A second referendum on increasing the Sports Centre charge from €90 to €120 is to be held before the end of the academic year after more than 500 signatures were collected.
Speaking to The University Times, Chair of the Electoral Commission (EC) of Trinity College Dublin Students’s Union, Kieran McNulty, confirmed the referendum would take place before the end of the academic year. This comes after a group of class representatives collected in excess of the 500 student signatures required to call a referendum on an issue like this. However, he added that finalising the exact details was “awkward” due to the Easter break and “the fact that I will no longer be Chair of the Electoral Commission”. A new chair and new members of the EC are to be elected on Tuesday, at the last TCDSU council of the year.
Students currently pay €90 for the Sports Centre alongside their annual registration fee.
The referendum is being called after efforts by class representatives Louise Mulrennan, Ciara Browne, Brian O’Ruairc and Conor Traynor.
Speaking to The University Times, Mulrennan stated that they felt it was necessary that another referendum on the matter be held before the end of the academic year, as they are eager to see an increase in charges implemented next year. She stated that a delay in passing the referendum until next year would have a negative impact on students. She stated that the current financial model of the sports centre was “unsustainable”, arguing that students would “not have the same access to the Sports Centre as they currently do”.
Whilst a positive outcome in the referendum would only mandate TCDSU long-term policy on the matter, student support would pave the way for College to increase the fee.
A referendum on the matter was held in early February. At the time, approximately 58 per cent of voting students rejected the referendum, which asked: “Do you vote for TCDSU to support an increase in the existing Annual Sports Centre Charge?”. The vote took place alongside the TCDSU sabbatical officer elections.
The Sports Centre is known to be strongly behind increased charges, having spoken at TCDSU council before on its financial position, and is understood to have been strongly supportive of the yes side in the February referendum. However, when asked if the Sports Centre were involved in the collecting of signatures, Mulrennan stated that “they were the one’s to inform us as to how to call a referendum”, but stressed that “we, the core campaign team, were the ones to physically collect them as individual and independent students”.
Efforts by Mulrennan were made at the last meeting of TCDSU council on Tuesday 10th March to bring about an emergency motion to call a repeat of February’s referendum. The attempt failed when the Chair ruled that the council was not at quorum. During the discussion on a procedural motion as to whether it could be included on the agenda, several students felt that it was would reflect poorly on TCDSU democracy to hold a referendum again so soon after the defeat of the referendum in February.