Planning access to Justice: Error 404

Planning access to Justice: Error 404

According to Environmental Pillar’s immediate release, the Minister of Housing, TD Eoghan Murphy, is pressing for new planning rules outlined in the “Housing and Planning and Development Bill 2019”. If these rules were to be implemented, it would be even more complicated for citizens or NGOs to bring a case to Court against poor planning decisions. It would lead to a more complex court process, and a rising of the costs of the legal procedure. If implemented, these changes would be in violation of EU law and the UN Aarhus Convention

Ireland’s leading environmental coalition said it  “is shocked at the Minister for Housing’s attempt […] that would make it near impossible to challenge planning decisions in the courts and hold public authorities and the Government to account.”

 

What would change?

The first change would impact procedure costs rules. Now, in compliance with article 9 of the Aarhus Convention, the procedures are required to be “not prohibitively expensive”. The rules make each party bear their own costs, but a successful plaintiff might be granted some extra costs. 

With the new bill, we would head to a cap of 5.000€ for individuals and of 10.000€ for groups. It would also limit the amount awarded to a successful litigant to 40.000€, which would make things harder for NGOs or citizens to seek legal representation as lawyers are often hired on a “no foal, no fee” basis for that kind of cases. Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chief Justice, has said in the past that the issue of costs has been a “great difficulty” for Ireland to comply with the Aarhus Convention.

The requirements for citizens to be able to bring a planning case to court would be getting stricter. Again, in compliance with article 9 of the Aarhus Convention, any citizens willing to tackle a bad planning decision need to show a “sufficient interest”. With the new Bill, it would depend on a “substantial interest”. The new rules would also require from the individual to be “directly affected, in a way which is peculiar or personal” and to have had “prior participation in planning process”. This would call for a far higher level of justification and the burden of the proof of these requirements would rest upon the individual. 

But under the new rules, the requirements for NGOs would be getting drastic too. From a condition of “12 months previous existence”, NGOs would have to exist for at least 3 years with the new regime. This prerequisite is already stern and rule out most of the recent (environmental) groups, but the bill goes further: NGOs would need a minimum of 100 affiliated members. The local groups that might meet the existence requirement would probably not meet this criteria. I guess it’s always easier to win a legal fight when your competitor cannot even access the battle field. 

 

How would it breach international law?  

This new Bill would be in breach of international law as it would not comply with the Aarhus Convention anymore. Ireland has been really late to comply with it in the first place, and now is about to set backward. The Convention has three clear objectives: ensuring citizens’ rights to access environmental information, to participate in environmental decisions and to timely access justice in environmental matters. How far from reached those objectives would be.

In regards toEU Law, it’s more debatable. The EU Directive 2011/92 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, guarantees access to justice in its 11th article. But this legislation gives member states some discretion power on how to implement access to justice. There’s a lot to bet that this discretion power will be a main – if not the only – argument of Minister Murphy when defending his Bill.

 

Official comment? 

Saying a few words on this morning’s “Today Sean O’Rouke”, Minister Murphy did not mention this Planning Bill. He has yet refused to comment on the breaking news, explained Niall Sargent, Editor of Green News, to us. 

The only explanations we could read so far are those written in an email Murphy has sent to the Oireachtas Committee for Housing, Planning and Local Government. While asking the committee for an “early pre-legislative scrutiny” to achieve an implementation by next Easter, he stated that “there is a need to safeguard the timely delivery of projects and value for public money while simultaneously maintaining the rights of citizens to challenge decisions that do not comply with European environmental law.”

If you’re a curious person, like me, you would try and find the Bill or at least a draft somewhere. Well I tell you; you’ll end up disappointed. Nor on the Ministry’s website, nor on the Oireachtas Committee tab, nowhere will you find something about this new Bill. “It’s difficult to be aware of this Bill if you have no links with the Committee” admitted Niall Sargent. The Environmental Pillar itself only saw the Heads of the Bill. “We need a more proactive information with the public.”

