether “general governance regulations” of UF were followed when reaching the decision to take a stance on the referendums on March 3.

In its response, the EC released messages from UF’s Slack in which Molnárfi told members he, MacLennan and Jenkinson “are leaning towards a yes-no vote” and asked for further opinions.

Following a discussion on the union’s stance, EC Chair Conor Casey messaged: “Union Forum does not have the authority to make this decision itself.”

“The best we could do is maybe we could encourage members to become more informed on the referendum,” he wrote.

The EC ruled the decision to publish a union stance on the referendum breached UF regulations as no formal vote or consensus was agreed upon.

“The Union Forum Slack Channel is not an appropriate channel for the reaching of decisions of this nature, nor is there any indication that there was consensus as to the decision to be taken, or that a vote was held on the matter,” it said.

The report also noted: “The statement at issue was published without the prior approval of the union’s communications & marketing officer.”

In a statement to Trinity News, Molnárfi said: “If structures hamper instead of facilitating our solidarity with vulnerable groups, then those structures are not fit for purpose and must be abolished.”

“Bureaucracy is the bane of all progress. We need to abolish bureaucracy and install grassroots governance structures throughout the union.”

In a statement to Trinity News, Smith said: “I am not one bit surprised that the EC are taking this course of action. In my personal opinion I think that they have been extremely biased this year and only take action against certain people who they think are in breach of the constitution.”

She has claimed that “other members of UF have acted in a manner that is unconstitutional and there was no action taken against them” and that she has previously “contacted the EC about an issue that [she] had with a couple of instances during the [sabbatical] election”.

She also claimed that “a Vote Yes/Yes post was placed on social media without a council vote yet the EC declined on that occasion to rule that this was unconstitutional”. There is currently no post on the TCDSU instagram that advocates for a yes-yes vote.

She highlighted Section 1.4.a and 1.4c of the constitution that state “the primary objective of the union shall be to provide for and promote and defend the interests of its members” and “the union shall provide for the welfare of its members”. She says that “the stance taken by the union in the referendum statement is vindicated by these sections”.

She concluded: “All members of UF must be treated the same and the rules apply to all members. No union should have a golden circle that can act with impunity while others are consistently monitored.”

MacLennan and Jenkinson have been asked for comment.

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