capsule sans-serif;”>A ranking of the 50 most influential figures in Irish education, stuff placed the head of the Union of Students in Ireland, Gary Redmond at number 47.
The rankings, published in The Irish Times, gave the name of each of the individuals listed, along with a short information package. The article stated that the list was compiled by asking key figures to put together their own lists, and the most prominent were featured in the articles. In addition, the list was said to reflect discussions held with “leading figures in education and public policy.”
UCD’s own student union is a constituent organisation of Union of Students in Ireland as are a significant number of higher education institutions across the country. The Union, out of its own budget, pays a fee per student to the national union for membership costing around €100,000.
Those on the list placed at higher rankings than Gary Redmond include prominent religious figures such as Diarmund Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, and Fr. Michael Drunn from the Catholic schools partnership. Those placed within the top ten included private American corporations, notably Google and Hewlett-Packard; their significance on the list justified in the article by the potential they hold for the employment of Irish graduates.
Niall McMonagle, a teacher and poet, given no further explanation than “Ireland’s best known English teacher” was placed ahead of Redmond at number 46.
These placements can be seen as raising questions of how private individuals and corporate bodies were able to gain apparently superior influence in a state education system, to that of democratic education-specific bodies and individuals.
However, many of the figures on the list were to be expected; such as number one Ruairí Quinn, Minister for Education and Skills, and number two “The Troika” (the IMF, EU Commission and the European Central Bank) earning their place through their role as cheque signer for the 90,000 people working in the Irish education system.
Pat de Brún, President of UCDSU believes that the Union has gained increased media significance and acknowledgement over the last 12 months and is likely to make further gains in light of the growing debate surrounding student fees.
The authors of the article made a point of highlighting Gary Redmond as “likely to be a major figure in national politics at some stage.” It would seem that while the USI may not have much influence on Irish education, it will have an influence on Redmond’s career. Frances Ivens