 

Any other comments?

Tony Lowes from Friends of Ireland explained this morning to Pat Kenny that “it’s a draconian Bill that is bad for environmental NGOs and community groups. Everything about it is regressive and it sets the clock back on access to justice rights.” Accordingly, Orla Hegarty explained that “the planning system is moving further away from being a citizen-friendly system, and back to being centralized.” According to her, instead of trying to poorly address the “court problem”, the Government should deal with the root of the problem and allow groups and citizens to raise their concerns earlier in the decision process.

The least we can say is that this new Bill has made voices rise all over the country. Various organisations have emphasised how this would be in violation of their rights to access justice. Several legal professionals also expressed how outrageous this new legislation is. “The reactions on social media are strong” said Niall Sargent. “Groups are really shocked.” Altogether, they will now try to raise awareness, especially – but not only – in the activist community. So, if you want to support the Environmental Pillar and other groups, a first step can be to talk about it and maybe even share this article.

 

Photo by Juan J. Martinez on Flickr

 

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Planning access to Justice: Error 404

The Minister of Housing is pressing for new planning rules. If these rules were to be implemented, it would be even more complicated for citizens or NGOs to bring a case to Court against poor planning decisions.

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Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Professor Mary McAleese did not shy away from either Brexit or Church-State relations as the designated speaker of the 2019 Edmund Burke Lecture at Trinity College Dublin, earlier this month.

The former President of Ireland delivered a striking speech that evening. The topic of the event drew from her thesis work, The Future of Ireland: Human and Children’s Rights, and brought before us “evolving questions, next generation constitutional reforms and church-state relations.”

Professor McAleese began by talking about Brexit, especially in the context of the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement that she was so very involved in. Professor McAleese called for a “move beyond the past… without disturbing the peace”, noting that the Agreement did not provide for Brexit, which interrupted the sense of partnership between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom provided by the European Union, which she calls “the noblest enterprise in the history of Europe”. Professor McAleese did not shy away from criticising the United Kingdom when she claimed that Brexit was “a lesson about how not to go about constitutional change” and produced an “enraged, rather than an engaged, society”.

Professor McAleese then brought around the conversation to the strong religious undercurrents inherent in the Brexit, hard-border problem, mentioning religion and religious sensibilities in the context of changing constitutional demographics and emphasising the importance of upholding different identities which are currently fraught with fragile emotion. Change, according to McAleese, needs to begin with the rights of the child in the context of religion, including the right to freedom of religion, the right to change religion, the right to freedom of thought and the right to freedom of conscience, as set out by Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Latin Catholic Church, as the “biggest service provider of educational services for children in Ireland” is to be the starting point.

Professor McAleese detailed the Convention of the Rights of the Child. This established children as the holders of autonomous rights, including the right to change religion, the right to freedom of thought and the right to freedom of conscience, enlisting parents to the more nuanced role of their obligation to their child to help them to form their own independent, capable thoughts. The Holy See was directly involved in the drafting of this convention and was one of the first entities to ratify it – however, a request to review the Catholic canon law to comply with the convention was refused. 

Professor McAleese then explained canon law in terms of baptism, describing theological impact and its more controversial juridical aspect – to the extent that an infant being baptised was deemed to have entered voluntarily into membership with the Catholic Church through promises made by parents on the child’s behalf. This child was now, by baptism, deemed to have embraced the Catholic faith and obliged to profess it based on promises made by parents’ on the child’s behalf. McAleese likened this to an onerous contract and argued it to be “flatly inconsistent with the Convention”, asserting that the Holy See had never actually taken into account the ethical, legal and moral implications of imposing this kind of obligation on infants.

Professor McAleese claimed that Catholic Church canon law does not confer on the church a right to ignore state and international law, and argued that a new Ireland required “new ways of guiding and directing our children”. She called for Church recognition that the Convention will take precedence over these rights-constricting canon laws. Any covenant between Church and State must start with the rights of children, and so should any talk of Ireland’s future. She concluded that “this is a very good place to begin.”

