All policies on citizenship
Table of Contents
15 CZN 1 Lobby for 3rd Level Education Centre Polling Stations – Carried
That access for students to vote is limited during term time.
That providing on campus access to voting in all third level institutions would enable and empower students and all members of the educative community to have access to participating within the voting system by the governing authority.
All of Officer Board to lobby for the inclusion of third level institutions as polling stations in Ireland.
That there is the belief that students are not engaged in the political process.
That students are very often left out the political process around election time and thus are not incentivised to be engaged.
Congress therefore mandates
The VP Equality and Citizenship and VP Campaigns, in consultation with MOs, to coordinate local hustings in advance of the General Election.
The difficulties voter registration creates for the democratic process.
The success USI has had with voter registration drives in the past.
Congress further notes
The success automatic voter registration has brought to many democracies by making voting more accessible.
The option of an “opt-out scheme” in relation to organ donation in some countries, and believes that a similar set-up could be put in place for being registered on the Register of Electors.
Congress therefore mandates
The VP Equality and Citizenship to explore the possibility for the introduction of automatic voter registration for all elections and referenda, with the inclusion of an “opt-out” scheme, and to make proposals backing such to the appropriate Government department.
Congress notes that as we head into the next academic year we are facing into a general election
Congress is concerned at the low level of political engagement among young people in Ireland with a National Youth Council of Ireland Survey of 1,020 young people finding:
Only 71.2% of young people aged 18-25 were registered to vote
Only 64% of young people between 18-21 years of age were registered to vote
Only 20% of young people have ever had personal communication with their local T.D./Councillor
Congress acknowledges the excellent work done by USI and MO’s this year and welcomes the estimated figure of 20,000 students who are now registered thanks to the registration drive held in the early part of this academic year.
Congress believes that students are not fully informed of their rights when it comes to voting with not many knowing that students who study away from home are entitled to a postal vote.
Congress further believes that USI Policy 14 /CZN 2 did well as a comprehensive motion to create a voter registration campaign, however USI now needs to create an informational campaign on voting rights.
Congress therefore mandates that the USI Vice President for Campaigns and the USI Vice President for Equality and Citizenship should create a comprehensive informational campaign template to be rolled out in MO’s that explains the voting process, including Postal Voting, PR-STV, polling station ID requirements and other such relevant information.
Congress also mandates that the campaign should attempt to work on this campaign in conjunction with the National Youth Council of Ireland, the ISSU and any other organisation deemed appropriate by National Council.
That General Election will happen in the next 18 months with the likelihood of a new Government.
Congress also notes
This is an opportunity for USI to lobby and assure students’ interests are provided for in the next program for Government
Congress therefore mandates
The VP for Campaigns, in conjunction with the USI President, to write ‘the Student Manifesto’ to highlight USI’s key demands from political parties.
Congress also mandates
The VP for Campaigns, in conjunction with the USI President, to write ‘the Student Guide to the General Election’ which will inform the general student body on the election relevant to student issues and interests.
The historic success of this year’s voter registration efforts, on the part of both USI and individual MOs, in advance of the marriage equality and other referendums taking place in May.
The considerable logistical difficulties faced by USI, individual Students’ Unions as well as other activist organisations, throughout both this year and previous years, in navigating the current Irish voter registration process as established by the Electoral Act 1992.
A number of significant problems arising from the current system which specifically disadvantage those of temporary or changing abode (such as students), which include but are not limited to: the a wholly decentralised system with practice deviating widely between individual County Councils; a primary RFA form that registers households and not individuals; and a complete lack of clarity regarding the date of referendums.
The pre-election commitment from Fine Gael to convene an Electoral Commission to examine national practice on matters of election and referendum, which has yet to be fulfilled.
Congress Therefore Mandates:
The VP for Equality and Citizenship along with Officer Board to carry out a targeted lobbying campaign, focused on the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, seeking meaningful reform of this registration system.
Congress Further Mandates:
This campaign to be formulated and conducted by a Working Group, encompassing input of those with expertise on the relevant legislation and past experience of voter registration efforts, to be convened at the first National Council of the academic year 2015/16.
The creation of the Student Elector Registration Database (SERD) as part of USI’s ‘Fight For Your Future Now’ campaign, and the re-launch and re-brand as part of the Local & European Elections campaign.
The large number of referendums which are forthcoming in Ireland including the Referendum on Marriage Equality, and the next General Election which is scheduled for 2016.
SERD is very important both as a lobbying tool for USI campaigns, and also in order to promote voter registration and student engagement with the political system.
Congress also believes:
That the SERD database offers USI an extremely valuable platform to directly communicate with its members on elections, referendums, and USI’s position on issues of student importance.
Congress further believes:
That the SERD campaign should be continued as a long-term priority for USI, in order to ensure USI have the maximum possible political clout and influence as a lobby group.
The President, Vice-President for Campaigns and Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship to organise an annual voter registration campaign utilising the SERD database, and to set an annual strategy and clear targets for student voter registration. This should be done in conjunction with the USI Taskforce on Volunteering and Citizenship.
Congress also mandates:
The Regional Vice-Presidents to assist MO’s in running their on-campus voter registration drives, as well as implementing USI’s strategy to meet voter registration targets on a regional basis.
As USI policy the 2014 ‘Free Our Voice’ political reform document.
The USI President, USI Vice-President for Campaigns and the USI Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship to use the ‘Free Our Voice’ policies to lobby the Government for political reform.
