The unregulated nature of student digs

The unregulated nature of student digs

The unregulated nature of student digs

A photo of an empty bedroom, viewed from behind the door frame. There are books piled on the floor, a laptop, and a pillow.

Image: SolStock, Getty Images

Digs are becoming an increasingly common form of housing for people in Dublin, with homeowners encouraged to rent out their spare rooms and students becoming more desperate for shelter of any kind. However, this is a completely unregulated and unsupervised form of accommodation, because of this renters have no protections under legislation. 


As digs become more popular due to extortionate Dublin rents, the cracks in the system are beginning to show. Students coming to Dublin are expecting to live their college dream of wild parties every night and new friends and romances every week. Instead, they’re faced with living with a middle aged couple who expect 8:30pm to be quiet time and set ‘curfews’ for this grown adult they’re renting to. 


On top of this, there’s a distinct lack of security felt by those in this type of accommodation, being constantly on edge that those they’re living with may get notions of renovations and kick them out accordingly. There’s no recourse for those that experience this, due to the unregulated nature of this scheme. If homeowners suddenly decide to build that home gym they’ve dreamed of, or that the renter using the kitchen at 8:45pm is simply too much for them to handle, they can essentially evict renters without a second thought. 


On top of all this, there is a group that is fully locked out of even accessing this accommodation – international students. The nature of digs being a five day a week arrangement effectively shoves out those who come to Dublin to study or work from abroad. Therefore they are faced with either the option of leaving or renting a shared room with a tiny toilet for about €800 a month.


The concept of people renting out rooms in their houses was introduced to take pressure off the housing market and provide another form of accommodation. The Rent-a-Room Relief scheme allows homeowners to make up to €14,000 a year tax free to encourage this.

A photo of a wooden table with a hard-back book that says "Landlord-Tenant Law" on the cover. There is a judge's gavel and a key with a house-shaped key ring on it.

Image: Designer491, Getty Images.

However, despite being an increasingly popular form of living for single renters in Dublin it is specifically excluded from the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) which provides obligations and protections for both tenants and landlords. Because of this, those paying rent for this type of accommodation aren’t tenants, but licensees.

According to the leading writer on this, barrister Patricia Sheehy Skeffington, the most important difference between the two is the lack of exclusive occupation of the premises for licensees. For all those lucky enough to not study Property Law, this means that licensees are only given permission to enter and use the premises, whereas tenants have an actual interest in the property and therefore have a right to exclusive occupation, free from the landlord. 


The lack of security in digs becomes all the more apparent when renters are only classified as those who have permission to use the premises rather than a contractual right. According to the UCDSU Report on digs, 71% of students surveyed didn’t know the legal difference between these terms, showing the information gap present even to those who are living in digs. 


Because people living in digs are excluded from the RTA, renters have no access to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) who hear disputes between landlords and tenants for issues like wrongful eviction. Those renting the room out also have none of the legal obligations of a landlord, such as allowing exclusive occupation of a premises or giving fair and proper notice of eviction. As a result, those in digs are clearly much less secure than tenants in their accommodation. 


Stories collected by the UCDSU when surveying students in digs illustrates this perfectly. These range from the funny anecdotes of fussy homeowners to downright disturbing treatment of students in these homes. One student reported there was specific shower and kitchen use time, along with a ‘pseudo curfew,’ in the evening. This was a 20 year old man living with two strangers who effectively treated him as the least favourite child, he reported feeling more like a burden than a rent payer. Many share the feeling of being infantilised by these homeowners, not like the grown college students or young professionals they are. It’s hard not to feel that you’re twelve years old again when curfews become a factor in your life of wild parties and playdates.


As previously mentioned, digs is commonly a five day a week arrangement. However, due to the lack of regulation in this area, homeowners are fully entitled to charge for full weeks at market rates when renters simply aren’t welcome for the full week, and they are definitely not living in a typical shared living arrangement as seen in the housing market. Digs were specifically encouraged because they were separate to the market and saved students from the horrors of the market. However, now it is typical for homeowners to charge €800 per month, when a month really means three weeks. At those prices there really isn’t any incentive for students to go to digs, where they would be sharing with faux mammies and daddies for five days a week when they could get sole occupation of a room in shared living with people who won’t time their showers (probably). Digs is becoming the villain it was designed to defeat. It’s not offering students a safety net from inaccessible housing, it’s becoming inaccessible for those who need to stay weekends and who can’t afford such prices for only three weeks of living.


The international students and young professionals are the obvious group for whom digs is simply an impossible option. It’s not exactly feasible to fly home for the weekend when your home might be on a different continent. In third-level education institutes in Ireland, international students are thrown into the lottery for on campus accommodation, just like the rest of us. If they don’t get a spot it’s from the frying pan into the fire, and they are faced with navigating a foreign and expensive housing system. Being locked out of digs denies international students a second chance for accommodation that Irish students are granted, regardless of how questionable that chance is.


Without regulation, homeowners are fully entitled to their decision to exclude a large majority of domestic and international students from their room offer. It’s clear that in order to actually provide a viable alternative to the private rental sector, digs need to have some sort of legislative backing to weed out those who simply want a tax free side income from those who will actually provide fair and viable housing.


In January 2023, Minister for Housing Darragh O’ Brien ruled out regulations being introduced for digs, claiming it would frighten homeowners away from considering it and therefore reduce the supply. How much clearer could he have shown that this scheme is brilliant for a quick buck without any real responsibility? The stance taken by the government regarding digs is that some accommodation is better than none. This is not good enough. 


If someone was outside my door timing my showers and giving me a curfew as a grown adult, I would gladly brave the horrors of the private rental sector. Regulations don’t necessarily mean a plethora of obligations. The bare minimum would be a requirement for fair rents, fair evictions, some weekend availability and maybe even something akin to the RTB to hear complaints. The Rent a Room Relief is definitely beneficiary as it encourages homeowners to open their homes, and I commend those who do. But those who do it and are then shocked at the consequences of a student’s existence, such as eating, showering and not magically disappearing when needed are the reasons why digs aren’t a secure and viable option for students. The ‘luck of the draw’ theme of digs isn’t good enough, students are suffering from it, both domestic and international. 


As students we famously don’t require much; a loaf of bread and a box of tea bags will sustain us for weeks on end. However, the bare minimum when it comes to where we live is no longer suitable. In order to support our studies, our mental health, and dare I say our college experience, we need to live where we feel secure, comfortable and confident in our ability to pay the rent. I believe this can be described as one step above the bare minimum. 

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Pleasure Activism: STAND’s Annual Retreat

Pleasure Activism: STAND’s Annual Retreat

Pleasure Activism: STAND’s Annual Retreat

A photo of a group of people sitting in a circle on the grass in Dublin's botanical gardens. There is a large greenhouse behind them.

Image: Amanda Marques.

STAND’s first annual retreat took place on Saturday 9th September. Students and recent graduates who have been involved with STAND in a variety of ways were invited to come along. To quote Barry Mulvey Healy, one of the attendees, the STAND retreat “brought together a group of passionate individuals who wanted in all different aspects of life to make the world a better place.” It gave everyone a chance to meet one another in person and get to know each other a little better, which was exactly how the day began. Before getting started, there was a chance for everyone to mingle and enjoy a pastry or two. 