 

Photo by TrinityLongRoomHub on Twitter

 

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Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Professor Mary McAleese did not shy away from either Brexit or Church-State relations as the designated speaker of the 2019 Edmund Burke Lecture at Trinity College Dublin, earlier this month. Editor Olivia covers for STAND News.

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Movember: a young activist’s perspective

Movember: a young activist’s perspective

As part of a series of articles to raise awareness about Movember, contributor Conor Kelly talks about their own experience of dealing with mental and physical health issues.

 

For most people, November is an average month. But for people like me and many others, it’s a month to reflect and take account of our spiritual, mental and physical health.

Movember takes place every year during the month of, you guessed it, November. It is a month-long campaign to raise funds for health issues that affect men. People do events and fundraisers to help raise money for research and awareness for mental health problems such as suicide and depression and as well for testicular and prostate cancer research. 

The movement began in Australia in 2003 when two friends, Travis and Luke, decided to try and bring the moustache back into fashion. Travis and Luke were inspired by a friend’s mother who had raised money for her breast cancer treatment and decided to create the campaign to focus on men’s mental and physical health. Fast forward 16 years and the campaign has grown into a global movement with over 5 million people spreading awareness and growing a moustache to raise funds for essential research.

It is now a charity that is tackling the issue of men’s health on a global scale. We live in a world where men, on average, are living six years less than women because of medical issues that are largely preventable. In the next 15 years, unchecked prostate cancer rates will double, and already testicular cancer rates have doubled over the last 50 years. One man dies by suicide ever 60 seconds and men account for ¾ of suicides in Ireland.

As a young person today I don’t think a lot about my mortality, but in  November of 2018 I found a lump on my testicles. It shook me in my existence and after I lost a good friend of mine earlier this year to suicide, I have been continuously thinking about what it means to be alive.  

I have dealt with mental health problems in my life, as does everyone else, because that’s what happens. It’s normal to have dark days and it’s normal to go to counselling. It’s made me a happier person and If I didn’t have supports such as the people around me and the help of medical professionals I wouldn’t be here today speaking about my mental health.

 

So why am I raising funds for the Movember Foundation? 

Well, their mission to me is about standing up and saying ‘’yeah I’m not okay – I need help’’.  It’s the ability to do this despite a culture of toxic masculinity perpetuated by people saying things like ‘’buck up’’ and ‘’men don’t cry’’. Well, you know what, I cry, and I don’t care. I shouldn’t have to live in a culture where I see everyone I know hurting.  As an activist and social worker I have a duty to people of all ages to protect their best interest but to also make sure that they are empowered to make their own decisions. It’s important to break the barriers of the ‘’strong man culture’’ we experience in our personal lives and to start talking about mental health stigma.

As part of this series, I have reached out to people who have different stories to tell about their mental health and how it has shaped everything they do now in the present.

We all live in a society where, for too long, people have suffered in silence, where there is a national shortage of mental health professionals and facilities. Mental health doesn’t discriminate, no matter if you come from a rich or poor family, if you are or are not straight. 

At this time the best thing we can do for ourselves, our families and friends, is just talk because there’s no issue too small and no problem too big that can’t be helped if you just talk, because a problem shared is a problem halved. 

Here is a link  to my fundraiser for the Movember foundation, by the end of November I wish to have raised 1000 euro for the foundation. 

So, for all the reasons I have mentioned above please if you could donate what you can afford, it would be greatly appreciated.  The price of a coffee or a pint can go towards helping to stop men dying young.

Thank you.