That the Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship has built a relationship and worked with Volunteer Ireland this year.
That both USI and Volunteer Ireland have a lot to benefit from working together to promote and encourage student volunteering.
The Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship to continue engaging and working with Volunteer Ireland to promote and encourage student volunteering in higher.
President Michael D. Higgins’ ‘Being Young and Irish’ seminar and recognises the importance and positive impact that can result from programs that involve citizen engagement.
Congress notes with concern:
The low level of voter turnout in Ireland, particularly amongst young people, and the importance of ensuring that we have a population that is engaged with and participating in our democracy.
The benefits that greater citizen engagement can have on government and the wider society, with specific emphasis on improving voter turnout, particularly amongst the young people of Ireland.
The Vice President for Equality & Citizenship to lobby for the extension of such programmes through that focus on engaging with the youth of Ireland and for Civil, Social and Political Education (CSPE) to be part of a reformed Leaving Certificate to encourage a sense of citizenship in young people.
Congress also mandates
The Vice President for Campaigns to roll out an effective voter registration campaign nationwide by December 2013.
The increased participation in the Equality & Citizenship Working Group which has been noted
at National Council over the past year, and commends efforts which have been made to achieve this.
The importance of structuring USI’s activities in the area of citizenship, and the difficulties involved for many officers in continuing to engage with this area in between National Councils when it is not a central focus of their brief.
The outstanding work which has been done in recent years by USI Taskforces in developing policy and campaigns, particularly in the areas of Graduate Employment and Electoral Law Reform.
Congress therefore mandates:
That a USI Taskforce on Volunteering and Citizenship be established, to be chaired by the Vice-President for Equality & Citizenship. This is to be completed before September 2013.
The membership of this Taskforce should consist of:-
USI VP for Campaigns
USI VP for Equality & Citizenship
All Regional Vice-Presidents
The NUS-USI President
4 members of National Council
1 external member as agreed by National Council
The areas the Taskforce should focus on should include, but not be exclusive to, the following-
Fundraising for USI National Charity;
Student Participation Awards;
The importance of raising money for USI’s national charity.
Congress further notes:
USI’s ability to attract media attention, and organise mass student participation in groundlevel events.
Congress notes with concern:
The lack of publicity and fundraising currently given to USI’s national charity.
The Vice President for Campaigns, the Vice President for the Border, Midlands and Western Region and the Vice President for the Southern Region to explore the feasibility of a National Fundraising Day for the next 3 years, with the aim of involving all Member Organisations in dedicated fundraising activities once a year.
That in order to help fund their education, many students take up a part time job.
The decision to reverse the cut to the minimum wage, which targeted students in part time jobs who are already struggling financially.
Congress notes with concern:
That in many of these jobs, trade union membership is absent and in some places discouraged. Furthermore, many students are unaware of what their rights and entitlements are in relation to time off, payment and hours.
The Vice President of Equality and Citizenship to better inform students of their rights in the workplace by providing information that is set out by the LRC, NERA and Employment legislation. This mandate should be completed within the first quarter of the Academic Year.
A lot of unrecognised valuable work is completed by MOs of USI each year across a wide range of areas and that many students work tirelessly for the betterment of Students’ Union and Clubs and Societies.
That the range of work completed is diverse and covers a vast area of extracurricular activities and that there is little recognition for these students in a formal capacity.
The success of the BICS Awards and NUS Awards in the UK.
That the students who work hard in these extracurricular activities should be recognised and acknowledged.
Congress therefore mandates Officerboard:
To organise USI Student Participation Awards whereby students will be accredited for their involvement in local Students’ Unions, USI Campaigns and involvement in Clubs and Societies.
The President and Officer Board to bring forward to the first National Council of 2012/2013 a cohesive plan for the Student Participation Awards which should include the categories that will be included in the Award Ceremony, who will be eligible, how they will be run and judged, deadlines and any other preparation needed.
That high unemployment has meant many of our friends, relatives and neighbours have been forced to leave Ireland in search of work elsewhere, and that as in generations past, we are exporting many of our best and brightest individuals, and that many of these will settle in their new homes and spend the rest of their lives there. This legacy of forced emigration has had an extremely detrimental effect on the life of our nation and our State, and that indeed; Ireland is the only country in the world which has a lower population now than in 1845.
Congress further recognises:
That over the past twenty years, the various holders of the office of President of Ireland have reached out to the Irish abroad, and that Article 2 of the Constitution states how “the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage”. Despite this, Ireland is one of the very few countries in the world which still denies voting rights to those citizens who are not resident in the State.
That there are over a million Irish citizens currently living outside the State, including many in Northern Ireland, alongside another two to three million people who have a claim on Irish citizenship. Congress also notes that as a community, these people are no less Irish and care no less about Ireland because they have emigrated, and that accordingly, they should not be unreasonably excluded from the life of the nation and the State.
Congress mandates the USI:
To adopt a policy which calls on the government to extend the right to vote in elections for the President of Ireland to all Irish citizens living outside the State. The exact mechanism to be used in such elections should be determined by the government, as long as it encourages as wide a participation among the Irish abroad in these elections as is reasonably possible, but with particular regard to the opportunities which technology offers in reaching these people.
To include this policy in future Lobby of the Oireacthas documents and to approach all the registered political parties seeking support on this policy.
Congress mandates the USI President:
To write to each of the elected officers of each member organisation in September 2012 asking them to present this policy for approval at their decision-making body of students, such as a class representatives council.