This House Would Stop QUBSU From Having Referenda

The 6th ordinary meeting of the 166th Session of the Literific took place on the 6th of November in the Senate room and was attended by 26 members.

President Naomh Gibson heard questions from Emma Chadwick, Brendan Kelters, Marie-

Louise Synott, and Fionnbhar Rogers before announcing the evenings motion, THW STOP QUB SU FROM HAVING REFERENDA.

Mr Brenan McKeagh opened the case for the proposition in his Maiden speech claiming that banning SU referenda would not impact upon anyones freedom of speech. He substantiated this claim by defining referenda and the principles of a Students Union. Comparing recent QUB referenda with ‘more effective and legitimate’ referenda held by Cambridge and Surrey SUs Mr McKeagh argued that the party politics of QUB SU was irrelevant in a University context. Mr McKeagh concluded that QUB SU recent referenda did not promote equality among the QUB community and that SU council members already have an obligation to listen to students, without the need for a referenda. He urged the house to vote in favour of a safe, inclusive and neutral space.

Mr Conor Daly then opened the case for the opposition in his maiden speech. He reminded the house of the dangers of a culture of censorship. Mr Daly compared banning referenda with the decision last year to ban a certain song by Robin Thicke. (Totes tempted to make Sophie quote the whole of the song in the hope a sing-a-long gets started). He urged the house that this sets a dangerous precedent and that moves like the one being proposed were not forward thinking or progressive. Mr Daly concluded by reminding the house that democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we have.

Mr Michael Beales in his Maiden speech then continued the case for the proposition. He reminded the house of the poppy debate held by the SU and criticised its ‘tit for tat’ politics. He argued that a Students Union should remain politically neutral for the purpose of equality. Mr Beales described the history of qub as a University of Ireland, free from religion denomination and unique in its admirable stance on equality. He concluded by criticizing the SU for only taking on referenda about topics that were inflammatory in nature, ineffective displays of polemic and that this kind of behaviour should be left to the government rather than a university.

Mr Graeme Rice then closed the case for the opposition arguing the importance of referenda being able to change issues constitutionally. He urged the house to acknowledge that holding referenda on every level was an important part of our democratic right and that SU councilors having an ‘obligation’ to listen simply wasn’t enough to ensure that everyones voice will be heard. He reminded the house that referenda gave a formal quality to democracy rather than a wishy washy culture of not having things in writing. Mr Rice concluded that the recent vote of ‘yes’ on the neutrality referenda was surely a sign that QUB can use referenda well and should continue to do so for the sake of democracy and transparency.

The debate then moved to the floor where questions were heard from Brendan Kelters, Marie-Louise Synott, Robbie Whitehurst, Emma Chadwick and Ciaran Gallagher.

The House moved to a vote and the motion was defeated with 6 ayes, 16 nays and 2 abstentions.

Can I take the minutes as read?


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