 

 

Photo by Shannon Takhashi

 

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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace: Ireland is making slow progress

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace: Ireland is making slow progress

Last month, the Good Summit Ireland, hosted in Trinity College,  aimed to create “a space for dialogue that motivates those who feel disengaged and disenchanted with how the world works, offering a platform for solidarity, with new ideas and empowerment.”  Editor Rose attended a talk on the topic of diversity in the workplace and reports for STAND News

Over 40 speakers, ranging from activists to corporates and researchers, spoke at events in six locations across Trinity’s iconic campus for the 4th edition of the annual Summit.

The ambitious purpose of the event clearly translated to the wide range of complex topics the expert panels discussed, ranging from homelessness, sports, social enterprise, health and more. 

Due to the scale and timing of the event, it was impossible to attend every talk. Instead, event-goers limited their attendance and participation to specific talks of personal interest. Attendees milled around the Trinity campus, interacting with student volunteers who led the way to different venues. Although it was heartening to see the number of student volunteers, there did not seem to be many students attendees. Perhaps, like me, they had to find a way to fit the Summit talks into their already busy college course schedules. 

I followed the directions of a student volunteer up a narrow staircase to the Diversity & Equality in the Workplace session, hosted by Moira Hogan, head of marketing at Business in the Community Ireland. In a bit of unintentional irony, the location of this event was a reminder of the practical challenges involved in accommodating diversity, as an audience member pointed out the lack of accessibility to the venue. Although the panel and the entire Good Summit meant to promote diversity, it was not accessible to those who may have physical disabilities or difficulties walking – thereby physically excluding them from participating. 

Ms. Hogan and her organisation aim to “make all companies in Ireland responsible and sustainable,” which includes promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion. The business workforce of Ireland today does not accurately reflect the diversity of the nation’s population. By helping companies develop and update their policies to promote diversity and equality while also sponsoring programs aimed to help people enter the workforce, Business in the Community Ireland aims to close this gap. 

Ms. Hogan and her colleagues answered questions about the current barriers and obstacles to diversity in the workplace, as viewed from the perspective of job-seekers. Many of their clients are refugees and immigrants to Ireland who face challenges finding employment and integrating into society. 

A large proportion of the barriers to diversity in the workplace lies in the strict requirements set by many employers. Irish employers expect Irish qualifications, for example the leaving certificate, an Irish college degree, or a certain score on an aptitude test. As the panel pointed out, these expectations are culturally biased and potentially exclusive. Foreign nationals are less likely to have leaving cert qualifications and are very unlikely to score highly on a subjective aptitude test. As a result of this restrictive qualification mentality, employers tend to undervalue work experience or qualifications obtained in other countries, effectively treating workers as though anything they have done outside Ireland has no value. 

Other challenges can be attributed to the less quantifiable aspects of the employment process. What one panelist referred to as “the Irish way of doing things” can be very challenging to grasp for those coming from the outside. Irish culture, like any other, has its own communication style. Although the prefered style here includes eye contact and small talk, there are cultures where avoiding eye contact is a sign of respect, and others where speaking directly is considered more polite. There is a tendency in Ireland to see what is culturally different as less than ideal or simply incorrect. As a result, instead of embracing diversity this hiring philosophy excludes those who do not fit the mould. 

In practice, many of these same barriers serve to exclude Irish nationals as well. Aspects of physical appearance such as skin color, religious attire, and even hairstyle, can also be points of discrimination. As evidenced by the stories of some clients of Business in the Community Ireland, something as simple as having a Muslim name can be a barrier. Racism and religious discrimination and unconscious bias are some of the largest barriers to diversity and equality in the Irish workplace. 

The business sector has the potential to be a huge instrument of positive change in society. Business in the Community Ireland works with companies to alter their requirements and reframe their mindset in order to promote diversity and innovation. The benefits of diversifying the Irish workforce are not merely social. As stated by Ms. Hogan, businesses with higher levels of diversity are 80% more productive, and innovation is promoted substantially by diversity. 

In keeping with the Good Summit values, the panel speakers encouraged audience members themselves to do their part to promote diversity and equality in Ireland. Hogan and her colleagues implored summit-goers to “take greater responsibility about racism in Ireland” while reminding people that the personal impact of compassion and collaboration can make a substantial difference in the community.