Clare Sheppard and Charlotte Bishop kicked off the event by introducing themselves and the concept of “pleasure activism,” as well as initiating some games. They encouraged us to spend the day nourishing ourselves as changemakers. Susie led a short meditation to encourage everyone to reflect on moments of activism we experienced and how we can best incorporate more pleasure activism into our lives. 


According to Adrienne Marie Brown, author of Pleasure Activism The Politics of Feeling Good, pleasure activism is about making social justice a pleasurable experience. Pleasure activism is about reflecting on why we are activists and what we are passionate about. It is about bringing the joy and enjoyment back to activism and minding ourselves during busy periods of activism. 

Image: Amanda Marques.

Ebere Edeh, a student and participant in the 2023 Ideas Collective, shared her insights into activism, highlighting why we need pleasure activism:

“When I think of activism I think a lot of the burden we activists take on and how frustrating and mind consuming it is for a good cause or because we are passionate the extra commitment we carry, it’s hard to not enjoy or take a pause, a break and remember why we are doing what we are doing and find pleasure in it.”

Eimear McNally from Creativity Change led a zine making workshop, and spoke about how her work explores the power of the arts in engaging people. We all got to be really creative and use a variety of materials. We got stuck in to using different types of paints, markers and crayons to let our creative juices flow. Every zine was unique; each one had a different colour scheme, a different design and a different meaning. 


We then received an insightful and interesting guided tour of Glasnevin Cemetery. The theme of pleasure activism continued as the tour guide paused at a variety of activist graves such as Daniel O’ Connell, Maude Gone and Francis and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington.

Images: Amanda Marques.

After lunch everyone headed to the Botanic Gardens for the second half of the retreat. Rachel Dempsey from Full Circles Change kept us thinking about and exploring what pleasure activism meant to us through guided meditation and rethinking our connection to nature. We also learned about fractals and how they connect lots of different things together.

The STAND retreat ended at the Botanic Gardens with plenty of time for reflection before everyone departed. There were plenty of biscuits and flowers, roses and sunflowers to go round for everybody. After completing a survey about our experience of the day and saying our goodbyes the STAND retreat drew to a close. The event ended with shared feelings of gratitude, inspiration and connection. Barry described the event as “bright” and Eddie called it “adventurous.”

Image: Erin Kehoe.

People are activists in their own way and for different reasons and pleasure activism means something different to everyone. For example, one of the STAND Retreat attendees Eddie S. Mwangwewo describes pleasure activism as

“being an activist from the positive point of view, that is, advocacy which dwells more on the good of something and not more on the bad of the opposite. More like the half-full half-empty glass question. In this context, pleasure activism would be done with joy, love and happiness rather than with antagonism, hate and pain.”


In the words of Adrienne Marie Brown, “Changing the world doesn’t have to be just another form of work.”

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Gendered inequality in education at home and abroad

Gendered inequality in education at home and abroad

Gendered inequality in education at home and abroad

A photo of two women studying. There are books covering a desk in front of them.

Image: Kanchanachitkhamma

It’s interesting how when I reflect on my time in secondary school and compare it to the experiences of others I realise that there are at least a few things that need to change.


For example I attended an all girls secondary school. There were five optional subjects for the Junior Certificate that students could choose two between. The subjects were as follows: business studies, music, home economics, art and technology. The all-boys secondary school on the other side of town offered subjects such as construction studies, engineering, design and communication graphics, biology, physics, chemistry, P.E, art, business studies, accounting, economics, geography and religion. 


Whereas in the mixed school in the next town the subjects students could study for the Junior Certificate were Graphics, music, engineering, applied technology, business studies, home economics, art and wood technology. In the mixed school, the subjects for Leaving Certificate are accounting, art, biology, chemistry, physics, music, design and communication graphics, construction, history, home economics, and geography. 


This information about the three types of schools just in my local area does not send out some good messages. Are the single sex schools telling us that young girls should only study art, home economics or technology or as a Leaving Certificate student one or more of the three sciences? If you are a boy studying at an all boys secondary school you can only study science subjects or subjects like engineering and construction studies. Who says that boys cannot have excellent careers as chefs, bakers or musicians?

A photo of three Thai girls looking at a book together.

Image: Ron Lach, Pexels

Although nowadays subjects are not labelled specifically as subjects for girls or subjects for boys but between the 1930s and 1970s this was less subtle. For example maths was titled “arithmetic: girls only” and “elementary maths for girls”. Why was it specifically named “girls only”? Was there a difference between this and the maths that boys were taught?

We can take this a step further by looking across the world to countries where education is not accessible for female students unless they are willing to risk their lives to attend school. According to Julia Gillard, over 130 million girls in 2020 did not attend school worldwide. 


There are a whole host of reasons why girls do not attend school or do not finish school. Some families are so poor that they cannot afford to send their daughters to school. Others live in areas where it is too dangerous for girls to attend school. 


According to UNESCO data on girls’ rights and access to education globally, 2% of the countries in the world limit the education of girls who are pregnant or a mother. Even when they are allowed to attend school they are separated from their classmates. These girls are made to feel less than their peers and it makes socialising and enjoying school life difficult. Interestingly the places where education is not mandatory or free have the highest rates of marriage for children. 


UNESCO has created an online platform called Her Atlas for people to learn about girls’ right to education and if and where that right has been met across the world. Her Atlas is frequently updated and it features countries such as Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Hungary and Iceland to name but a few. Users can also discover which of the featured countries have signed up to the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education. Last year UNESCO published a report titled Protect her rights, strengthen your laws: Her Atlas: status report on girls’ and women’s right to education. They included their research about girls’ education in every country across the world, the barriers and discrimination they face. 


There is gendered inequality both here in Ireland and abroad. We can look deeper into our own towns or villages and find situations of discrimination between girls and boys. 


This is naturally very disheartening for women and young girls across the world. In Ireland it can be disheartening and discouraging for young female students when deciding on what subjects to study or what careers to pursue. In Ireland more of a range of subjects should be offered in single sex schools. Education is needed to increase awareness, understanding and respect that girls and boys have the right to equal education.

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New college year, same accommodation crisis

New college year, same accommodation crisis

New college year, same accommodation crisis

A photo of two people carrying boxes down the stairs.

Image: Aleksandar Nakic, Getty Images

College students searching for accommodation in Ireland last year were struck with the sheer lack of places or the sheer cost of renting in cities. Many had to choose between travelling for hours to and from campus or dropping out and looking for different options closer to them. Others are staying in overpriced cramped apartments or even hotels if they can not afford another option. International students were struck by how expensive living in Irish cities was with many being and left homeless in a country foreign to them.


All of these problems were seen across almost every college campus, and the exact same problems are just as big of an issue, if not worse, for students searching for a place to stay this academic year.


