2002 marks the 30th anniversary of the deal whereby a British National Student Union and an Irish equivalent agreed to jointly run the Northern Ireland region. Therefore there is no more appropriate time to refresh ourselves with the history of NUS-USI Northern Ireland than the present.
It is hoped that the proposed study will be of use to those interested in the history of the involvement of the National Union of Students (NUSUK) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in Northern Ireland. Up until the time that this original study was written, there was very little material produced on the subject in question. Since then, the time-scale detailed herein, has initiated some welcome debate and has been used as part of a chapter in a major book to be soon published on the National Union of Students. This study was presented to the April 2000 Conference of NUS-USI Northern Ireland in Newcastle and many student officers seemed interested and surprised at the early beginnings of the organisation. The year 2002 presents new opportunities to openly debate the crucial period of 1969- 1975.
As the original study was written as a dissertation for an undergraduate degree in March 2000, there was a certain amount of haste to the project. New additions have been made since then particularly with a postscript, which takes the story from the 1990s through to the 21st century. John Cushnahan MEP has added two recollections that have been added into the study, as has information gleaned about the 1975 referendum on the EEC. Incidents of the Northern Ireland problem in the late 1970s has also been added and sections of Mike Day’s book, yet to be published, has been very helpful here.
I have tried in the update not to make the study too ‘hacky’ i.e. only appealing to those interested national officers and that it is envisaged that the wider student body may have some interest in the period.
The following study does not intend to provide the definitive history of the organisation of the two national student unions in Northern Ireland nor does it attempt to provide an account of the student movement in NI. Such a study, which is surely needed, would require a much more detailed scrutiny of the archives and interviews, but that should surely be the next stage in this process of discovering our most recent past.
Instead, it is hoped that this more limited study will lead to further debate among those involved at the time to contribute recollections and to add valuable points to the piece. Moreover, it is my wish that a dedicated display of student archives become established to demonstrate the importance student life has had, and continues to have on the political and educational life of Northern Ireland.