Emer Moreau is in many ways the traditional candidate for editor of the University Times, the student newspaper funded by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union TCDSU). She is the paper’s current deputy editor, having been appointed to the role in December of last year and having previously served as assistant editor and news editor. The editorship of the University Times contains a long line of deputy editors elevated to the role, including the current editor Cormac Watson as well as his three most recent predecessors.
Moreau’s challenger, Peter Caddle, an outsider to the paper, is seeking to disrupt this pattern. However, polling conducted by Trinity News suggests that this challenge by the Chief Project Co-ordinator at the Burkean, a right-wing website, has no prospect of success.
The poll suggests that Moreau currently has the support of around 87.1% of the decided electorate, Caddle the support of 9.2%, with around 3.7% of students planning on voting to reopen nominations.
28.1% of respondents to the poll stated that they were so far undecided as to how they would vote in the University Times Editor race which was significantly lower than in some other races and further compounds the unlikelihood of Caddle being able to close the gap.
As might be expected Caddle’s support among students who indicated that they would vote for right wing parties was considerably higher than on average. He polled at 31.7% among this category.
These polling figures suggest that Moreau’s ascendancy to the role of editor has been disrupted so little that she may receive a very similar percentage of the vote that she might have achieved had she run unopposed, with the vote to reopen nominations typically higher in uncontested races compared to those with two or more candidates.
Moreau’s campaign promises include making it easier for students to get involved in the paper, hosting more social events, and promoting a greater racial and ethnic diversity within the staff of the paper. She has emphasised the importance of student publications as “grassroots of the next generation of journalists” and argued that a current racial disparity within the journalism industry in Ireland can be best tackled at the level of student media.
Moreau’s defence of the apparent direct conveyor line between the position of deputy editor and editor calls into question the faith among University Times staff in the value of their own election process, whereby the position of editor is open to any student and subject to a vote of all students. When asked about why other members of staff don’t more often run during her interview with Trinity News Moreas said: “In the time I’ve been Deputy I’ve learned so much that I didn’t know as an Assistant.” This, she said, is credited to the amount of close work done with the Editor, and she adds that other staff may not run due to not having that technical knowledge of the publication’s “advertising, the website” and journalistic knowledge “about building sources, maintaining sources”.
As such a central member of the paper’s current staff, Moreau has also sought to play up the value that the paper currently provides, exalting the value of “transparent, trustworthy news sources”, and stating that students had relied on the University Times during the pandemic as a source of information.
Caddle’s manifesto and campaign material on social media are focused almost entirely around a single policy, that the University Times should stop producing physical editions of the paper, in favour of devoting more time and energy to their online content.
Caddle has made much of having one campaign promise and an ironclad pledge to fulfill it. However, during the Media hustings it was put to him that producing an issue of the paper once a month during term time is a requirement under the TCDSU constitution. Caddle responded that as he understood it the constitution “doesn’t say what format” the edition should be published in. He noted that if bound to print a physical edition “we can just print two or three issues”.
Given things that he has written in the past, the lack of a print edition however, would likely not be the only difference to the University Times that students would notice under his editorship. For example, in 2018 Caddle penned an article in the Burkean calling for the defunding of Trinity News for the paper’s refusal to platform the views of those who sought to criticise the Philosophical Society (the Phil) in the name of “free speech”, for the society’s decision cancel a debate on the topic: “This House Believes Middle Eastern Women Need Western Feminism”.
The decision therefore to focus on the single policy of cutting the print edition was probably a wise tactical move on Caddle’s part. His outlook on the issue of free speech, suggesting an adherence to the principle means that student publications should be obliged to publish the views of any student because they are funded by all students, was never likely to be popular with the largely left-wing Trinity electorate. Caddle’s insistence during a hustings event that “if someone wants to write a good article I want to publish it”, regardless of ideology, suggests that he wants the paper to start taking a radically different approach with regards to how it applies editorial discretion. And yet this issue, apparently a long-time concern of Caddle’s, was not what he chose to foreground in his campaign.
Instead his manifesto focuses on cutting the print edition on the grounds that it would “lower the annual running costs of the publication”, “make it more environmentally friendly”, and also “much more easily accessible to those with disabilities”, all issues that have previously been shown to appeal to the Trinity electorate. In pulling out of last Friday’s Equality hustings Caddle insisted that he had done so in order to stop “appeasing the SU niche”, and yet, aside from his apparently new-found environmentalism, having previously written that “Ireland is wasting time tackling climate change”, he has also sought to play down his right-wing credentials for a left-wing union audience. He insisted during Council hustings that The Burkean is not right-wing, contradicting the publication’s own claim to being ‘Ireland’s largest conservative magazine’.
Caddle’s focus on a single policy also served another advantage which was to call into question the credibility of his opponent’s plans. Moreau has promised to create two new positions within the paper, Ethnic Minorities correspondent and Advertising and Sponsorship Director, a new committee, the Diversity and Inclusion committee, and a new online publication written entirely in Irish. Candidates who have gone on to become editor in the past have also promised plans to create new structures to reform the paper which have then fallen by the wayside when these editors were faced with the extremely time-consuming role of simply maintaining the volume of the paper’s output at its current high level.
The feasibility and logistics of Moreau’s plans was something that she was repeatedly pushed on by the panelists of the various hustings events that took place last week.
The margin between the two candidates in the Trinity News poll suggests that barring some colossal upset Emer Moreau will almost certainly become the next editor of the University Times, with perhaps one of the largest margins of victory ever recorded in a contested TCDSU election. It is notable that were current polling numbers to be reflected in the results on Thursday, Caddle would receive less than a third of the support, in terms of percentage of the vote, than that of Michael McDermott, a joke candidate who ran for the University Times editorship in 2018 on the platform of increased coverage of Spiderman.
With her three’s years experience within the paper and current position helping to guide the direction of the University Times as the highest ranking non-sabbatical member of staff, students can likely expect a great deal of continuity during Moreau’s editorship and she has several times during the campaign sought to reaffirm the central aim of the paper of holding College to account.