Leah Keogh, the Welfare Officer of Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) and a candidate to become the union’s next president, has been issued a major strike by the Electoral Commission (EC) and a ban on campaigning for the first day of the election period.
The strike was issued after Keogh’s campaign page was published early before the official start of the campaign period.
According to Schedule 3, if a candidate receives more than three minor strikes they will be struck off the ballot.
If a candidate receives two major strikes a decision will be made “at the discretion of the EC” as to whether they will remain on the ballot.
In a statement to Trinity News, TCDSU Education Officer Megan O’Connor confirmed that the strike had been issued.
Speaking to Trinity News, Keogh stated: “Yesterday, a member of my team accidentally published my campaign page ‘Go for Keogh for SU President’.”
The page was live for eight hours after it was published, including four hours after the EC was notified about the page, the Chair of the EC Yannick Gloster told Trinity News. Keogh said that the page was removed when the issue was then flagged with her by the EC.
Keogh said: “If I have one thing going for me, it’s institutional knowledge. What generally differentiates a major strike from a minor one is intent. A member of my team accidentally published my campaign page two days before the election kick-off. This happens often, campaign members mess up the privacy settings, human error. We saw the same thing happen in 2018 and 2019, pages were accidentally published early, a minor strike was issued and the candidates were restricted from launching their campaign for a short period.”
“A major strike here is inconsistent when compared to the precedent previously set. In 2018, a candidate was issued a major strike when he promised a group of first year students a €300 bar tab in Diceys. This was intentional, it was in a group chat and it was a gift to sway the vote. In this case, 3 breaches of Schedule 3 (the campaign rule book) occurred and so it received a major strike,” Keogh said.
“The EC reserves the right to discretion, the word discretion is mentioned 12 times in Schedule 3’s 13 page document. However, where there is too much discretion there is inconsistency, and where there is inconsistency, there cannot be fairness, not only for SU candidates but for students across the board,” she said.
“According to Schedule 3, ‘The EC shall ensure the fair running of the Sabbatical Elections’. The fact that there is, ‘no recourse unless you are being struck off the ballot’, is not fair. An appeals process is fundamental to fair procedure.”
“This is not a personal issue but a structural one, one that I will continue to work to address if elected,” Keogh said.
A page that was previously used to campaign for Keogh’s current role as Welfare Officer appeared on Facebook with a title that related to the presidency campaign.
Schedule 3, the rules that govern election within the union, states that all campaign groups must be “opt-in”.
The EC’s stance is that followers of an existing social media page did not consent to sign up for updates on a campaign.
The strike was issued because the use of the page ahead of the campaign period was deemed to qualify as precampaigning.
Gloster said that the page had an audience of 280 people, and so was “essentially pre-campaigning to those 280 people”.
“Regardless of whether there was a precedent or not, it’s still reached those 280 people and that’s why we deemed it as a serious and major strike,” Gloster said.
“The appeals process is written into the Constitution and not into Schedule 3, and therefore would require a referendum,” Gloster said. He said that a single officer “wouldn’t be able to do it alone”.
Keogh is one of three candidates to become the next president of TCDSU. Also running are Ben Cummins and Luke MacQuillan.
Campaigning for this year’s TCDSU sabbatical officer elections is to start on Monday, with the first hustings events of the campaign due to take place that afternoon.
The campaign period will run for approximately two weeks, with voting taking place online.
This article was updated at 18:08 to clarify that the strike was issued for the premature publishing of Keogh’s campaign page. A previous version said that it was due to the use of the prexisting campaign page. The article was updated at 20.40 to add a statement from Leah Keogh, and at 21.30 to add a statement from the Electoral Commission.