A student criticised for his involvement in a male-only Facebook group that shared photos described as objectifying women was today elected president of UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU). Marcus O’Halloran, a final-year agricultural science student, had been a member of the ‘Girls I’d shift if I was tipsy’ group for over a year, and 22 of its 47 members had publicly endorsed him during the election campaign, according to The University Observer.
The incoming UCDSU president had liked the majority of the group’s posts, the paper reports, including one that said “right lads all girls have been removed from this group so its now a lads only group hence ya can talk more freely about girls id like to shift if i was tipsy”. He had also liked a photo of two students of different ethnicities kissing, under the caption “Bitta cross breeding going on here”. Other posts on the group showed students asleep in a bed together and embracing in nightclubs.
He won the four-way race with 40% of the vote, receiving 1,658 of 4,109 first preferences.
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In a statement to The University Observer published on Monday, O’Halloran apologised for his actions on the page. “I understand that liking these posts was unacceptable of me,” he said.
“I would like to make clear that my activity on this page was non-existent up until the 9th/10th February this year, and my presence came as a result of another party adding myself to the group. Liking these photos was not intended to cause harm, offence or objectification to any of the parties involved especially to the young women depicted. All parties portrayed in these photos are personal friends of mine and know about these posts. This group is not representative of my opinions on women’s rights or gender equality. There is a ‘Lad’ culture prevalent across UCD and as president, I would like to run a sexual harassment awareness campaign to combat cat-calling and the objectification of women.”
O’Halloran added that, if elected, he would work with societies and the union’s gender equality coordinator to combat sexism and “create an environment where all students can enjoy their time at university without persistent and unwanted attention of a sexual nature.”