Founded in 1978, the Piranha has been a constant in Trinity Publications, with its satirical takes on campus life providing an outlet to what we’re all thinking. With the magazine boasting alumni such as Pauline McLynn, Mario Rosenstock and David O’Doherty, we sit down with one of the two outgoing editors of the Pirahna, Sophie Cassidy, with the other editor, Conor Nevin, who was unable to make the interview, advising this newspaper to “make fake quotes in it and attribute them to him. That is how we do journalism.”
Campus gossip has always been the backbone of the Piranha, with early issues in the Eighties listing the most recent fights and trysts between named students. In a post-TEP world, has there been a void of campus gossip? “It’s depended on the issue,” Cassidy says. “Like I know our second issue that was the second half of Michaelmas term, we were like ‘nothing is happening’, and we were texting people who were running for election like ‘please do something outrageous’ so we have something. Like can someone please do something? But then like this one [the most recent issue] is kinda grand cause like everyone’s trying to have referendums about everything.”
The last few years have seen social media satirical pages such as Trinity Collidge and previously Tronity Mews grow in popularity, with the confessional page “Trinfess” becoming a phenomenon in recent weeks. How do these competitors affect the publication? “I feel like it makes us look really well, when people are like ‘oh when you give people an unfiltered, anonymous platform, they’re really classist. What’s that about?’ and it’s almost like we filter what people say and it shows an importance of editorship as a thing.”
“[Satirical social media accounts] seem to come around every few years. I quite enjoy Trinity Collidge. But I think the thing that he has is that he can just put out short content really quickly, whereas we have our set format that we have to like yeet things into whereas he can just post things willy-nilly.”
Despite the rumours that the Piranha is the only campus publication that Provost Patrick Prendergast reads, it doesn’t halt criticisms which Cassidy rebuked: “We had Paddy P trying to call us out in his thing for [Trinity News]. He was just incorrect as well. He was like ‘[there was] a front cover of me as Marie Antoinette saying ‘let them eat cake’’. For one, that’s not what it said, it says ‘let them pay fees’ which is definitely something you believe, and also like people didn’t look at that and say ‘oh my god, Paddy P says let them eat cake’ – you’ve missed the joke.”
This attitude informs the Piranha’s editorial direction: “Go in for the power. You don’t want to upset people, but you do want to make them reflect a bit on themselves and like you shouldn’t have done that thing.”
However, the Piranha is never far from controversy, with the magazine being banned for intermittently over the years, perhaps most notably during the editorship of Paddy Cosgrave, of Web Summit and recent brown envelope fame, for an Islamophobic article. Earlier this year, the current editors were the subject of a Press Ombudsman complaint, which was later dropped by the body. In the first issue of the year, the magazine published a “What’s Hot/What’s Not” article which included “Gays” as a “hot” item.
Cassidy says: “It was a weird one, it’s not how I expected to be profiled in Gay Community News eventually. When we’re reading things, we know the angle and we have a very set idea of what we’re trying to achieve in our head and we’re like ‘yes, this is satirising the idea that gay people are on top in Trinity’ cause we are, we’re great.” Despite the complainant, a Trinity student and member of the LGBTQ+ community, saying that they found the article to be “not only personally offensive but deeply damaging to those of us who have suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of homophobic bullies”, the Press Ombudsman said: “Given that the author included “Gay” as one of the “Hot” attributes to students, it is difficult to conclude that the author’s intentions were hostile towards LGBTQ people. Rather the article has to be seen as a somewhat ham-fisted attempt at satirical humour.”
Cassidy, a member of the LGBTQ community, added: “That was the other thing – I’m not mad that Shane Kenneally [the writer of the piece] thinks I’m hot cause I am.”
With the publication winding down for the year, Jack Counihan and Maeve Claffey have been appointed as next year’s editors, in a move Cassidy describes as “gifting it back to the Phil”. A final flourish of advice from Cassidy for all future hacks who may grace the future pages of the publication: “Start deleting your Facebook now, like do it now before we get to it. Try not to culturally appropriate anything. It’s just easy to get pictures of people.” The latest issue of the Piranha is available at all good Arts Block ledges and Hamilton tables.