Some can get lucky and find a shared room for as little as €400 per month. Others will be unlucky and pay in excess of €850 a month, or even over €1000 per month for private student accommodation. This does not include the extra charges labelled under ‘utility contribution’ or ‘room costs’ that private accommodation providers have started to leak into their contracts over the past two years.


Despite most private student accommodation providers being unable to increase rent by more than 2% per year, they are still finding ways to increase it through extra fees. Of the eight big private student accommodation providers, seven charge extra utilities and amenities fees on top of rent, making private accommodation more and more unaffordable. It is also unclear if this is unlawful or not due to the current laws and regulations regarding rentals, meaning a legal case is most likely futile. Even campuses are charging utility fees, with Trinity College Dublin charging €15 and €19 a week for utilities both last year and this coming year, according to Students4Change a collective of socialist students at the university.


Finding a place in the rental market is an even worse option as rent continues to increase every single year. Average rent in Ireland is now at €1,618, up 12.6% from last year which is the largest increase since the launch of the Daft Report in 2005.


Students may be forced to rely on short-term lets such as Airbnb for the time being as there are currently 14 times as many short-term lets available on Airbnb than properties on However, this is only for those able to afford it, as most students have been forced out of the accommodation market simply because they can not afford anywhere currently available.


Attendance in college lectures is becoming an issue for those travelling long distances as less people are willing to attend if it takes hours going up and back for each one. Costs are also forcing students to work for a day or two instead of attending lectures as they have to pay for the increasing accommodation costs. When unable to attend campus lectures, this greatly affects their overall campus experience as they miss out on clubs and societies, Student Union in-person support, and other on-campus faculties


For international students, there has been close to nothing done to ensure their safety against scammers and fraudsters who will leave them homeless in a place they are unfamiliar with. According to a survey last year by The Irish Council for International Students, almost one in seven international students fell victim to a rental scam. There has been a 65% increase in accommodation scams in the last four years with scammers using social media and false websites to target students, according to gardaí. On top of false websites, some are replicas of real letting platforms, making it far more difficult to spot for anyone unfamiliar with Ireland’s main rental websites.


Rental scamming has become such a problem for students that the national housing charity Threshold has joined forces with the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) and the Union of Students Ireland (USI) to raise awareness of rental scams going into this academic year. A new initiative, Scamwatch, has launched as students seek accommodation for the new semester in September. The new campaign highlights the “dos and don’ts” for students and provides them with contact information for Threshold, ICOS and USI where they can request advice about their rights as private renters and safeguards they should take to avoid scams.

A photo of a hand signing a rental agreement. Keys lie on top of the document.

Image: Sharrocks, Getty Images

“We strongly support this campaign given the growing nature of fraudulent cases involving international students trying to source accommodation in the rental sector here,” Laura Harmon, Executive Director of the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) said.

“A study that ICOS carried out last year involving almost 500 international students found that nearly one-in-seven (14%) said that they had been a victim of an accommodation scam while in Ireland, of whom a quarter were English language students.

Students struggling to find a place this year echoed the views of those struggling last year and even the year before that. Rising rent prices. A lack of space to live in and an inability to find a suitable place. Travelling hours for lectures. Having to work instead of attending lectures. Rent scams, especially for international students. All of these problems could have been listed off one or two years ago, which already was done to a large degree by other journalists. The only new difference is the extra charges on top of rent. There is also the increase in rent prices, but that has grown to a ridiculous degree years ago at this point and comes as a surprise to no one who knows the rental market in ireland.


How many more news stories have to be written before this is fixed to even a minor degree?  Where are students meant to get the funds to pay rent without skipping lectures for work? Most importantly, what is actually being done to stop this exact same article from being written in 2024?

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The UN: Compromise or Compromised?

The UN: Compromise or Compromised?

The UN: Compromise or Compromised?
United Nations humanitarian aid workers unload supplies from their vehicle
Louie Lyons
17th of August 2022

Russia vetoes humanitarian aid resolution

On the 12th of July, the UN Security Council voted on a resolution jointly proposed by Ireland and Norway. The resolution aimed to provide crucial humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians, who continue to experience the devastating impact of conflict between the al-Assad governing regime and rebels. This provision of aid would have lasted for twelve months, a period of time that the Irish ambassador to the UN, Geraldine Byrne, claims “actors on the ground… needed”.

However, the bias of Russia, a prominent supporter of the Syrian government, was on full display. The Russian Federation used its power to veto the proposal and in turn proposed its own amended resolution that passed with a vote of 12 members in favour and 3 abstainers (France, United Kingdom, and the United States). Aside from these votes, the only country to vocally support the amendment was China. The final resolution now sees humanitarian aid travelling from Turkey to Syria through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in Turkey for only six months as opposed to the original twelve. This is a replay of events in 2020, when Russia similarly pressured the Council to cut the period of aid delivery to Syria from twelve months to six.

The 2020 resolution also limited the UN’s access to a number of borders into the country, reducing entry from four borders to just two. The Syrian civil war has been a continuous conflict since the Arab Spring protests in 2011, where tension grew between government and rebels, and has led to a major international refugee crisis. In 2021, a total of 13 million people had been internally or externally displaced. The Syrian civil war has, since its inception, spiralled into an international conflict with Russia, Iran, and the terrorist organisation Hezbollah supporting Bashar al-Assad’s government, and the United States, Turkey, the Netherlands, Britain, and France as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel supporting Syrian rebels.


Many are heralding this recent settlement as a necessary step towards helping the 2.4 million Syrian people reliant on cross-border humanitarian aid. Proponents of the Russian amendment also point out that it does not preclude the possibility of a renewal of aid in six months.

However, others view this as a compromised resolution.

Critics say it reduces the certainty and confidence surrounding aid, with French ambassador, Nicolas De Riviere, claiming that we are now relying on a “precarious renewal”. The American ambassador, Richard Mills, also commented on the matter, stating “[this is what happens] when one Council member takes the entire Security Council hostage” and that Syrian civilians will be negatively impacted by the downgrade in the quantity of aid. Ambassador Mills went on to detail the general Russian stance on Syria, “Russia is so brazen in its disregard for Syrian lives that it has not even bothered trying to justify its stance on a humanitarian basis. This is an immoral and cynical approach to humanitarian needs.” Russia and China have both defended their positions on halving the guarantee of aid as a means of protecting Syrian sovereignty – that is to say the Syrian government’s autonomy and right to act however they wish within their own borders.

The irony of Russia’s claim to be a protector of sovereignty has not been lost on many. The impact of the new resolution may mean that, by the time UN agencies and NGOs working in the area will have organised to begin their operations, their authorisation will have expired. This will force them to spend valuable time and resources every six months working to apply for renewals and will diminish the amount of focus they can give to aid distribution on the ground.

The Security Council’s veto examined

Russia’s veto is part of a larger trend that sees the permanent members on the UN Security Council ally with brutal regimes by stalling action proposed by the UN. This trend applies to two states and two regimes in particular – The U. S’s defence of Israel and Russia’s defence of Syria. With regards to Russia, this is the 17th time they have used their veto to defend Syrian sovereignty despite that sovereignty being used to justify atrocities such as the Syrian government engaging in biological warfare against its citizens. Similarly, Russia and China both also used the veto to protect North Korea’s nuclear programme in 2022.

