Thomas Hanlon, the “yes” campaign manager for the upcoming SU referendum on whether the union should actively oppose water charges, has said that a positive outcome in the referendum would help to “normalise” Trinity for the wider public.
Speaking to Trinity News about the referendum, he said that Trinity “will always be perceived as an elitist institution and that’s because it is an elitist institution”. While an overall vote in favour of abolishing the water charges would unlikely change this perception, he continued, it would contribute to the “normalisation of Trinity” for those outside of the college.
The “yes” campaign, according to Hanlon, has received a largely positive reaction from the students and university staff that it has engaged with so far, though it remains difficult to predict the outcome of the referendum. “Trinity is an incredibly right wing college, whether this be Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Labour [support],” he said. “Whether people feel strongly enough about water charges to deviate away from their political affiliations, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
“No” campaign manager, Richard Bonham, told Trinity News that he does not “think it is elitist not to campaign against a modest utility charge. The students of Trinity are educated people who look at both sides of an argument and aren’t won over by sound bites and rhetoric.”
Though water charges are “a political issue that… affect every student,” they are not “a student issue” and detract from more important SU concerns, he said.
He also commented on what he regards as the lack of a “yes” campaign presence, claiming that “the ‘yes’ side has not had any campaigners out on campus, no posters and has not been at any of the hustings that I have been to.”
Bonham said he is hopeful of winning and that the students he has spoken to have “responded well” when the arguments of the “no” campaign were explained to them “without the myths and quasi-legal nonsense that has been circulated in relation to this issue.”
A poll of 429 students carried out on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week in the Arts Block, the Hamilton, D’Olier Street, St. James’s Hospital, the JCR Café and the GMB found significant opposition among students to the referendum, with 33% planning to support it, 50.8% planning to oppose and 16.3% still undecided. U Excluding the undecideds, 60.6% of those polled suggested they would vote “no” in the referendum on the issue, with 39.8% indicating they would support the measure.