Sinéad Farrelly and Niamh Haskins investigate the DITSU stance on Repeal the 8th and whether proper measures were taken before supporting the stance.
Attempts by DITSU to support the Repeal the Eighth campaign have so far been a catalogue of errors, mishandling and confusion.
DITSU currently holds a position to support the Repeal the Eighth campaign of the Irish constitution. This was voted on and passed by the Student Council (as it's the highest governing body in the Union) at the meeting on February 23rd, 2016. On that same day, a tweet circulated from DITSU stating, “After months of discussion DITSU Student Council argued/debated and ultimately voted to support #repealthe8th”.
In Irish politics, repealing the Eighth Amendment is a widely debated topic. Within Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), students represent a significant variation of opinions and there is no proof provided by DITSU that students of DIT want to support such a stance.
The issue of the Eighth Amendment was first discussed at the student council meeting on December 1st 2015, when it was debated by the student council while the executive council withdrew from the debate. A series of decisions came from this debate, including that a formal debate should be organised where representatives from both sides could debate the topic, that college officers were to bring the topic to their next class rep meetings and get feedback from each class in conjunction with a wider student survey, and that there should be a secret ballot on whether to have a DITSU policy referendum or not.
Ellen Ludden, first year student representative at the time said, “In the November representative meeting, DITSU requested that representatives ask their classes should they or shouldn’t they [take a stance] but didn’t follow up and encourage representatives to give them feedback. I asked my class if DITSU should take a stance; out of class of 48 students, 45 (94%) said DITSU should not take a stance. When I gave my feedback, the response was ‘oh yeah, does anybody else have feedback’. Nobody else did and that was the end of the discussion on the topic at the meeting”.
Former President of DITSU Graham Higginbotham said in an email to a student last year, “The views that came back were pretty mixed. Typically, there was a 55 per cent to 45 per cent split in favour of no so that DITSU would remain neutral. However, of the 45 per cent split who were in favour that DITSU takes a stance on the issue, these were in favour of the position of a ‘repeal the 8th’ stance”. One would question how DITSU knew the views of the 45 per cent if that was not the question the class representatives asked."
At the Student Council meeting on February 4th 2016, the topic was to be raised once more but was not, as the councillor who was to propose it, Billie Johnson, was not in attendance at this meeting, therefore the issue was moved back to another meeting. This was to propose that the “Vice President for Welfare [Lysette Golden] should run a formal, informative, unbiased campaign to make students aware of what is involved in the Repeal The Eighth Campaign by the end of April 2016.”
Following the Law Society debate on the Eighth Amendment on February 15th 2016, an emergency motion was proposed for the student council meeting on February 23rd by the then-Vice President for Education Gareth Walker-Ayers. These were seconded by Lysette Golden.
This motion proposed three policies to be adopted by DITSU to support Access to Abortion Services, Abortion in Exceptional Circumstances and Repealing the Eighth Amendment. These were all passed.
The earlier motion from Billie Johnson was not brought back up at a later council meeting for that academic year. This year the current Executive Council have retained these policies in their actions and supported Strike For Repeal earlier this month and participated in the march which took place across the city centre.
DITSU Vice President for Education Kieron Pierson explained how DITSU have supporting the campaign across this academic year. “DITSU has been actively working on this motion by engaging a number of events. Most recently during SHAG Week, a Repeal placard-making evening, which took place in Cathal Brugha Street, was organised by the onsite College Officer. In addition to that, DITSU was the main sponsor of the Irish Times debating final, which took place in Bolton Street, where talented students’ from across Ireland debated the following: 'This House believes the women of Ireland should strike to repeal the Eighth Amendment.'"
Graham Higginbotham, Gareth Walker Ayers and Lysette Golden were contacted for comment but declined to respond.