 

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace: Ireland is making slow progress

Last month, the Good Summit Ireland, hosted in Trinity College, aimed to create “a space for dialogue that motivates those who feel disengaged and disenchanted with how the world works, offering a platform for solidarity, with new ideas and empowerment.” Editor Rose attended a talk on the topic of diversity in the workplace and reports for STAND News.

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30 years after Berlin, walls still stand across the world

30 years after Berlin, walls still stand across the world

Today, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why was there a wall? Why and how did it fall? What happened next? What about other walls in the world? These are the questions we’ll try to answer!

 

A bit of context: Why was there a wall in Berlin? 

In 1945, after the Second World War, Germany was partitioned. The UK, the USA, France and the USSR (former Soviet Union) each got a piece of Germany (see map below or on the right/left – to see when publishing). In 1949, the Allies (France, the UK and the USA) decided to unite their parts of Germany, which became the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG – West Germany). The rest of Germany remained under Soviet power and was called the German Democratic Republic (GDR – East Germany). The border between the two Germanies was called the Iron curtain. At first, there was no physical representation of the border. It gradually became an impassable 8500km long barrier, going from the Baltic Sea to the Caspian Sea.

Eventually, Berlin was partitioned too (see map below or on the right/left – to see when publishing), and in the same way the Allies united their parts, opposing the Soviets. At first, there was no physical border in Berlin, allowing East German to easily escape to West Germany, which was seen as more attractive because richer. The crossing started to be massive. In 1960, around 200,000 people left GDR to find refuge in West Berlin. Until 1961, almost 3,5 million Eastern Germans had fled to FRG. The Soviets couldn’t stand this affront any longer and wanted to stop the haemorrhage. 

Therefore, they came up with a plan to build a physical border, dividing Berlin. In one night only, from the 12th August 1961’s evening to the 13th August’s morning, the VoPos (Volkspolizei’s agents, police force from GDR) erected a wall with 2m high concrete panels and barbed wires. This was meant to last. The quickness was incredible. At 11:15pm Germans could cross the border easily. At 11:30pm it was impossible. There were actually very few violent scenes that night. People were just stunned. The wall was protected by a 500m no-man’s land and guarded by VoPo’s, ready to shoot on sight any agitator. From now on, if you wanted to cross the border, you could only do it by reporting to one of the 13 checkpoints. From the East to West Germany, you could only cross to the other sidel if you had a pass. From the West to the East, to travel by car, you needed a special authorization, that you were almost sure you wouldn’t get. The 2,5 millions of West Berliners got really isolated, as on an island among GDR. 

 

A historic day: Why and how did it fall?

In 1989, people who stayed in East Berlin started to protest more and more often. Eastern Germans were on the streets, demanding reforms. Eventually, the authorities implemented “new” travel regulations. But nowhere in those was actually written that the gate would open on the 9th of November. 

At a press conference that day, around 6pm, Guenter Schabowsky, an East German Politburo spokesman addressed the press about these new rules. But he hadn’t taken the time to properly read those. He let journalists understand (and then report) that “exit via border crossings” would be “possible for every citizens” effective, “immediately, right away.” His later complementary comment about how the permeability of the wall was not answered yet was not really listened to. At 7pm, Western radio announced that the Berlin Wall was open. Soon after the broadcast, German television shared the news as well, and people started to gather at the checkpoints, on both sides of the wall. 

Among the guards, was a feeling of uncertainty. After a few phone calls, they were reassured that the border was meant to stay closed on their watch. But soon, they would be outnumbered by the crowd. Refusing to resort to use violence in risk of it escalating, they decided around 9pm to let some people cross, to ease the thousands of people gathering at the gates. This solution lasted a couple of hours. Around 11:30pm, the barriers of Bornholmer Straße were lifted up. Others would soon follow. At this point, people were jumping on top of the wall, reunited and cheered. 

