A small mercy existent hitherto on Irish campuses has been the dearth of hate speech regulations. While your garden variety anarcho-communist or trot SU official could foam at the mouth at the activities or even existence of a publication like The Burkean and other rightist outlets there was and is very little that can be done in terms of disciplinary proceedings against individual students.
For that reason one should look rather unkindly at attempts currently underway in NUIG and other student unions to hasten the introduction of measures to clip the wings of any students who break ideological ranks.
Postulated by current NUIGSU candidate for Education as well as PBP Auditor for the university Conall Mc Callig the measures have received broad support from the campus left and SU officials. Aiming to reinforce and fully codify preexisting deplatforming measures the proposals entail the SU to deplatform and engage in counter protesting against the hosting of right wing or what they deem discriminatory groups.
Among the groups slated for banishment from respectable university society are not just the usual names associated with the far right (The National Party, Renua, Irish Freedom Party etc) but also trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) as well as Traditional Unionist Voice, a loyalist political party with no presence in the 26 counties.
Not the first proposal by student unions geared towards combating the radical or even the conservative right, both TCDSU and the USI have recently posited similar measures with the latter actively engaged with a new astroturfed NGO against right wing populism. Last year nearly the entirety of the USI top brass were embroiled in investigative work by this magazine resulting in the resignation of their second in command.
While NUIGSU is heavily weighted towards the left, there does appear to be a genuine pushback building albeit below board from the student body. Speaking to The Burkean, Saoirse Connolly a final year arts student and rep for the college voiced some of her concerns with the proposals which could see Radicailín, a feminist group she is involved with, fall under the remit of the new propsals due to their resistance to transgender ideology.
“The motion is politically motivated and part of a campaign to have a socialist or communist takeover of the NUIGSU leadership. There has been a major push by union members with far left leanings to shape the union into something they identify with regardless of the feelings of the majority of the student body. The current union is allowing this to happen by ignoring student complaints and concerns about the conduct of some union officers and student reps and further by allowing an online environment where students feel they will be bullied if they dare speak up. This has led to very low engagement with the students union The proposers of the motion are concerned about the far right taking root in NUIG but from what I can see their version of far right is pro-capitalist, pro-controlled immigration, and other mainstream centre right standpoints some of which I personally hold.”
Speaking on the potential for the motion to pass Connolly stated the following:
“My honest opinion is that it will pass. I could be wrong of course but from everything I have witnessed at student council this year and the hostile reception dissenting voices get, I don’t think there will be much debate. I also don’t think the council will have high attendance by reps due to midterms-many oppose it but they don’t have a vote in council or have little to no understanding of how the SU works and as such fear both being targeted but also lack confidence in opposition.”
Under the terms of the NUIGSU constitution any motion seeking ratification requires a 50 person quorum as well as a simple majority vote to pass.
While PBP Galway is taking the lead on the charge for deplatforming they were found wanting last year over their disgraced candidate Joe Loughnane and the alleged culture of abuse facilitated within the party, particularly prevalent in their Galway branch.
This push for deplatforming in NUIG should be contextualised in terms of a recent litigious spat currently ongoing between the college and the extended Burke family. In 2014 the college made headlines with a botched attempted to proscribe the family from student societies owing to their opposition to same sex marriage. More recently this legal dogfight has heated up significantly and is complicated by certain social media postings on the matter.
While the actions of NUIGSU, whatever decision it may reach, is hardly epoch defining, the ability for the left to stretch their institutional muscles at a SU level is a perennial issue to grapple with. In previous years, NUIGSU has seen conservative or even centrist candidates run for election and do moderately well, with the current attempts to shoehorn censorship into the SU agenda a further incentive for these candidates to run.
While today we are reporting on attempts to introduce formal deplatforming measures onto campuses, tomorrow could involve the very academic life of students being put into jeopardy. With yesterday’s announcement of the removal of Professor Dolores Cahill from her lecturing position it appears the omens are present for a rather dark period in academic life.
Across Ireland the rotten borough system of student governance has resulted in monopolised cartels presenting themselves as a clear and present danger to those who get in their way. Any student or academic attending the university should rally against these proposals knowing that once these institutional guillotines and precedents are established it will be some time before they are taken down.