The situation between the U.S and Israel mirrors that of Russia-Syria but has been going on much longer. The U.S has used its power to veto 53 resolutions that would have sanctioned Israel over the past 50 years. Amongst those 53 exist a veto opposing investigations into the murders of seven Palestinian civilians by an Israeli soldier in 1990 and Obama’s veto of a resolution that would have denounced Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank in 2011. The U.S’s blanket support for Israel is tantamount to a war crime get-out-of-jail-free card and unquestionably sends a message to Israel that international law does not apply to them. China for its part has also used it’s veto twice to block UN aid to countries that are diplomatically engaged with Taiwan. Threats on the global stage is the main way in which China exerts indirect control over Taiwanese foreign policy and waving the veto around is one means of intimidating states looking for UN support.


This all begs the question – why are certain states given a veto at all, especially when vetoes are mostly used to defend the indefensible actions of friends?

A United Nations humanitarian aid worker checks the heartbeat of a baby, while two women look on fondly

An Austrian battalion doctor comforts a young patient in Damascus (United Nations)

Why is there a veto?

The veto was added to the UN charter as a way to persuade the Great Powers to join the UN. The Great Powers made it clear that there would be a veto or there would be no UN. In the wake of two devastating World Wars, the appetite for supranationalism and global governance was big. The veto was a bitter pill worth swallowing to establish the UN, binding the power in compromise from the very beginning in the hope that five countries would at least sing from the same hymn sheet on such serious matters. But in reality, over the near 80-year history of the UN, it has become an insurmountable weapon of war, the very thing the international organisation sought to prevent.

The veto is a barrier preventing the world from progressing past our former colonial global system. For four former western colonial powers to hold elevated influence over what regimes are worth keeping or what ones ought to be changed around the world is clear neo-imperialism. The list of permanent members on the Security Council includes only one state outside of the conceptual West. Similarly, the Security Council contains no representation from Africa, South America, or Oceania – yet three from Europe. This issue of Security Council representation too is a matter for debate.

Both Turkey and Brazil have at certain stages in recent times advocated for the abolition of the veto and have called for nations such as Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, and India be added as permanent members to the council. In April 2022, the UN General Assembly voted that the General Assembly must convene within ten days of a veto, at which the vetoing state would be required to provide greater justification and a debate would take place around the use of their veto. This is a first step but it is doubtful that the General Assembly will have enough power to either convince or shame a permanent member into reversing their veto. The outcome of this reform is that procedurally, vetoes will now take longer but will still have the same effect of facilitating war crimes and authoritarian regimes. Efforts to reform international laws that would place responsibilities on third-party countries to ethically intervene in conflicts have also suffered under the political curse of compromise: legislation has been clumsily worded and operationally impractical.



Veto reform is merely polishing the veneer of something that is broken on the inside; abolition is the way forward.

Unfortunately, the five permanent members are likely to balk at any further diminution of their power and the loss of any of the five permanent members to the UN would be a great blow – see the League of Nations without America. The permanent members are significant contributors of financial aid to the UN and consequently, many members see the veto as a necessary evil to keep the UN together.

Ireland’s role

Ireland was among five states, the others being Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Mongolia, who called for an outright abolition of veto powers back in 2018. Italy as part of the Uniting for Consensus Group also noted a desire amongst member states for the abolition of the veto. In relation to the Syrian civil war specifically, on top of their proposed resolution Ireland pledged €23 million towards humanitarian funding for Syria at the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region conference in Brussels in May 2022 – the sixth conference of its kind. The funding will be provided to a number of humanitarian agencies. With this pledge, Ireland surpasses the €200 million mark in total humanitarian funding provided to Syria since 2012. While aid is stifled by a paralysed Security Council, the UN is forced to build peace with one hand tied behind its back. Of course the various reasons that cause Western democracies to prop up authoritarian regimes in the first place will still exist. However, in a veto-less world, the ways in which they could do this would be reduced by one.


Featured Photos by United Nations

This article was supported by: STAND News and Communications Intern Brianna Walsh and STAND Student Engagement Coordinator Aislin Lavin

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From Wheatpaste to Home Fries: Looking Back on Climate Camp Ireland

From Wheatpaste to Home Fries: Looking Back on Climate Camp Ireland

From Wheatpaste to Home Fries: Looking Back on Climate Camp Ireland

People standing around in a circle in a field surrounding other people lying on the ground making up the words frack off lng
Penelope Norman

14th of August 2022

Early in the morning, I climbed out of my tent to head over to the kitchen. The night before, around the fire, I had promised my friends, ‘the best potatoes any of you have ever eaten in your life,’ and I aimed to deliver. We had two bags of freshly grown spuds which needed to be washed, chopped, and fried with only a couple of hours to do it all before the entire hungry camp rushed towards our door.

Slí Eile’s climate camp was set up during the first week of August in a field between Lislaughtin Abbey and Saleen Pier, just outside of the town Ballylongford, Kerry. The goal of the camp was to demonstrate organised resistance against New Fortress Energy’s (an American fossil fuel company) proposed Shannon LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) project. The project site the terminal would be built on was a fifteen-minute walk away from camp and, at the time of publication, it is currently leased as field space to a local farmer. The camp consisted of three large marquees which hosted a kitchen, a canteen, and event spaces. The other half of the field was kept for people to pitch their tents.

I went to the tap outside the kitchen to wash yesterday’s dishes and get to work. In addition to my potato-craving comrades, I had to worry about getting the meal cooked before our daily plenary meeting and my friends’ morning workshop about the benefits of Mutual Aid. Luckily, a few other early risers were around to help me with the cleaning and a number of the other kitchen crew were able to work on their contribution to breakfast. I easily found the tools that I needed to get the dish prepared.


 If the dream of the camp was going to be kept alive, it needed to be fed with care and attention.

The campers were a mix of people from different campaigns ranging from climate organisations such as Futureproof Clare and Fridays for Future to broader groups such as MacramÉire and Community Action Tenants Union, among others. Many had been a part of Extinction Rebellion Ireland at some point during their lives, though most had moved on to other ways to combat the climate crisis. Politically, there were two things which connected everybody who was there. We all cared about the crisis, with a hope to stop the methane-leaking LNG terminal which would exacerbate it. We also wanted to take active steps to move towards a world that was actually survivable, though there were disagreements about how much change would be required to get there. The camp and its mission were kept together by a fundamental bond, the shared experience of living in a specific space at a specific time which was only possible because we were able to rely on one another for basic requirements such as food, shelter, waste disposal, and warmth.

When I began to chop the potatoes into small chunks, I noticed how fatigued I was. From the moment I had asked if there was anything I could help with when I arrived Monday afternoon, I was swept from task to task in a way that I hadn’t been used to since I’d worked in a hospital years ago. If the dream of the camp was going to be kept alive, it needed to be fed with care and attention. That’s not to say that I didn’t have time to rest, it’s just that every action from the most intense work to the special moments of relaxation were deliberate and filled with meaning in a way I wasn’t used to in the city. Community feels different when you’re living apart from the people you build it with. We had weaved a fragile net of mutual reliance on each other; I didn’t have the time or need to dissociate to the same degree as usual. In the city, I tried my best to disappear; in the camp, with the support of others, I tried my best to actively live in the present.

