Mar 20, 2024

Council Deprived of Vote on Censure of President

In what appeared to be a premeditated action, a group of students left council, preventing a vote on the motion to censure the President.

Alex PayneAssistant Editor
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

Council, the body of student representatives that votes on matters concerning student life and the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Constitution, has been left deprived of a vote on whether or not to censure the President following an exodus of voting members just as the vote was due to take place.

As a result, the minimum proportion of members present required to hold a legitimate vote (quorum), one-third, was not met in a move described by Conchúr Ó Cathasaigh, Chair of Council and the Electoral Commission (EC), as “disappointing”.

Following the exit of the group of students, almost exclusively made up of those who stood up to speak against the censure of the TCDSU President, László Molnárfi, Ó Cathasaigh addressed those remaining: “This is obviously quite undemocratic. It is completely inappropriate for people to leave.”


Ó Cathasaigh continued: “I am disappointed by the action that has taken place today. I am disappointed to see the apparatus of quorum being used in this way. To those that have left – it has been noted.”

This comes after the TCDSU Oversight Commission’s (OC) recommendation that Molnárfi be censured for “repeated breaches” of the constitution. The motion of censure was brought against the President by STEM Convenor Ruaidhrí Saulnier. The OC is the body which is responsible for managing and maintaining the Union’s policy.

Speaking for the motion of censure, Saulnier called Molnárfi out for “acting like the rules don’t apply to him, acting like this is the wild west”, in reference to the President’s self-proclaimed defiance of his constitutional mandates. Although he did “recognise the efforts” of Molnárfi’s political actions this year, he also said: “He [Molnárfi] is bound by the same rules I have to follow.”

Saulnier’s words echo those of Jack Leahy, Chair of the OC, who introduced the recommendation of censure: “This is about the President saying they are above the rules and they can do whatever they want.”

Leahy described the OC’s job as “hold[ing] accountable those who wish to breach the constitution” and said that those who do wish to do so, namely Molnárfi, are reneging on their “duty to represent all members of the union”, reiterating that “everyone is accountable to the students they represent”.

TCDSU Disabilities Officer Keeley Jenkinson accused the EC and OC of “having some kind of personal vendetta against László”, due to her belief that there have been many opportunities for the OC to produce reports on individuals yet this is the first one they have brought to council this year.

In defence, Leahy admitted that the OC “have not been able to do everything we should have” but that it has been “dealing with the issues sent to us”.

Appearing to reply directly to Keeley’s accusation of a “personal vendetta” against the President, Ó Cathasaigh said: “I find it personally offensive to accuse me of being biased. This is all approved by the Electoral Commission, this is not just me in my little apartment in Broadstone.”

Speaking against the motion of censure, Molnárfi said: “We have outsourced our abilities to what is essentially scripture. It has no relevance to today.”

Section 1.4 of the constitution, the “scripture” referred to by Molnárfi and which mandates the Union to pursue its aims “independent of any political ideology”, was enshrined in 2014. Since then, Molnárfi believes the government’s “coalition has destroyed the country”.

In continued defiance of this section, Molnárfi concluded: “We will not stop being radical, we will not stop being political…I beg you, vote no.”

President-elect Jenny Maguire also spoke against the motion. She said: “It’s a privilege to go through life with the procedure that’s been given to you, but when a procedure does not represent every student, [Section 1.4] stops an officer unapologetically saying that this government does not care.”

She also said: “We are not denying László broke the rules, but if the rules don’t work, then let’s break them.” She described the OC’s censure recommendation as “petty” and “nonsense”.

Maguire, Molnárfi and those also lined up to speak against the motion promptly left council shouting “quorum” on their way out, forcing Ó Cathasaigh to check the numbers of those remaining, indicating a premeditated action to deprive council of a vote on the motion.

The consequences of such obstruction to the mechanisms of council are yet to be understood, however the OC and EC may be feeling somewhat impotent in their abilities to facilitate student politics and the President and President-elect have clearly stated their attitude towards the democratic functions of student council.

Molnárfi has been contacted for further comment.

Sign Up to Our Weekly Newsletters

Get The University Times into your inbox twice a week.