Analysis: A packed field of candidates for what is likely to be a highly competitive set of TCDSU elections

Unusually, there is a near-equal gender divide among candidates this year

The candidates for the upcoming Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) elections were announced from the steps of House Six on Monday evening. With a total of thirteen, this election will see more candidates than usual, with an almost equal gender balance among them. 

With three candidates running for President, Leah Keogh will be most familiar to voters as the incumbent Welfare and Equality Officer. It is quite rare for TCDSU officers to run for a second term, especially in a different position. It will be interesting to see what Keogh’s campaign will look like as candidates frequently run on platforms describing what they would do differently to the current TCDSU. However, Keogh is a member of the current administration and a colleague of current TCDSU President, Eoin Hand.

Ben Cummins and Luke MacQuillan are also running for the union’s presidency, both of whom have experience in leadership roles. Cummins is a former JCR president and has held committee positions in societies, whilst MacQuillan is captain of the Dublin University Football Club J4 team and a financial analyst in the Trinity Student Managed Fund. However, aside from Cummins’ role as a class rep, neither of them have held senior roles or officer positions in the union. Beyond some interest in equality – Keogh’s work on welfare campaigns in her current role and Cummins’ involvement in Movember, for instance – the candidates have not been involved in activism to as large an extent as some of the union’s previous presidents, which has in past years been an important topic in union elections. 

For the position of Education Officer, Daniel O’Reilly and Bev Genockey are both strong contenders. Both have a wealth of experience in TCDSU and have worked together closely with O’Reilly as the union’s current STEM Convenor and Genockey as Deputy STEM Convenor. This is set to be a competitive race between two well-qualified candidates. 

The Welfare and Equality Officer race has three candidates in the running. Dylan Krug and Sierra Mueller-Owens both have some experience holding roles in TCDSU. The third candidate, Cathal Ó Riordán, is running as a relative outsider, but does have leadership experience as TCD Jazz Society’s Big Band Leader since 2019. None of the current candidates have the same level of experience as the incumbent Leah Keogh had as a candidate when she ran in this race last year uncontested. Welfare will likely be an important topic this election and next year due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the concurrent “mental health pandemic”.

Aoife Cronin is the sole candidate in the Communications and Marketing Officer race and has experience in societies and publications as a public relations officer. The Communications Officer is an important, highly visible role in the union and this year has been many students’ only interaction with TCDSU due to Covid-19 and “zoom college”. In a race that is often quite competitive, this will be the only race contested by a single candidate in the 2021 elections. 

Greg Arrowsmith and Antonia Brady have put themselves forward for Ents Officer. Arrowsmith has experience as former Social Secretary for DU Hockey Club, while Brady is the current Ents Manager for DU Players. Ideas about how to create social events under Covid-19 restrictions will likely be important in this race, assuming the candidates do not run on the premise that restrictions will be lifted by the start of the 2021/22 academic year. With some models predicting extended periods of social distancing into 2022 and the current vaccine schedule not seeing the majority of the student population being vaccinated until late autumn 2021, online events will be important. Ents has been previously criticised for catering heavily to first year students, however next year’s second year students will be almost as new to university social life as the incoming first years, which is a reality that the new Ents Officer will have to address. 

The position of Editor of the University Times (UT) is being contested by two candidates, Peter Caddle and Emer Moreau. It is rare that UT is a contested race, with the first serious competition between two experienced members of the paper occurring only last year. 

Caddle is an outsider for the race, and his position as “Chief Project Co-ordinator” at The Burkean, a right-wing online publication, will likely be scrutinised. Caddle has been involved in The Burkean since its founding in 2017 at Trinity, but it has since included participation from University College Dublin and Dublin City University. Caddle’s writing in the Burkean has been deeply critical of TCDSU and UT. He has said UT publishes “garbage”, and has criticised the high spending and “far-Left” leanings of TCDSU candidates. UT has called The Burkean “a publication with almost no credibility”. 

The Burkean attracted serious criticism in 2019 when the then-Editor wrote an article in the publication which was described by students as “extremely racist and xenophobic”. The article argued that genetic characteristics such as “intelligence” should be taken into account when analysing socioeconomic disparities between Sub-Saharan Africa and the West. 

In contrast, Moreau is a more traditional candidate for the role of UT Editor with several years of experience within the paper. She has written with UT since her first year in Trinity and produced articles across multiple sections. She has experience as the paper’s News Editor, Assistant Editor, and most recently as its Deputy Editor since December. Deputy Editors of UT frequently go on to become Editor, as was the case with the current Editor Cormac Watson and his predecessor Donal MacNamee. 

The two-week campaign period will begin on March 1 and last until March 11, with voting set to take place online. 

Kate Glen

Kate Glen is a News Analysis Editor for Trinity News. She is a Senior Sophister History and Political Science student.