People doing the jobs required to run the camp had a wide range of experiences. In my working group, there were campers who had worked in restaurants, cooked for friends occasionally, or maintained kitchens at other climate camps; we all taught each other the skills and recipes necessary to keep the camp fed. A task to install some complex solar panels turned from a specialist activity into a workshop where everyday people learned how to do it themselves. Direct action and media training workshops both helped people gain the confidence to engage politically for themselves and provided the space to share experiences and raise people’s awareness about various aspects of the struggle against Collapse. Even free transport to and from the nearby town of Listowel became an opportunity to learn about one another along the way and form the bonds necessary to maintain our community. The activities of the camp worked to empower each of us to participate in every part of camp life rather than separate us and disguise the labour happening around the site.


While the dish was my responsibility, I never had to hold that responsibility alone. We all pitched in where we could and managed to get things done that we never could have imagined possible before.

I needed help to light the stove we used to cook. While someone lent me a hand, I worked to create a spice mix of black pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, and sea salt to add to the potatoes when they were ready. Someone else helped me carry the heavy pot full of water to the tent so I could boil the sliced tubers before sauteing them. While I waited for them to boil, I was able to chat and share a coffee with a number of people who’d come into the marquee’s social area, including a number of friends from the previous night and new people who’d arrived in the morning. A couple of them helped me drain the potatoes while we reflected on yesterday’s Céilí and the upcoming events. While the dish was my responsibility, I never had to hold that responsibility alone. We all pitched in where we could and managed to get things done that we never could have imagined possible before.

For an extended encounter between a group of exhausted Irish leftists in a field, there was shockingly little drama. When a number of issues inevitably came up, they were handled without resorting to calling the gardaí (which would have put some of the campers at risk of violence.) We would find people who could empathise and communicate with the people involved in trouble and move through it without resorting to exclusion or violence. A lot of this came from a mutual respect we held for each other and our shared interest in maintaining the camp and its mission. A number of people did get tired, and conflict grew over space and scheduling. We knew the only way we were going to get through conflict without turning to older systems of punishment was recognising the worth in each other and pushing through to do the difficult work of compromise. This labour was just another job that kept the camp together, and one of the most hard-won successes we brought into reality.

I was able to fry the ingredients and serve them. Everybody made sure to thank me for the work and I in turn thanked them for what they’d done over the week. We all kept the old phrase ‘you are what you eat’ in mind while enjoying breakfast. We were eating locally produced food made by our friends for the purpose of keeping the camp going. We were a community, politically and gastronomically. The burner I made the potatoes on had been used the day before to create a glue out of boiled wheat flour called wheatpaste. Our actions and our meals were made by the same people in the same place, the heart of the camp as one friend put it. I don’t see these processes as distinct, separable parts of our camp, but different faces of the same fantastic gem. At the end of the day, it was a bold experiment in dreaming a better world into reality.

Featured Photo by Slí Eile

This article was supported by: STAND Student Engagement Coordinator Aislin Lavin

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Travellers and Access to Education

Travellers and Access to Education

Travellers and Access to Education

Traveller Women Graduating from UCC
Louie Lyons
15th of July 2022

Travellers, recognised by the Irish government as an indigenous ethnic group in 2017, have been victims of systemic and structural barriers to education that have seen them experience some of the lowest rates of participation in third level education of any demographic in Ireland. In December 2018, The Irish Times reported that only 1% of Traveller children go on to third level education. By comparison, in the same year, The Irish Times published an article entitled, “Are we sending too many young people to third level?” in which the education editor, Carl O’Brien, opined that there may be too many students (over 60%) from the settled population of school-leavers attending university. This dichotomy was how things stood back in 2018 and, perhaps not unsurprisingly, this disparity between settled and Traveller students has been exacerbated by the recent Covid-19 pandemic. An entire ethnic group left out of the Irish education system begs the questions, why and what needs to be done to tackle this inequality?

The lack of access to third level education arises from historical discriminatory processes of educational segregation of Travellers from their settled counterparts at the primary and post-primary level. Throughout the 1960s, and right up to the 2000s, Traveller-only schools were an accepted norm. A common belief throughout this time, and one that prevails to this day according to Bernard Joyce, Director of the Irish Traveller Movement (ITM), is that Travellers had no interest in education. The reality, as Mr Joyce points out, is that this is a harmful stereotype, externally imposed upon them, and that attitudes towards education are overwhelmingly positive, with all levels of education being valued within their community.

Government-sponsored and independent research into segregated educational institutions have repeatedly stated that it would be beneficial to integrate Traveller students into mainstream schools. Some progress was made towards this goal in the 2000s, which saw efforts to integrate and desegregate education with the introduction of resource teachers and visiting teachers into mainstream schools. Resource teachers assisted schools in meeting the needs of Traveller students and visiting teachers advocated on behalf of Traveller students and aided parents and communities with enrolments and entitlements. However, progress ground to a halt when funding for these positions was decimated during the post-2008 recession and the ensuing austerity, with spending on specific Traveller educational needs cut by 86.6% between 2008 and 2013, as outlined by Pavee Point in their report, Travelling with Austerity.  

An entire ethnic group left out of the Irish education system begs the questions, why and what needs to be done to tackle this inequality?

More recently, there has been financial support for Traveller progression to higher education. In 2021, €300,000 was provided by the government through the Dormant Account Fund to Higher Education Institutions for “Traveller progression to and retention in higher education”. Further financial support is on the horizon in 2022, specifically €450,000 is being allocated to HEIs for similar purposes of transfer to and retention in higher education. Now that it appears funding is returning to the project of Traveller integration, it is appropriate to discuss with experts in the field such as Mr Joyce, as well as Ms Grimson, coordinator of the Trinity Access Programme (TCD), both of whom agreed to be interviewed, what the best use of this money will be.

On the face of it, it may seem that a return of financial investment ought to lead to considerable improvements in the welfare of Traveller students and result in growing numbers making the progression to third level. However, both my interviewees agreedwere in agreement that the amount of investment is still not sufficient to current needs and as Mr Joyce made clear, it is not enough to target third level institutions as by that time many Traveller students have already left the education system.

The stated goal of the funding for HEIs reflects an inclusive agenda but by the time Traveller students have reached third level they have already endured years of social exclusion and torment from their peers, teachers, and schools at both the personal and structural levels. Tackling the apathy of the education system towards Travellers must begin at a younger age and must involve a greater amount of cultural and social investment in Traveller students, not just the economic. “From the leaves and branches to the grassroots, Traveller children don’t feel comfortable or welcomed [in schools] as not only have they to contend with the schoolwork but they also have to contend with not being happy” Mr Joyce said.