What’s really striking here is how important the timing was that day. At that time, due to the time difference, Western leaders were busy in some meetings, while Soviets leader were sleeping. Therefore, they didn’t get the chance to take action and consolidate the wall and the checkpoints. 

This is how the 9th of November became a historic day. To celebrate this day, a 7-day Festival was organised in Berlin.

 

Aftermath: What happened next?

The fall of the Wall continued the following days and weeks. The official dismantling began on the 13th July 1990 and was completed by 1992. This two-year gap is really in contrast with the one-night construction.

A couple of weeks after the fall, Helmut Kohl (West German Chancellor) launched a 10-point program to bring the two Germanies closer, maybe even to reunification. On the 3rd October 1990, the reunification became reality. This united country would be officially called the Federal Republic of Germany. This way, Germany was a successor state to smaller FRG, retaining all international commitments made by Western Germany. 

The reunification was not as simple as it seemed. The former East communist economy was difficult to get along with the Western economy. The Deutsche Mark was introduced to former GDR, but this was not a smooth transition. Unemployment rose in the Eastern regions as businesses and factories couldn’t keep up due to the introduction of a new currency. All those dreams of freedom and prosperity were at first crushed for East Germans.

 

Still divided: What about other walls in the world?

At the end of the Second World War, 7 border walls where to be found in the world. By the time the Berlin wall fell, 15 were counted. Nowadays, we’re beyond 70 walls. 

One of the most famous might be the Israel/West Bank wall, erected in 2002 after several Palestinian attacks. Called the “apartheid wall”, the 700km barrier was judged in breach of international law by the international Court of Justice in 2004.

We also often hear about the Indian/Bangladesh border wall. The 3200km brick wall was erected to “protect India from Muslim invaders”, with no consideration for the small towns it crosses. 

But very much closer to us, we can still witness a wall up in Belfast. The “Peace Wall” is presented as a protection, as a tool to keep peace in Belfast, preventing anymore rioting. Still, when you have a walk on each side of the wall, protection is not the first word that comes to your mind. Division. Separation. Disconnection. Those are words that fill your head. Just by the size of the houses, the existence or not of a garden attached to the house, the size of the windows, you can tell how different the daily life must be depending on what side you’re living in. 

Therefore, I must ask, protection or division? 

30 years ago, we were all waiting for the Berlin Wall to fall. This border was seen as an unbearable sign of division that the international community wanted down. But in the meantime, more and more walls were erected. Where is the coherence here?

This topic was obviously brought back in the spotlight by Trump and his wish to build a wall between the USA and Mexico. As if there were not already fences between those states. Migration and Brexit also added to the debate by questioning non-existing borders. But in the end, don’t you think that we benefit from sharing different cultures? 

 

Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash

 

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Mary McAleese on Church and State: “it’s about our children”

Professor Mary McAleese did not shy away from either Brexit or Church-State relations as the designated speaker of the 2019 Edmund Burke Lecture at Trinity College Dublin, earlier this month. Editor Olivia covers for STAND News.

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Brexit: what does it mean for students?

Brexit: what does it mean for students?

Confused about what Brexit actually means and how it will impact you? This month, STAND’s Brexit Series will help you understand how we got into this situation, what the proposed deal contains, where the negotiations are at now, and how a no-deal Brexit will impact Ireland, the UK and more widely the EU. If you’re new to the series, no worries, here are the basics, the EU’s perspective, a view of the most crazy week, and what it means for Ireland.

Brexit will have various repercussions, including on education. To have a better understanding of how Brexit will impact students in Ireland we talked to USI Vice President for the Dublin Region, Craig McHugh, and with NUS-USI President based in Belfast, Robert Murtagh.

 

What’s the students’ Unions position on Brexit?

“Our position is that there’s no better deal than the deal we have currently within the European Union” states Murtagh. “Brexit is going to be bad for students. We don’t dress that up. We oppose it” completes his colleague from the South, Craig McHugh.

