The first hustings of the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) sabbatical officer elections took place this afternoon on the steps of the Dining Hall. The twelve candidates fielded questions in the event that was hosted by current TCDSU Education Officer Alice MacPherson, with the “poster run” and launch of campaign pages on social media following directly after the hustings.
University Times Editor
First race up at today’s hustings was the role of University Times Editor. Eleanor O’Mahony, a Senior Sophister European Studies student, outlined her experience in other societies, including the Society for International Affairs (SOFIA) and the Voluntary Tuition Programme (VTP), and noted the “empowerment” that the University Times had instilled in her.
She wishes to pass this onto all students, stressing that she will focus on issues facing students from all faculties, giving them “real world experience in journalism,” particularly during “exciting times for student politics and activism”. She wishes to diversify how College interacts with the paper, introducing office hours so that people may present their ideas and get more involved with the paper.
Fielding a question from Sally Anne McCarthy on lack of engagement with various College faculties, O’Mahony referred to the paper’s coverage of health science issues, quoting the “amazing research” in College. O’Mahony said: “It’s really really important that the UT is a paper for students from all faculties.”
Michael McDermott, a fourth year Nanoscience student, spoke with the Presidential candidates as he is contesting both races, with his previous experience consisting solely of running the popular Facebook page, Trinity Collidge.
During his speech, McDermott did not reference his candidacy in the University Times Editor race. McDermott has also not released a manifesto of policies if elected to the UT Editor role. He did however reference the position of the University Times Editor during a question about microwaves available for students. He talked about “wasteful spending by the SU” referencing the €17,000 spent on the sabbatical position occupied by the editor. He compared it to the unpaid position of the Editor of Trinity News, seeming to believe that the University Times should have a similar structure.
Matt Dundon, a third year Politics, Philosophy, Economics and Sociology (PPES) student, was the first Ents candidate to speak. As co-founder of The Midnight Disco, Dundon hopes to lend his experience to the position. Dundon opened with a quote from Gore Vidal about public figures who can no longer write or read their own speeches, citing the White House as an example, and insists that he can “guarantee his own words”. Dundon highlighted the key points of his manifesto, proposing to launch BYOB events in “unconventional locations” and hold outdoor cinema screenings at the Pav, claiming that the staff had already given him “the green light”. He further proposed to offer earplugs at nights out for those with sensory disabilities, as well as organise an Ents review system and monthly LGBTQ+ event. Dundon aims to introduce a review system for Ents events, “to ensure that everyone in the college is getting the most out of their ents officer”. He described the core aims of his events as “quality, affordability and diversity”, and reinforced the main points of his manifesto as “strong and achievable”.
David Flood is a third year Mechanical Engineering student and the current Captain of Trinity Surf Club, an organisation with over 400 members with trips organised to Morocco, and a resident presenter at Trinity FM. Flood is looking to organise a foreign trip open to all Trinity students, which he describes as “the first international mystery tour for all of Trinity”. He also aims to introduce cafe crawls, Cirque de Soleil events and a World Culture Day event. Flood aims to introduce more varied, themes events, “a night you actually want to go on”. Among the other proposals he made in his speech were an LGBTQ+ Pride event during Rainbow Week, Trinity’s ‘biggest pride event’, wherein everyone can get involved and “celebrate the brilliant diversity on display at Trinity”, as well as a disability viewing platform at Trinity Ball. He also proposed to “crowdsource” the Trinity Ball line up, saying he would take students’ voices into account when submitting his proposed acts to MCD. When asked by an audience member whether this would jeopardise College’s relationship with the promoter,Flood defended the policy, arguing it would simply allow students to influence the “list I give to MCD”.
Communications and Marketing
Of the Comms and Marketing candidates, Niall Harty spoke first. Harty, a final year Philosophy student, has no previous experience in TCDSU but has worked with Headcase Marketing and as Treasurer of the Russian Society. Harty emphasised his “private sector experience” and “a set of beliefs” to compensate for his lack of previous involvement in the SU. He highlighted his success in negotiating sponsorship for Russian Soc with Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.
He claimed the “SU Opt Out Movement,” which calls for students to have the right to leave the SU, was proof of a “failure of effective communications” and said he wished to rectify this. When questioned by an audience member on his idea for a careers fair, Harty said he wanted to build “long lasting client relationships” with companies to deliver employment opportunities to students. In response to a question about whether he had experience organising large events such as these, Harty pointed to his organisation of cultural events during his time in Russian Soc, as well as his role in organising the Holi festival, “the second largest event on campus other than Trinity Ball”.
Next to speak was final year Drama student Paraic McLean. He has experience in both the SU and DU Players. Currently serving as TCDSU Creative Arts Convenor, McLean has additional experience as Production Manager of the Trinity Arts Festival and Technical Manager of Players. McLean broke down the work of the SU into three points. “We need to ask the students what they want,” he said, “go and do it, then tell students what we have done. The Comms Officer is essential to doing the first and the last step successfully.” He reiterated his promises to provide activists with “campaign packs” and offer “upskilling workshops” for programmes such as InDesign and Photoshop.
McLean highlighted his commitment to introduce an extensive archiving system for everything the SU publishes. “You name it, we should archive it,” he told the audience. He also said his campaign team would be handing out cards to students in the coming weeks and invited people to write “your bright idea for the SU” and bring them to him, should he be elected.