For many Traveller students it may seem that they are actively being pushed out of the educational system by having low expectations imposed on them by their teachers and schools, leading to an insecurity on their part in relation to their abilities. Mr Joyce pointed to instances where Traveller students were given textbooks of lower academic levels and were not expected to keep up with the same standard as their peers. This is further rendered problematic for the students in question as they fail to see their culture reflected amongst their peers, or within the school curriculum. Traveller students note that there is even a lack of Traveller-focused representation on the school’s cultural walls (which are a feature of most primary and many secondary schools in the country), further compounding the sentiment that they are not in an institution which is welcoming to either them or their culture. These exclusionary elements have a negative impact on school performance and attendance. And all of this assumes that Traveller students are being encouraged by the school itself to attend, even when enrolled. Mr Joyce highlighted that in 2021 it was discovered that many Traveller students were being targeted for reduced-hour timetables, a practice that ITM argues must be eradicated since it is an overt example of structural discrimination.

The stated goal of the funding for HEIs reflects an inclusive agenda but by the time Traveller students have reached third level they have already endured years of social exclusion and torment from their peers, teachers, and schools at both the personal and structural levels.

Another aspect of this debate that Mr Joyce outlined was the difficulty for Traveller students in separating the struggle in school with the struggle they face at home. “Traveller accommodation is often isolated from schools and may lack working showers, etc, so children are having to contend with school with fewer resources at home than their settled counterparts.” In 2019, the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance condemned Ireland for the amount of funding being provided for Traveller accommodation. This disparity between at-home resources has become more apparent with the onset of the 2020 pandemic and at-home schooling where access to wifi and technology was of paramount importance, as Mr Joyce observed “many Traveller students have not returned to school since the reopening of schools.”

Returning to the question of the number of Travellers making it to third level, what can be done to tackle this culture of discriminatory disinterest in Traveller students? It is evident that the core issue is the necessity to increase the numbers of those completing second level education and all solutions must occur in tandem with primary, post-primary, and third level institutions.

The lack of representation at the primary and post-primary level was presented in the Government’s National Traveller Roma Inclusion Strategy 2017/2021 (NTRIS). This report acknowledged the lack of Traveller and Roma history and culture being discussed at the primary and post-primary level which contributes to a poor school retention rate on the part of students from both communities. Despite this explicit acknowledgement, implementation of the Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill 2018, has been unbearably slow. Representation, is a vital tool in combating racism and discrimination but, as Deputy Thomas Pringle pointed out in a Dáil debate on the 2018 Education Bill, “only if it is taught by teachers who are trained and culturally competent.”

This raises a point regarding the necessity for an increase in anti-racism education, workshops, and talks for teachers and students at all levels of education. Organisations such as ITM and each equity, diversity and inclusion office within the nation’s HEIs must ensure that environments of bullying or alienation are eradicated in lecture theatres and classrooms through anti-racism and cultural awareness teaching, echoing the calls of many student unions around Ireland. Speaking with Christine O’Mahony, DCU’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer who has long campaigned for anti-racism training in universities, she said “Anti-racism training is essential for universities. It should be aimed at the staff that don’t fully understand racism and microaggression… and help them realise that things that they are doing could be offensive to minority groups. Anti-racism training assists in making universities a safe space for minority students.”

Once the environment is comfortable enough only then can programmes such as the Trinity Access Programme look to increase capacity building in schools and allow for a return of the resource and visiting teachers, bolstering mentorship programs to handle the logistics of third level for students who may have no prior information about how to navigate registration, module enrolment, joint honour systems, etc as Ms Grimson said TAP wished to do.

The €750,000 made available by the government in recent years is merely the right amount to tinker around the edges of the educational system but is not the overhaul of a pervasive dismissive culture that leaves Traveller children behind from the youngest age, with long-term negative repercussions not only for the individual and community alike, but also for the nation as a whole.

Featured Image by Virgin Media News

This article was supported by: News & Communications Intern Penelope

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Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference

Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference

Global Citizenship in a Changing World – Reflections from the 2022 IDEA Conference
Protesters Attend March for Refugee Rights
Criomhthann Morrison
8th of July 2022

970 Years and 1 Month

Graduating mid-2020 and working amidst spikes and lockdowns, I have been fortunate to find opportunities to connect with people from across Ireland and the world through various online programmes and groups. While Ireland-based activities have gradually introduced in-person components, it’s no surprise that the annual IDEA Conference in June 2022 was the first in-person conference since the pandemic outbreak for many, including myself. Titled “The Future of Global Citizenship – educating for a changing world,” those attending were invited to look ahead to what global citizenship could look like across every facet of life for all.

The conference opened with the usual ‘long time, no see’ natter, and the facilitator Charo Lanao brought everyone together with groups physically crafting ‘‘living sculptures” of their visions for the present and future, as well as reflections on people’s experiences and backgrounds. A tally counted 970 years and 1 month of collective ‘global citizenship education’ (GCE) knowledge in the room on that one day. So I expected to pick up a thing or two.

Panel Exploring Polarisation and Systems Change



Biographies for each speaker can be found here on the IDEA website.


The opening panel dealt with the structural and systemic problems in our societies, workplaces and governments and how individual actions and lived experiences fit within solutions to address these. Dr Peter T. Coleman, Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University, highlighted how GCE practitioners can consider the polarisations around them and their participants, and the pursuit of ‘positive’ peace and ‘negative’ peace (“the promotion of peacefulness through positive interactions like civility, cooperation and care” peace” versus “the absence of violence, destructive conflict, and war,” bold added).

I found this distinction a helpful example of how even the most seemingly straightforward ideas can contain quite diverse and even incompatible assumptions and expectations, depending on the people ‘in the room’. This awareness of what we bring to the conversations and groups we find ourselves in is always worthwhile, helping us identity and talk through sometimes subtle yet substantial differences in how we understand the problems and worlds around us.

Dr Ebun Joseph, Director of the Institute of Antiracism and Black Studies (IABS), amongst many other qualifications and roles, also emphasised the importance of ‘healthy conversations’ for addressing the sticky behaviours and systems of oppression we haven’t fully shaked off yet (a purposeful choice of words, as opposed to ‘difficult’ conversations, which can prime people to resist, defend, or fight). Using an instance of racist descrimination between colleagues in a workplace as an example, Dr Joseph advises that the whole workplace should be involved in the resolution, not just the people directly involved. When discrimination happens within any context, whether at work, in education, or in public, we need to explore how and why it was enabled in the first place, and then actively change the structures and behaviours which allowed discrimination to happen. 

Most of us can name a dozen angles from which we do not face barriers and discriminatoin in everyday life like other people do, and we all have a responsibility to be part of the movements to rid of prejudice and abuse. Demanding healthy and meaningful conversations from ourselves and the spaces we’re in is one vital step in being part of an equitable, just and sustainable present and future for all.


Director of IDEA Frank Geary and Irish Sign Language Interpreter during the Opening Remarks.


