Update: The motion was not voted on at the meeting on the 22nd, and an emergency meeting will now be convened, most likely next week, in order to vote on the motion.
Next Monday, the 22nd, students in NUIG’s Student Union (SU) will vote on a motion which seeks to deplatform 16 groups which the motion claims espouse unacceptable views. Amongst the groups named are two feminist groups and one LGB group – the Irish Women’s Lobby; Radicailín; and LGB Alliance Ireland.
The motion, titled “Opposing fascism, Far-Right Extremism, and all Forms of Discrimination”, was put forward by Conall McCallig, a spokesperson and activist for People Before Profit. Several of the groups which the motion would ban from speaking at NUIG are themselves political parties; the Irish Freedom Party and Renua are both named in the motion.
If the motion passes the SU will “automatically oppose” any instance in which those groups are invited to speak at NUIG, “counter-protest” such events, and prohibit Student Union Officers from sharing a platform with members of the listed organisations.
Whilst the motion names 16 organisations of particular interest it would also cover “any other groups or individuals who espouse conspiracy theorist, far-right extremist or discriminatory views.” This phrasing would seem to seek to give NUIG’s SU the ability to, on a case-by-case basis, selectively deplatform any group or speaker they wished.
Several students expressed concern to Gript that the motion, if passed, would give whichever clique of students was currently running the SU the right to enforce their own ideological biases. One said that the motion “would seem to be contrary to everything a university is meant to be – a space for debate and learning.”
Others pointed out that the motion would mean that they would be forced to contribute money to the SU, which they are prohibited from leaving, whilst the SU actively sought to limit their freedom of speech and freedom of association. Many were concerned that the provision allowing the censure of “any other individuals” could be used to individually target NUIG students.
Others raised more serious complaints, with some saying that they felt the motion was targeted at them and their sincerely held beliefs, and that members of the Student Union had made comments which they said had made them feel “unsafe.” One student told Gript that “ I have witnessed active members of the Students Union bully and harass students with opposing views…If this motion passes, the students union will have a mandate to launch de-platforming campaigns against any group or individual they deem as hateful, effectively ending free speech within NUI Galway.”
Pádraic Toomey, President of NUIG SU, told Gript it would be “inappropriate for me to make any comment on motions submitted by members before there [sic] are considered by SU Council.” Tommey did not respond to a question asking if he would personally support the motion on Monday.
When asked for his view on statements that members of the SU had made comments which had made students feel unsafe Toomey told Gript that, “I can’t comment on the material you refer to. If students ever feel unsafe, we always encourage them to use the processes available to them, such as the Student Complaints Procedure, or to report any concerns about their safety to the Gardai.”
The motion will be voted on at a Student Council taking place at 6pm next Monday. It is expected that the Council will be sparsely attended.