Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union’s (TCDSU) council voted this evening to lobby against fee increases for Northern Irish students as Brexit looms, as well as lobbying against any changes to the status of the border, as negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU begin.
Speaking to The University Times ahead of this evening’s council, TCDSU Welfare Officer, Aoibhinn Loughlin, who lives in Northern Ireland, said that the “essence of the motion is to protect the rights of our Northern Ireland students”.
“Let’s try and counteract the negative effects of Brexit that they voted against and that they have been forced into.”
Brought by Sally-Anne McCarthy, who led the campaign for neutrality in last month’s preferendum on Irish unity, the motion would mandate TCDSU to “lobby against fee increases for students from Northern Ireland”, as well as lobby against “any further restrictions on crossing the border”. The motion was seconded by Stacey Wrenn, who campaigned on a pro-unity stance in the recent preferendum.
Speaking at council, McCarthy said the campaign led to an “incredibly productive conversation”. The current situation means that “all students can feel comfortable contributing” to discussion of the issues around Brexit.
Carley Bailey, the newly elected TCDSU Mature Students’ Officer, told council that the issue is “not going away anytime soon” and that it was important all students supported it.
While the campaign proved heated at points, with campaigners clashing on a number of issues, both sides were largely agreed on the detrimental impact of Brexit and the need to campaign for a soft border in the upcoming negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU.
In the lead up to the preferendum on TCDSU’s stance on Irish unity, both sides emphasised they would be open to discuss the issues following the campaign.
The motion also mandates the TCDSU president to organise a series of discussions on the challenges facing Northern Irish students and residents of the border counties, and how the union can campaign and lobby on these issues. The planned discussions will include economists and experts to speak on the next steps for Northern Ireland following Brexit.
The union last year introduced a Brexit lobby group to campaign on the issues facing students following the UK referendum. Trinity has also established a Brexit taskforce, which will explore the challenges and opportunities of the UK’s exit from the EU, which Kieran McNulty, TCDSU President, is also a member of.
Other universities, as well as the Irish Universities Association (IUA), which represents the country’s seven universities, will also be lobbying the government as Brexit negotiations begin.
In recent weeks, students’ unions across Ireland voted in a string of referendums to campaign and lobby for a united Ireland. Trinity was the first university to reject a pro-unity stance with 55 per cent of those who voted choosing to support a neutral stance in the March preferendum.
The vote comes after the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), which also represents students in the North, voted to campaign to protect the “rights and values” of students in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU last June, as well as to support the campaign for the introduction of an Irish Language Act in Northern Ireland, an issue that proved contentious in the recent indeterminate Northern Irish election.