Panel Exploring Challenges in the GCE Sector



The second panel gave space for 4 speakers to share their insights on key issues in the GCE sphere and the directions the space is moving in, followed by some questions from attendees. To briefly summarise some really rich sharing:

Ikal Ang’elei, an environmental activist, spoke about the importance for practitioners and activists to always work with and alongside affected communities, citing her experience as Co-Founder and Director of Friends of Lake Turkana, which works for social, economic and environmental justice for the lands and people in the area. It is an easy though grave error for genuinely enthusiastic and well-meaning individuals and groups to get caught up in their visions for their solutions instead of constructing these in partnership with the people impacted. The phrase “Nothing about us without us” springs to mind.

Mamobo Ogoro, an award winning scholar, social entrepreneur, activist and artist, followed by emphasising inclusion and belonging as key elements to reaching these visions GCE practitioners often strive for, naming dialogue as fundamental to her work with her digital media start-up GORM Media and her PhD research with minorities in Ireland. This calls for practitioners to challenge box-ticking exercises of simply getting certain people are ‘in the room’, asking if everyone in the room is fully able participate in conversations and decision-making, and what we need to do on the individual- and system-level to promote this ‘belonging’ for all. 

Dr Audrey Bryan, Associate Professor of Sociology in DCU, then raised critical questions about the individualisation and prescription of GCE in Ireland. She also cautioned the increasing focus on measurable technical skills to the detriment of considering holistically the relationships between individuals, their communities, and the challenges faced across society. Dr Bryan spoke to these ideas and more at the recorded webinar Future Trends in Development Education hosted by IDEA in Dec 2021.

Bobby McCormack, Co-Founder and Director of Development Perspectives, talked about developing the ‘innovation ecosystems’ within the sector and emphasised the opportunities for partnership especially with less obvious colleagues, sharing the example of Development Perspectives working with EirGrid to host community forums to include their voice in several energy projects. This suggests interesting opportunities outside the normal bounds of what organisations consider GCE and their roles in a changing world, offering bridges between areas of life not typically linked, from the energy system to community health to agriculture to far more.

During the Q&A, I found one moment worth noting: one attendee asked for suggestions for teaching useful and abstract tools like systems thinking to children, and another attendee quickly took the microphone to share resources produced by their own organisation for exactly this purpose. While a small interaction, it was hardly minor, and just one reminder from the day of the value of sharing these open spaces with our peers. Someone sitting behind you often has something that will help you, even before you realise you need help.


Conference Facilitator Charo Lanao speaking to the 70+ in-person attendees.


Panel Exploring Challenges in the GCE Sector



The second day of the conference ran online with two sets of workshops running parallel, which posed me the challenge of which to sign up for! The first I chose was Ecosystem Restoration and Development Education: Regenerating people and wider nature with Gareth Conlon and Karen Jeffares. I managed to catch the latter half which explored the lands, organisms and food around us, and how as GCE practitioners, mindsets should focus on bringing about positive transformation within communities, not particular solutions per se. Group discussions included reflections on how workshops with schools often implicitly task children with convincing the adults in their lives to make changes and the challenges this entails regarding justice and responsibility. Topics also arising included ‘pedagogy of hope’ and potential routes for collaboration across sectors, for example GCE and farmers.

This session posed important questions about our responsibilities as practitioners to the people and groups we work with, who we engage with in the first place, and why. Our answers can inform how we approach our work and help us to see the groups we work with (and don’t work with) as multifaceted and feeling pressures from various directions. What does this mean for fostering space to communicate, build skills, and perhaps sow seeds for peace – and which kind?

The second workshop I attended was Global Business and Human Rights with Mark Cumming. Business is an area many in GCE spaces are averse to, so the workshop sought to highlight the importance of working for human rights in the business realm, and to equip attendees to do so. We explored power of and accountability within business spaces, the state of affairs in Ireland, and what practitioners and the sector can do now and moving forward to better engage with the private sector. One key point made is the importance of building communities and movements for change, including encouraging people to join communities for their passions, and even trade unions, which the large majority of attendees reported not being part of. 

Early in the final workshop, Cumming referenced the Audre Lorde quote “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” This is a challenge for all GCE practitioners in their work: to what degree does the work we do uphold existing structures and systems despite best intentions, and to what degree does our work truly enable communities to achieve their visions within – dare I say – a changing world? Don’t worry, I don’t have a clean answer either.


 Lizzy Noone from WorldWise Global Schools speaking during a Q&A.


The Value in Sharing Space



I didn’t get the chance to attend the other two workshops, Transformative Education in Times of Crises with Tereza Čajková and Aurèle Destrée or War, Peace and the Future of Development Education with Zelalem Sibhat, Dr Gerard McCann, and Dr Gertrude Cotter, though from the titles alone, it’s clear GCE practitioners are working hard to locate their work across the different aspects of global and local challenges communities are facing around the world. That said, judging from my conversations with several speakers and attendees, perhaps people were most excited to simply share space with each other and feel more connected with and part of a larger whole.

What I am most excited about are the coming weeks and months, when the conversations and ideas shared will percolate in my mind and influence my work in obvious and subtle ways, some examples of which already spring to mind. And so what are the next steps for global citizenship and educating in a changing world? Healthy conversations, critical reflection, and collaboration across sectors may not be novel suggestions to some or most, but are nonetheless vital to achieving a present we can stand over.

Feature photo caption: From the left: unnamed, Susie Spratt from An Gáisce, Tahla from Amnesty, unnamed. Contact [email protected] if you feature in this photo and would like to be named.

Featured photos by Méabh Hennelly with permission from IDEA.

Connect with Criomhthann over LinkedIn or Twitter.

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin and STAND News & Comms Intern Penelope Norman.

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An interview with Fix Our Education UCD: “What we’re lobbying for now is for the HEI to intervene”

An interview with Fix Our Education UCD: “What we’re lobbying for now is for the HEI to intervene”

STAND’s Cedric spoke to Ruairi Power from Fix Our Education UCD about the actions that the student group is taking to reduce  inequalities on UCD campus.


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Ditch the Disposables with VOICE Ireland

Abi O’Callaghan-Platt from VOICE Ireland leads the Ditch the Disposables workshop for the #FreeTheFlow campaign.

Activists & Innovators: Candice Chirwa

We interview Candice Chirwa, a South African speaker, academic and menstruation activist about the ‘taboo topic’ of periods and what steps people can take to demand menstruation justice now.

STAND News Interviews: Live from Glasgow

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Pressure From Local Communities Stops Deportation Orders

Pressure From Local Communities Stops Deportation Orders

Michael Usiku, a student of Carlow College, is the latest example in a string of deportation orders delayed as a result of pressure from local communities. Michael, a Malawian national, received a deportation order in December 2019 after failing to provide proof of study in time for a renewal of his student visa. This failure was partially due to the fact that the deadline set by the Irish National Immigration Service (INIS) was several months before Carlow College sent letters of enrolment. As a result, Michael’s student visa was not renewed and he was ordered to leave the country.

