USI says students’ unions capable of running a country

Minister for Health compared Greek government to students’ union

USI president Kevin Donoghue said in a letter to the Minister that he had been too quick to judge students’ unions, reminding him of the role students had played in encouraging young people to vote in the same-sex marriage referendum in May.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

USI president Kevin Donoghue said in a letter to the Minister that he had been too quick to judge students’ unions, reminding him of the role students had played in encouraging young people to vote in the same-sex marriage referendum in May. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has said students’ unions are capable of running a country after Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said it seemed as if the Greek government had been taken over by students.

USI president Kevin Donoghue said in a letter that the minister had been too quick to judge students’ unions, reminding Mr Varadkar of the role students had played in encouraging young people to vote in the same-sex marriage referendum in May.

“Knowing the implications and value of a Yes vote, young people in this country registered thousands of their peers, knocked on as many doors and spoke to the farthest branches of their families trees in the hope that, maybe, we could make Ireland a better place,” wrote Mr Donoghue.

“All things considered maybe students’ unions should be running the country.”

Mr Varadkar said on Friday it was difficult for people outside the Greek negotiations to follow the chain of events in Athens.

“It seems like the student union has taken over the government. First there’s an agreement, then there isn’t,” he said.

“Then there’s a referendum and then there isn’t. Then they’re saying to vote yes, then they’re saying to vote no, and then today they are saying it doesn’t matter if you vote yes or no because there’s a secret agreement that nobody’s heard of.”

Mr Donoghue, who took over from Laura Harmon as USI president on Tuesday, mentioned the students’ union in Cork Institute of Technology in his letter, which raised vital funds to treat a student with Lyme disease.

“The actions of CITSU were taken because the government and the Department of Health would not help a citizen who so desperately needed treatment,” he said.

He also listed the help students’ unions give to students “who have been adversely and horrifically affected by austerity measures,” such as providing food and books, hostel accommodation, counselling and support.

“And we do all of this while raising millions of euro for charities, bringing revenue and a boost to the local economy surrounding our colleges, and educating ourselves so we can contribute to the economic recovery of Ireland,” the USI President concluded.

TD Ruth Coppinger said at a protest for solidarity with Greece on Saturday afternoon that she had a message for her constituency colleague Leo Varadkar.

“It was not the students union of Syriza that brought Greece to ruination, it was the wise-old men in your sister parties of new democracy that led us to this sorry pass,” she said at the demonstration at the Central Bank.