The recently formed Social Democrats spoke to supporters in the GMB on Monday about plans to establish party affiliated societies within Trinity and other universities. Former USI president Joe O’Connor and Trinity alumna Hannah McCarthy led the informal proceedings.
O’Connor and McCarthy described how the societies formed would be more than just a youth branch of the party, as they would have an important link to the policies that the party puts forward.
This is in line with their position that policy making should include the opinions of those that it affects, instead of just the elite few in government. Consequently, attendees were asked to pass on any policy ideas they might have.
“No party has managed to utilise the passion of the youth… In terms of student groups, we hope this is the start of something bigger” O’Connor explained, before opening the floor to suggestions. Potential members were encouraged to use the society as a platform to campaign on internal college issues and to engage with the SU, as well.
The night also functioned as a way for young supporters to become more familiar with the Social Democrats. Catherine Murphy, North Kildare TD, gave a speech in which she touched briefly upon some topics that were important to the ethos of the party.
“A lot of public services have been badly run down,” she claimed. This could be rectified, she said, by introducing an economic model similar to the Nordic version, which she described as “pay your taxes, get your services.”
She also spoke with disdain about the lack of opportunities for young people in Ireland, remarking that “it’s one thing having a choice to go away, it’s another thing to be forced to go away.”
Other speakers included Anne-Marie McNally and Garry Gannon, both Social Democrat candidates for the next general election, canvassing for Dublin Mid-West and Dublin North Inner City respectively.
McNally spoke with contempt about what she considers to be the elitist way of doing politics in this country: “If you’re not wearing the right clothes, you’re not taken seriously.” The current status quo, she believes, needs to be challenged and this can only occur with an “input of freshness.”
Gary Gannon, a former Trinity student, gave a speech focused on inequality. As a councillor for Dublin’s North Inner City, he spoke about his constituency and how he felt it an injustice that “in 2015, to get into an institution like [Trinity] is still seen as a deviation from the norm.”
He described fighting poverty as the “ultimate political act,” further claiming, “I want to be part of a movement, I want to be part of something bigger and I want to be part of something real…I feel like we can make a difference.”
The group agreed to meet again for further discussions about setting up a society in Trinity.