Niall Harty is a Senior Sophister Philosophy student and one of the three candidates running in this year’s Communications and Marketing Officer election. Trinity News sat down with Niall to talk about his views on the role and his campaign promises.
Harty believes the role of Communications and Marketing Officer is largely non-political. “Although the Students’ Union is a political movement,” he said, “I see the job of Communications and Marketing in particular as the least political”. He believes that a good Communications and Marketing Officer should be “impartial to the best of his ability” and work behind the scenes, while also upholding Students’ Union mandates.
When asked about general disenfranchisement among students and the emergence of the “Opt Out” movement, Harty describes it as a “very important question”. He said that one of his aims if he were elected would be to “depoliticise” the resources made available to students by the SU. Harty wants to re-engage all students, particularly disenfranchised ones, and make them aware that there are resources available to them that are not being used. Harty’s goal would be to “perform an exposition of the resources available to people,” while leaving politics to one side.
He mentioned services like Niteline and resources available to students of which they are not taking full advantage. He believes that it is important not to “leave anybody marginalised” in the student body. “What people are disenfranchised with is not my issue,” said Harty, once again stressing that the role of Communications and Marketing is non-political. He said that his sole task would be to make them aware of the “politics-aside resources” available to students.
One of the policies Harty particularly emphasises is engaging societies in the SU, which he believes would excite students who are disillusioned with the Union. “You have a situation in the first week where people come and join societies and they never get involved again,” said Harty. He believes that by collaborating with societies, the SU could “draw people in” through social media and encourage them to get more involved in college life.
When asked if this approach could potentially add to the “inner-circle” culture that some students perceive to exist in certain societies and the SU, he was quick to defend the policy. He said it leaves no room for “favouritism”. He states that societies would be given the opportunity to publicise themselves on a “first come, first served” basis, and that the “merit” of these societies would not come into consideration. Harty also stresses that this would be of mutual benefit to the SU and the societies.
Harty believes the current budget deficit is “the biggest problem facing the SU at the moment,” and said it is of particular importance to the Communications and Marketing Officer. His solution to this is the introduction of policies that can be rolled out at no expense to the SU. He states that bridging the budget deficit would be his “main challenge” should he be elected, but emphasises that whether this is done or not he intends to continue to introduce policies that can be carried out for free, again mentioning his policy of using social media to re-engage students in college life.
In spite of his relatively limited experience dealing with the SU, Harty does not see this as a hindrance going into the election. He admits that his role as a class representative was “the extent of [my] SU experience” but also said he gained experience dealing with “clerical, admin and timetabling issues” in this role. Harty also referenced his experience in the private sector as his strength. He has worked with Headcase Marketing in Dublin and describes this as his “greatest platform for experience”. Harty believes he has gained the skills necessary to “innovate the role” of Communications and Marketing Officer. He also referenced his experience in graphic design and as a social media manager, which would aid him in revamping the “social media presence” of the SU.
When asked about the issue of the lack of women running in the election, he stresses that he is running on a “platform of inclusivity and diversity,” adding that it was important for people from all walks of life to feel welcome in college. He emphasises the importance of diversity on campus, mentioning his experience organising events between the Russian Society and the Indian Society and stating that he believes societies are of the utmost importance to achieving a diverse culture on campus. He describes the issue of gender equality in the SU as “a tricky one,” as candidates have to nominate themselves and “opt in” in order to get involved. He said that it is important that everyone who is “representative of the student body” should run for election. Although he admits he did not have the “solution” to the issue, Harty suggests the introduction of a gender quota to diversify the SU, which could “incentivise more women to get involved”.
In his manifesto, Harty claims he will aim to get rid of companies such as Aramark from campus should he be elected. When asked if he saw this as a prominent student issue, Harty admits that he is not sure it is “the most prominent student issue,” but that it is a vital part of his policy regarding ethical sponsorship. He insists that the issue is “as simple as not giving them our business” and said that there was no reason not to give a platform to those students who view Aramark’s work as unethical.
When asked if he had been involved in the campaign to get rid of Aramark, he said: “I back it. But I can’t be seen to be giving public sponsorship. That’s not appropriate.” Harty believes the issue should be discussed at SU Council, and said he will work alongside Aramark to negotiate their leaving campus and achieve what is “determined as appropriate by Council and the greater student body.” With regards to governmental policies on direct provision, he said the matter is “beyond [my] brief” and that he was solely concerned with the student movement to get rid of Aramark.
He finished by reiterating his “private sector experience in marketing and proven experience in social media,” referencing the meme page he runs which currently has over 50,000 likes. Harty feels that this experience is evidence of his ability to be effective in the role, in spite of his little SU experience. “These are actions that I’ve taken rather than just policies that I say I’m going to enact,” Harty says.