The last Comms and Marketing candidate to take to the steps was Cian Rynne. He is a final year Human Genetics student and the founder of the Trinity College Doggos Facebook group. He admits to having no SU or society experience and presents himself as an atypical candidate. He said he was “totally unprecedented” and “could do extraordinary things”. He promised to bring “the Arts Block and the Hamilton together”. He said the SU had been “overspending for three years now” and proposed to completely digitise the SU diary. He also proposed to expand internship opportunities “and make it easier on students,” with a focus on STEM. He said “the most important thing” in his campaign was to “relax the rules on doggos on campus” and pointed to the mental health benefits this would bring. Closing his speech, he encouraged students to vote for him “and make it the Trinity Year of the Dog”.
Next to speak was James Cunningham, a Junior Sophister Politics and Economics Student from Belfast and the only candidate for the Welfare Officer role. Often a heavily contested race, this year Cunningham has an open field to discuss his policies. The former JCR Welfare Officer currently serves on the Welfare Committee and has received S2S Peer Supporter training and SAFEtalk training. Cunningham began by talking about why he wants to run for Welfare Officer, saying “I’m running because I’m the right person for the role” and can provide a “a listening ear”. He highlighted his experience as Welfare Officer in the JCR and his involvement on the SU Welfare Committee over the last two years.
This experience, he said, gives him “a good knowledge of the services available”. Cunningham emphasised that he has a “strong insight into what can be achieved” and outlined his five main issues he hopes to address as Welfare Officer; mental health and wellbeing, student poverty, consent, engagement, and drugs awareness schemes.
Cunningham promised to address the five topics over the course of the week, focusing on his policy relating to student poverty during the hustings. If elected, Cunningham intends to introduce consent workshops across campus. He plans to run an awareness campaign of the financial help available for students, he feels many students are “unaware” of these services. By promoting the student hardship fund, Cunningham hopes to “avoid unnecessary dropouts for finance reasons” and stresses that he will always be “available in the face of difficulty”.
Taking inspiration from University of Limerick Students’ Union, Cunningham wants to open a food bank on campus with the introduction of a “food token system” in the Student’s Union Cafe to provide lunch for students facing financial difficulty.
Finally, Cunningham addressed the rental crisis saying he would “provide support for those feeling isolated or living alone” and establish an accommodation working group to better coordinate the Union’s response.
Aimee Connolly, a Senior Sophister Business, Economics and Social Studies (BESS) student from Galway and the uncontested candidate for Education Officer, told the gathered crowd about her aspirations of engagement, employability and support for the SU. In a brief speech outlining her campaign promises, Connolly said she wants to “ensure that everyone has a say in how the SU is run” and “improve communication as a whole”. She spoke of the importance of upholding the aims of the Student Partnership Agreement and emphasised the importance of “producing employable graduates” and wishes to place a “heavy emphasis” on student employability.
She also intends to introduce new student supports, through increased tutor advice and engagement, and a careers week, while also creating a student hub to discuss Erasmus, internship, and volunteering experiences.
When asked about the student opinions on the SU Academic Senate, Connolly stated that she believed that the general consensus was “pretty positive”. She suggested that the Senate may require a review, but expects that it will maintain positive engagement during the year. When asked what impact incoming Christmas exams will have on students, Connolly believed that this could be tackled effectively through individual casework and supports. She also noted that the Trinity Education Programme may introduce some “hiccups,” but these can be overcome.
Shane De Rís was the first candidate to take to the steps for President. He spoke on the SU’s strong history of campaigning and his intent to continue this tradition, drawing on Repeal the Eighth, TCD Plastic-Free solutions, and Aramark Off Our Campus campaigns. De Rís said that he will “lead an SU that listens to what students want and responds to their needs”. In response to a question on LGBT+ rights, De Rís stressed that students from Northern Ireland still experience a ban on same-sex marriage and notes that he would work with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) on this issue.
The next to speak was founder of the popular Trinity Collidge Facebook page, Michael McDermott. In a humorous speech, McDermott spoke of his various perceived flaws, including his appearance and lack of SU experience. “I know I don’t look Presidential” and highlighted his lack of experience for the role.
Paul Molloy, current Auditor of the College Historical Society (the Hist) spoke next. He identified the key issues for students as accomodation, fees, poverty, and accessibility, noting that he can “understand these challenges” due to his background as a Trinity Access Programme (TAP) student. Molloy described wanting to keep Trinity campus as “inclusive as it can be”. In response to a question on the backlash against the invitation extended by the Hist for Nigel Farage to speak on campus, Molloy said that he does not agree with Farage’s views but that College should be a place for free enquiry.
Speaking last, Sean Ryan emphasised the importance of accessibility on campus and his wish to open up campus to all students. He spoke of his difficulties growing up with a physical disability and said he wants to make College more accessible. He wants to bring the SU to the student body and “whether through condoms or cookbooks, [wants] everybody to know the good work and services provided by the SU”. Ryan wants to increase the availability of services like Niteline for students and touched on the importance of campaigning on transgender healthcare issues.
Reporting by Lauren Boland, Michael Gilna, Aisling Grace, Peter Kelly, Dominic Neau, Ciaran Sunderland, Julia Geoghegan, Michael Kelly, Rory O’Neill, Aoife Ni Chadhain, Caroline Boyle, Seana Davis, Eoin O’Donnell, Meadhbh Ni Mhidigh, Kate Banks, Lexi Demetroulakos, Niamh Lynch, Michael Foley and Sarah Meehan.