Students Union 2011/12? United we Stand, Divided We fall

Students Union of Ireland

James Mahon

In Our first week in Nuig we are given an amusing and usually entertaining speech by the students union president which is usually a means to convey their presence in our new college lives; yet with elections approaching we must ask the tough questions such as do they perform any real function or merely mill around in hoodys giving condoms and pamphlets?

As a class rep for the duration of my degree and a former member of the Academic Council I have never ever felt required to make the transition to SU officer, when I spoke to numerous students and staff members prior to writing this article I was met with a lot of the same indifference to their real function or purpose.

The majority of students felt that the SU is to be judged by their rag week now of course college week, yet the sustained backlash to this raise and give week that now seems more about college life and drinking rather than charity has left a lot of academics and students wondering why the SU should even exist other than to write apology letters to papers and radio shows. For all the backlash they receive the money they raise has in the past been staggering and the success of the charity element has always managed to eclipse the unruly elements. Yet Is the charity element now waning?

The reality is that we as a student body need representatives and the Students Union do act as a strong representation of many of the issues affecting us.
However each administration has had numerous officer positions for example an equality office and Irish language officer yet when I asked a group of second year students who were the SU or what impact had any of these people on students lives, they couldn’t name anyone except some guy called “peter Something”.

As a former graduate of the UCC Summer Academy I was surprised on a recent trip to their campus to see the pride and involvement of the SU in everyday life, the drive and passion their SU has for their students and desire to not just hold meetings and handout free pens but to be active and make wheels turn was very exciting and interesting. Their constant presence to aid students who are marginalized and who don’t feel included or who are subjected to either cyber bullying or isolation was pleasant to see in action and the approachability factor is one that seems essential to a strong and functional SU.

A Union or body can only be as good as the sum of its parts and we must take responsibility for our SU and play a function but if they aren’t inspiring or aiding us sufficiently then we must return to their manifestos or the lack of them. As our nation turns a corner and aims to move forward we need to give time to an even more pro-active SU that is felt around us every day, an SU that drives the college forward and pushes the boundaries to make differences; to walk the walk and not just talk the talk! Its no longer about Wispa Bars or college bars it needs to be about sustained student support and presence as the Celtic Tiger’s cage lies empty and Ireland’s Golden years lie in facebook albums and bebo memories maybe we need to re assess the function of a Union we are part of but often don’t feel belonged to.



Our Island, our Reality, by James Mahon

We are the “Bebo generation” and we are the “Italia 90 Babies” but more importantly we were also “Celtic Tiger Cubs” and now we are Celtic Tiger Flops.
This country according to figures from the trustworthy and honest Bank of Ireland has gone from being the second wealthiest nation on the face of our little planet on July 10th 2006 just behind Japan and ahead of USA, Italy, France and Germany to a financial and social mess. We sit today in coffee shops, bars and restaurants and on IKEA couches that more than likely wont be there this time twelve months. We walk the corridors of a University we may not attend next semester never mind next year. We are the generation that are left behind that wont get a J1 Summer, that might not get to graduate and might never get a job on leaving college, that is if we can even afford to graduate.
Where did it all go wrong? how come we either face into bailing out banks that hold our communion money not our SSIA’S or end up saying “Im Irish, Get me Outta Here”. We were born into prosperity, Santa always came, Disneyland was a holiday resort not Dingle, Boarding schools were an option, mobile phones and Xboxs, plasmas and camcorders, clubbing and cars, lavish 16th birthdays, extravagant 18th birthdays, Oxygen and Electric Picnics, soft summer jobs, foreign holidays after the leaving cert, now what do we have? Memories, photos, face book albums of times gone by.
No more part time jobs, no more trips to Ibiza, we face into dole queues and protests. Our society is sick, very very sick, and the EU medics are worried they may not be able to bring us back to life. This time in the words of American writer Dennis Lehan its “Gone Baby Gone“. Like all human beings we are greedy, we got what we wanted in the past and we asked for more and got it, encouraged by a government and a media circus that lasted years. Banks handed out money as if it were packets of crisps and we borrowed and we borrowed, and we were given grants that we didn’t need and what do we have to show for it? The Spire in Dublin, a few hospital wards and a motorway or two.
In 2007 German Chancellor Christopher Pauls gave out about our brand new “06 and 07 cars”, remarking we had too much money and no sense to which Dept of Foreign Affairs Secretary General Dermot Gallagher responded by saying that his abusive remarks were “misinformed and inaccurate”. Was Mr Paul a modern day Nostradamus, no! he was seeing what we couldn’t behind our Gucci sunglasses. Today we face the reality that Germany might have to bail us out, Russia has shaken its head, we are no longer the prosperous craic mad Ireland, we now sit in relegation territory looking sadly at Iceland above us, Portugal below us and Greece suffering beside us.
How bad is it? We don’t actually know! Are we better being ignorant of the fate of our isle of saints and scholars or rather bankers and Blagards, one often wonders. We will never know how deep the mud we are sinking in is until we hit rock bottom wherever that is or whenever it will happen. According to OECD figures our income is 15 percent less than output, the second largest gap in the OECD. Only 6 months ago we were told “We were out of recession”, this nonsense was blanketing the reality which was that although there was an increase in the opening quarter of 2010 it was still offset by “a 2.7 percent decline posted this time last year in 2009” these are the words of Bloxham chief economist Alan Mc Quaid in the Irish Independent.
Do we see signs of being out of recession around us now, the answer is an emphatic no! we see longer dole queues, shops closing, people emigrating and we are left with one of the most terrifying budgets in the history of our nation. Is there a solution? Are we the ones who have to come up with it? Should we just leave on the next Ryan air flight? These are questions we have to face over the next six months, we were often told, being in college acted as a shield, now with college fees being upped, grants being cut, we no longer can wait for the country to mend itself. Do we need change of government, the logical answer is yes, but it must also be a change for the good with a solution to this nations woes. We have a chain around both our legs and hands as citizens of this country and that is that we have to meet a 2014 target of savings of 15billion euro set by the EU. This works out according to ESRI figures at about 10million euro a day! In other words, we are Leeds United in the form of a nation! We have to borrow money to run the country while using whatever money can be scrounged through cuts and taxes to bail out or banks and pay bank loans. Its like having a college house with a rent of 350 a month, earning 50 a week from working in a pub and then having to get a loan to pay the rent because u fall short and also need to borrow money to live off. In Irish this is called a “fainne Fi”, we are borrowing to stay afloat as a nation but also borrowing to pay back what we have already borrowed. Will we drink our way out of the recession! No, because we cant afford to this time! Economist Alan Barrent said that “very few people in the world actually believe we are going to make a 3per cent of GDP by 2014” so why should we believe we can make it, we have to accept that we can longer turn out backs on the future and must either face it head on or head off. This little island of ours is a dying phoenix and is yet to be seen if we can rise from the ashes of a recession that has made us the laughing stock of Europe and leaves us as young adults of this nation facing the bleak reality that not only will the tiger never roar again it wont even whimper.