The deportation order came while Michael was sitting his exams, and ordered Michael to leave the country by December 29. In response to the order, a number of Carlow College staff and students mobilised, as well as several civil society organisations. A group of approximately 25 protesters met at the steps of the Department of Justice on December 18, in order to pressure the Minister for Justice into stopping the deportation and granting Michael a visa to complete his education. This may have been instrumental in leading to the delay of the deportation order for 10 days as his deadline approached, at which point he was required to sign in with the INIS. Following this sign-in, the order was delayed again until the 20 February, at which point he must sign in with the INIS again, according to Adam Kane, President of Carlow College Students’ Union.

This case is one in a string of cases where local communities, and schools in particular, have been instrumental in the delay or revocation of deportation orders. The case of Eric Zhi Ying Mei Xue, a child who was born in Ireland to a Chinese national, gained significant media attention around the same time as Michael’s case. In Eric’s case, his primary school mobilized support for their pupil, who had never been to China, and who would have limited access to services in China such as health and education, as he is not a Chinese citizen.

Although there are differences between these cases, in particular the length of stay, and the depth of integration into Irish society, they also show similarities. One of these is the role of local communities, and in particular of schools in mobilizing support, and the capacity of this support to have a significant influence on the decisions of the INIS and the Department of Justice. Another similarity appears to be the discomfort shown with deportation, an understandable unease in a traditional country of emigration. This discomfort is particularly evident around children born in Ireland to parents who have no right to residence. This phenomenon follows the passing of the referendum in 2004 that revoked the ius soli rule whereby those born on Irish soil automatically become Irish citizens. Since then, there have been multiple cases of children who are born and raised in Ireland, who nonetheless have no right to Irish citizenship. The discomfort with this situation is clear from the level of community mobilisation for those who have regular contact with these children, although this policy is by no means unusual internationally.

Ireland is not the first country to learn the hard way how difficult it is to forcibly return individuals who have built connections in the country. The Netherlands, which used to adopt a dispersal policy for asylum seekers realised that this led to the integration of asylum seekers into the small villages and towns to which they were sent. This made deportation very difficult, with communities staunchly protesting deportation orders. As a result, the Netherlands had to reverse this policy, and now mainly keeps asylum seekers in housing centres close to big cities in an effort to prevent integration into the local community. 

While many countries have been dealing with sensitive situations of migration and deportation for many years, it is a relatively new phenomenon for Ireland. Ireland’s immigrant population has quadrupled since 1990, when the Celtic Tiger changed Ireland’s economic and employment landscape. However, with a greater ability to control our borders, due to relative geographic isolation, cases like those currently being experienced have been rare. Nonetheless, Ireland has increasingly become a country of destination for both EU and non-EU migrants, likely thanks to a strong demand for both high-skilled and low-skilled labour, and a continuously strong economy. The significant shift in Ireland’s migration profile in a very short period of time means that both our institutions and our society are ill-prepared to approach deportation and return, one of the most controversial issues in migration regulation. Another theme arising from these recent cases is that of discomfort with the idea of children born and raised in Ireland who have no right to Irish citizenship. Prior to the 2004 referendum that revoked the right, being born in Ireland automatically entitled children to Irish citizenship. While 79% of voters cast their vote in favour of this revocation, a Behaviour and Attitudes poll for the Sunday Times taken after the publicity garnered by Eric Zhi Ying Mei Xue’s situation showed that around 71% of those polled were in favour of granting this right to automatic citizenship. With increasing immigration and an increasing realisation of the reality of not providing birthright citizenship, it may be time for the Irish population to revisit this question, one of many challenging debates to be had in a changing country.  

Photo by marctasman, Wikimedia commons

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Sunset, Sunrise

Sunset, Sunrise

IMMA exhibition to display work by Iranian artist.

Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian’s exhibition ‘Sunset, Sunrise’ is being displayed in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) until November 25th.

This is the first time Farmanfarmaian’s work has been shown publicly in Ireland. The exhibition contains drawings in pen as well as embroidery, collages, jewellery and paintings. However, it focuses mainly on Farmanfarmaian’s large scale mirrored sculptures.

Farmanfarmaian who is now 95 years old, is the first Iranian artist in her generation to use cut glass mosaics for her artistic work without a religious purpose. She has been an artist for the past sixty years and prominent themes which appear in her work will be on display in her ‘Sunset, Sunrise’ exhibition. These include reflecting on events from the East and West.

The ‘Sunset, Sunrise’ exhibition is organised by both the IMMA, the Sharjah Art Foundation and the United Arab Emirates. It will include 70 pieces by Famanfamaian.

For more information on the exhibition see:

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Decolonising education

Decolonising education

Universities have long been seen as places of open discourse, championing the pursuit of knowledge above all else. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that college campuses have been the incubators for one of the most fascinating – and successful – academic movements of recent years: the campaign for the decolonisation of knowledge.

Simply put, the decolonisation movement aims to address the overwhelming lack of discussion around the impacts of colonialism in universities around the world. While their aims are varied and nuanced, two of the main goals championed by students and academics alike include the removal of monuments or institutional totems celebrating links to imperialism and racism, as well as re-evaluating the Euro-centric bias of many university departments.

The need for decolonisation
While to some, the arguments for decolonisation may seem nebulous and abstract, outdated curricula and colonial erasure can have real consequences. Research conducted in 2014 found that white British students were 16 per cent more likely than students of colour to graduate with a first or 2:1 degree. In analysing such attainment gaps through interviews with BME students, Britain’s Higher Education Academy found overwhelming evidence that universities were not doing enough to help students integrate during their higher education experience. Further research has found that a third of students feel that their educational environment leaves no room for their personal perspective, with some respondents explicitly citing the Euro-centric content of their reading lists.

Of course, there are many factors which contribute to attainment gaps and educational disadvantage, but the evidence suggests that decolonisation of campuses could at least go some way towards reducing these disparities.

Origins of the movement
Many associate the decolonisation movement specifically with African universities, after all, the University of Cape Town saw the inception of the original Rhodes Must Fall movement. This campaign, which sparked myriad protests throughout South Africa, saw students work towards the removal of a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Even now, African universities seem to lead the way in diverse education, with the recently opened African Leadership College in Mauritius building its social sciences curriculum entirely around a platform of decolonisation.

But the movement is by no means limited to Africa. In the UK, students have challenged their lecturers to engage with the colonial past their institutions were built upon. Oxford famously had its own Rhodes Must Fall protests, and in Cambridge, efforts are being made to include postcolonial analysis in the teaching of sciences,and classics.

Outside of Oxbridge, The National Union of Students’ Liberate My Curriculum movement has garnered the support of universities throughout the UK, from Reading and Brighton Universities to LSE. Edinburgh University, meanwhile, has committed itself to encouraging an attitude of colonial interrogation throughout its teaching.

Wake-up call
Further movements, such as the Reclaim Harvard Law Campaign or the Malaysian Multiversity Group, which organises regular conferences to discuss decolonisation and the commodification of knowledge, show that the decolonisation campaign is quickly becoming an international movement.

As campuses become increasingly commercialised, and issues such as access to education continue, the decolonisation movement acts as a welcome wake-up call, reminding us of the history of interrogation, analysis and intellectual exploration upon which universities pride themselves.


Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash