If elected, Declan Harmon aims to prioritise accountability in the Students’ Union, and the graduate prospects of its members. He promises to cut the “wasteful spending of the Union”, and “focus its efforts on really fulfilling its role of standing up for the concerns of students and serving their needs”.
“Our Union is not delivering success for the money we are putting in to it”, says Harmon, who wants to make the Students’ Union “far more effective”. The BESS student comments: “We all contribute to the Union’s huge budget and I am consistently disappointed with the results. There are many good people involved in the Union, but collectively they are not producing good outcomes”.
Currently the Students’ Union have a budget of €400,000, of which 80 per cent comes from the Student Charge. Harmon aims to publish the income and expenditure of the Union on a monthly basis, and make the full accounts of the Union available to all students for inspection in his office.
“There are ways that the Students’ Union can help its members become more attractive to employers”, says Harmon, who is keen to improve graduate employment prospects in Trinity. He says this will be achieved by working on initiatives, such as making access to internship programmes easier, introducing mentoring programmes and an on-campus careers fair where students can meet potential employers. “I have presented proposals on this to the Minister for Social Welfare”, says Harmon, “and have discussed the issue with the business lobby group IBEC”.
Harmon is an outspoken critic of the incumbent Students’ Union. He cites the example of the “failed” Library campaign and the proposed Student Centre, which is “still just a dream and no closer to reality”. He describes the Buttery as “overpriced for the quality” and says, “College is determined to squeeze even more students into already overcrowded classes”.
Harmon says other Students’ Union candidates may paint him as the “outsider” in the bid for presidency. He says these nominees “have been maneuvering into the position for years now”.
“Well, I am an outsider, as are the vast majority of students who feel indifferent at best towards their Union”, says Harmon, who describes himself as “the candidate for those who want to take back their Union so that it works for all of us.”
Harmon is active in a number of voluntary and charitable organizations. He is treasurer of his local GAA club, Ballyfermot De la Salle. The Junior Sophister is involved in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and is member of the Board of Directors of Ballyfermot Family Resource Centre, which provides training and employment opportunities to people living in the Dublin 10 area. He is also a member of the Advisory Council of the European Movement in Ireland.
“Unemployment is a huge issue for us all”, explains Harmon, “Our Union can and should do more to prepare its members for the workplace”.
Fearghal Hughes is the only nominee concerned with the grant system in Ireland, which he describes as “fundamentally flawed”. He says the grant system needs to be completely overhauled, in order to ensure students know exactly “how, when and where to obtain their grants”.
Fearghal explains, “the grant system is currently evaluated on the basis of parental income, which doesn’t take into account students who support themselves independently, yet when they fill out the grant application form they still have to include their parents’ income”. Hughes cites the example of the sit-in staged by UCD students in Wicklow County Council last October, in protest of the delay in receiving their maintenance grants.
Hughes praises Students’ Union President Cónán Ó Broin for “creating a profile for the Union on a national level”. When asked if he would have done anything differently, he says Ó Broin has “done as much as he can”. Hughes explains, “Cónán Ó has been kept incredibly busy with the issue of fees, and you can’t argue with results!”
The Senior Sophister from Drogheda says the Library issue has been as prominent as ever under Ó Broin, and hopes to continue the campaign for opening hours on a par with the national average.
“College have been spending our Registration Fee in some rather odd ways”, says Harmon, who points out that the Student Charge is paid for by students and, as such, should be more accountable. He adds, “I would like to look into negotiating with fees, although this is off the table until the next general election”.
Hughes describes the Student Charge as “misspent” and “unacceptable” that students are not consulted into its expenditure. “The Library, for example, should be funded by the Student Charge as a core service”, says Hughes, who expects the grant given to the Students’ Union to be publicly accountable as well.
Hughes is currently involved in the Students’ Union as Engineering, Maths and Sciences Faculty Executive and Convenor, which he says “definitely helps” in his presidential campaign. His current position involves co-ordinating 83 class representatives, including helping them to organise class parties, create contacts and help with timetabling issues. Hughes has also worked as a class representative, and stands on the committee of the Cancer Society and Comedy Society.
A Sports Writer for The University Times, Hughes was a member of the rugby team until he was injured. Keen to create a “more approachable union”, Hughes wants to “ensure the sabbatical officers engage with students regularly face to face”, and tells Trinity News he encourages students: “don’t hesitate to stop and talk to me if you see me around campus!”
Since his entry into Trinity College, Nikolai Trigoub-Rotnem has been heavily involved in the Students’ Union, and has been an Engineering class representative. His campaign is centred on four main issue areas: fees, grants, the library and sports facilities.
Trigoub-Rotnem feels strongly the the registration fee should not be increased, citing the importance of “outsider action”. He has been an active membr of the anti-fees campaign under Conán Ó Broin. Trigoub-Rotnem says he will aim to lobby TDs as soon as he begins his post, if elected. Trigoub-Rotnem says grant decreases were cut by 5 per cent in this year’s budget, which he is keen to reverse by “looking externally, we need to put pressure on members of the Daíl to get the Student Support Bill enacted.”
Trigoub-Rotnem is outspoken on reforming the Trinity Library, by introducing automated access into College and increasing Library opening hours, which he says may not necessitate an increase in Library staff. The Engineering with Management Junior Sophister is currently involved in the Students’ Union’s campaign for improved Library opening hours, which he says should be “on a par with the national average”.
He also seeks to create an indoor training sports centre, as space in the gym has become “increasingly restricted”. Trigoub Rotnem says, “it would be a place where teams can train together and improve team performance”.
Trigoub-Rotnem says this years Students’ Union officers have “set the bar which must be kept and raised”. He says the “external profile of this year’s Students’ Union is something which must be consolidated and built upon”, citing the fight against tuition fees which has become a nationwide issue. According to Trigoub-Rotnem, this year’s officers have “performed much better than previous years”. He points out that Trinity College had not seen a campus sit-in for ten years, before the Berkeley Library occupation last November. He says the big campaigns run by the Students’ Union this year are the largest they have been in years, attracing national attention.
Trigoub-Rotnem commends incumbent Union President Cónán Ó Broin, who he says has “done well, giving the Students’ Union a fresh thought and drive”.
However, he also says there is a need to increase the involvement of ordinary students into the Union, as many of Trinity’s 16,476 studentts know very little about the Union itself or the services they provide. He wants there to be a greater increase in the involvement of ordinary students into where money is spent, as presently students have no input into where funding is allocated.
Nikolai is also keen to fix what he sees as “failing” in ISS services. Unreliable printers is something which needs a “system of quality assurance in place to prevent breakdowns reoccurring”, says Trigoub-Rotnem.
Nikolai is on the executive board of the Students’ Union and is the Union’s Assistant Campaign Officer.
Self-described “Anglo-Irish Prodeshtant” Dan Reilly is making his bid for Students’ Union President as leader of what he describes as “the fastest growing political party in Trinity”: the Trinity Intellectual Traditionalist Society (TITS).
If elected, Reilly would abolish all Students’ Union elections, make it a “hate-crime” to criticise the Union, and create “draconian” Royal University Constabulary (RUC) with powers of “search arrest, interrogation of unruly students engaged in free thinking”.
“I shall abolish the Euro, which has been an infringement on Irish sovereignty since its introduction. British Sterling and the German Mark, pre-1948, are to be College tender”, explains Reilly, whose campaign also includes a bid to appoint Iris Robinson as ‘College Matron’.
Reilly plans to be actively involved in College entertainments, and will replace SHAG week with ‘Courtship with her Father’s Permission’ week. The Trinity Ball will be a chaperoned event, according to Reilly, who suggests a curfew of 10.30pm and English Baroque soloists as headliners. He plans to introduce a new form of entertainment, in which “female students from UCD will do naked cage-fighting wearing only ‘Ugg’ boots”. When asked how these students would be obtained, Reilly explains they would be “kidnapped” from the UCD campus, which he refers to as “Belfield polytechnic”. Reilly plans to ban the promotion of raves and events, describing student venues as “dens of iniquity”.
Reilly plans to abolish the office of Welfare, “with an officer responsible for ‘re-education’ and punishment”. He says students should be given “free condoms, if they have received less than 500 points on the Leaving Certificate”. Students receiving over 545 points, on the other hand, “will receive a manservant funded by the registration fee of all students”.
The student in History and Political Science wishes current Union President, Cónan Ó Broin, well as he comes to the end of his term: “The thing about Cónán is that he is really proud of his native language, culture and Gaelic games”, explains Reilly, “It makes one wonder why Cónán Ó Catholic chose to study at Trinity at all”. Reilly says he hopes Ó Broin and his “chairde” will not object to the reorganisation of the Gaelic Athletic Association to the Anglo Athletic Association: “Those who do object will be rounded up and transported immediately to the nearest NUI or Institute of Technology”. Reilly plans to expel students with “improbable” Gaelic names. He cites “Ferdia”, “Aenus”, “Gobnait” and “Sneachta” as possible examples.
Reilly plans to introduce strict disciplinary measures into College, stating offenders “will be marched around campus wearing a dunce cap with the letters U.C.D. crudely written on it”. Reilly plans an overhaul of the Trinity Access Programme, whose candidates “are to be interviewed personally by the Union President”, adding, “they must be well groomed and proficient in Medieval Latin”.