The largest representative student organisation in Ireland, the Union of Students Ireland, has re-elected Lorna Fitzpatrick as president.
Fitzpatrick, 26, was elected yesterday with 193 votes after running unopposed for the position.
Her re-election comes mere months after the Burkean’s “Antifa Project” exposé, where student journalists posed as members of a radical Left group, Irish Antifa, and recorded several resulting phonecalls with unwitting campus figureheads, including Fitzpatrick and USI Deputy President Michelle Byrne. During the course of this investigation, Byrne was recorded saying that she would hand over the names of rightwing students to what she believed was a radical Antifa group saying it wanted to “slap them around” and place them on a “watch list”.
When this recording came to light at the time, President Fitzpatrick told the University Times that she was investigating the situation. However, very shortly after, while desperately trying to put out the proverbial fire from the first tape, Fitzpatrick herself ended up embroiled in her own scandal when a subsequent clip emerged of her voicing her support for Irish Antifa, and telling them she would have “no problem” helping them or handing over any names she came across on a public platform. In other words, the person claiming to investigate wrongdoing within the organisation was also guilty of it.
In addition to Fitzpatrick’s re-election, the USI has struck down a motion calling for the Union “to unite students of all political persuasions”, and be more inclusive of a wider range of political opinions.
The motion wrote that: “The congress believes that diversity is the greatest strength of the union, and that no student should feel deterred from constructively participating in the activities of the movement.”
It went on to call on the union president “To seek to actively reach out to students of all political leanings, the youth and student wings of all political parties, to encourage greater participation in the activities of the movement.”
To her credit, Fitzpatrick supported this motion, perhaps learning from her past mistakes. But despite her support, the USI ultimately rejected the proposal. Critics of the motion argued that if it was passed, those with “hateful” or “racist” views would be given influence.
#USI20 Very glad to see this motion be struck down, no matter what we do there will always be political views that we cannot engage with. Racism, homophobia, transphobia and any other form of hatred are not and will never be "political views" we can engage with. pic.twitter.com/0lbLHnjL2g
— Dan Kelleher (@NiCeileachair) May 27, 2020
SU Representative for UCC Student Union, Naoise Crowley, took to twitter to blast this argument.
“Very disconcerting that a motion to ‘reach out to people of all political beliefs and none’ has not passed at #Congress20”, he wrote. “The leap people are making between this and ‘promoting fascism’ is beyond objectionable.”
Other critics argued that it could damage the USI’s officially apolotical stance, and thus should be rejected. According to the University Times, Tadgh MacCionnaith of UCCSU said that: “What unites us is our shared experience as students, not party political backing or influence”, and that the USI should “keep party politics out of the one big union”.
Considering all that has come to light about the level of institutional bias against students with right-leaning opinions, this defence struck many as rich. The President and Deputy president of the USI were both caught red-handed expressing support for a Leftwing extremist organization that seemingly wanted to do reputational (and in some cases physical) harm to students because of their beliefs. And yet we’re to believe that calls for political inclusion and fairness are the real threats to the Union’s neutrality.
Ultimately, events like this are good, as they reveal the truth. The message that the Union of Students are sending could not be more clear, and their bias is laid bare for all to see. It was always there, but at least now they’re finally being honest about it.