When talking about the latest negotiated deal, Murtagh affirms that “it’s cautious, it’s not overly optimistic, but it’s probably the best that we’re going to get.” In the end, both Unions were relieved they were “not looking at a no deal Brexit. A deal, whether it was good or not, was better than no deal.” 

This deal respects the Good Friday Agreement “as much as it can” because “Brexit is pretty much in conflict with the Good Friday Agreement” reminds McHugh. “I don’t think protecting the Good Friday Agreement is on the British Government agenda. I do think it’s on the agenda of the Irish Government and the European Union” indicates Murtagh.

 

What about mobility?

The first point of action for both the USI and NUS-USI is to guarantee mobility for students.  As McHugh sums it up, “Brexit is going to damage the livelihoods of students going to College in the Republic and who are from Northern Ireland or from the UK.” We’re talking here for example about Northern Irish students coming to Galway, Cork or Dublin but also of situations such as the Donegal/Derry connection, or the Dundalk/Newry border. “It’s that kind of relationships that will be seriously damaged for lecturing staff crossing the border and getting to work on a daily basis” says McHugh. To talk in numbers, about 5% of Dublin’s students are from the North. There are 12,500 students travelling between Ireland and the UK annually whose freedom of movement would be impacted by any kind of border. 

In light of the above, it seems clear that the border is a main concern for students of the Irish island. “We can’t imagine a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. That cannot happen” emphasizes Murtagh. The border issue “turns people away from viewing Ireland as a whole island. Economy is a whole island; education system is a whole island” affirms McHugh. “Borders really are not the solution here.”

From where we’re standing now, we don’t know what’s going to happen. There could be a new Government in the UK, and then a new deal. Yet, it seems unlikely that students’ rights would get less protection if the deal should be renegotiated. 

The USI met with the Department of Foreign Affairs which reinsured that both Northern Ireland and Ireland will work together to make sure that this mobility won’t be impacted. “We are happy with what we are getting from the Department. They are preparing in the right way and they’ve been listening to us” reveals McHugh.

 

What consequences for Irish students? 

According to McHugh, “Ireland is not investing enough in housing, in infrastructures, to deal with the Brexit consequences”, which will impact Irish students as well as international students.

The Brexit’s economic impact on Ireland will have repercussions on students as well: while politicians are addressing economic issues, they’re not focusing on the underfunding of education nor the rise of the cost of living. The focus on Brexit also makes it difficult to get new policies through such as allowing more to SUSI grants.

From a Northern perspective, “another concern is the increase of fees, which the Irish and British Government agreed not to accept. We have to make sure there’s no bureaucratic issues for students crossing the border that might lead them to having to pay more or to lose support that they have” points out Murtagh.

Also, there’s a big focus on the future of the Erasmus program. In the North, “we need commitment from the British Government for students in the UK to remain in that program long term, beyond 2020. We want to get the possibility to study abroad, to be part of the Erasmus program. But we won’t be entitled to the same support from the European Commission. So, the British Government needs to provide the same support” says Murtagh.

 

What about international students?

The number of international students is probably going to rise in the Republic as Ireland is an English-speaking country which remains within the European Union. Dublin is expected to appear more and more attractive, even though Ireland would have the most expensive fees and rents for students’ accommodations in the EU. Those international students will be at high risks to be exploited. “They’ll be exploited with the high fees, they can be discriminated against when renting a room, or they may be lied to about the rooms they are going to get” explains McHugh.  

The USI is also concerned about the rise of racism in Ireland. “Brexit should be a warning sign”. “We love to call ourselves and open country, but realistically we have one of the most racist way to dealing with refugees or people seeking asylum in this country through Direct Provision for example.”

 

Photo by Ed Everett on Flickr

 

Watch below our vox-pop about Brexit! Interviews of students from Belfast Queen’s University and Dublin City University.