Ents is the most hotly contested race this year, at least numerically, with three candidates – Aleksandra Giersz, Finn Murphy, and Ben Ó Mathúin – battling it out for the position. Ents is, regrettably or otherwise, the branch of the SU that (with the exception of Communications perhaps) students have the most contact with. Ents officers command a large budget and control a huge turnover and must possess reasonably sophisticated organisational skills.
Finn Murphy, a third year mechanical engineering student, is the only Sophister in the running. Murphy enjoys organising events and he cites this as being the main motivating factor in his going for the position. His main organisational experience has derived from various positions in the Ents Exec, DU Snowsports, Trinity Sailing Club and Fish Soc, and he cites his familiarity with the inner workings of the SU as being the reason why he alone of the three Ents candidates has escaped sanctions from the electoral commission.
His leaflet is reasonably well produced and the prose doesn’t leave you with the urge to shove a biro up your nose (a significant accomplishment for an SU candidate). Some of his more novel policies include a Trinity Film Festival, an Ents Red Card which could be bought at the start of term and would give free access to all Ents events throughout the year, and modifications to the Ents revenue model. He plans to begin, as soon as he is elected, to search for new sponsorship deals for Ents. This will involve renegotiating a larger deal with Vodafone which has progressively cut the value of its sponsorship over the last few years. He has also pledged to “bring back” Pav Fridays. This will involve some infrastructural investment including the purchase of big screens as well as awnings and outdoor heaters (which the Pav have told Murphy will cost around five thousand euro). This money will, due to the guidelines governing capitated bodies, have to be fundraised. The student voter may thus be left impressed by Murphy’s ambition but also suspicious of his ability to pull off his promises.
Murphy may have more experience in student society affairs but, if Ben Ó Mathúin is to be believed, he has the edge when it comes to his experience in the “Dublin nightclub scene”, in which he has been “heavily involved” for the past three years (an impressive bullet point on the resumé of any second year student). Whereas Murphy comes across as solid and sober in person, Ó Mathúin is animated and eager to express the enjoyment he takes in organising parties and events. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm comes across a bit too strongly in his election leaflet where Ó Mathúin can’t resist repeatedly using double exclamation marks. (This writer almost resorted to the old biro-nose treatment.) Nevertheless, this is a minor quibble and while Ó Mathúin may not have many new ideas (“keeping up the good work” is the title of one section in his leaflet), his experience is certainly impressive. Ó Mathúin is involved in a senior position in Nightlife, a commercial enterprise for which he organises “hundreds of class parties for students in UCD, DIT and TCD on a weekly basis.” This helps Ó Mathúin to earn his daily crust but it pains him that he has to put an extra “two or three euro per head” on every booking in order to make a living. Being Ents officer will allow him to cut the mark-up and offer students cheaper nights out while salving his conscience.
Ó Mathúin promises to organise “annual cross-course nights.” He has plans, like Murphy, to revitalise Pav Fridays. When drawn on whether he would commit to making the kind of large infrastructural investments which Murphy is touting, Ó Mathúin is reticent – he says that he would prefer not to make big promises which may turn out to be impossible to keep. He also plans to organise “more non-alcoholic events!!” as he puts it in the leaflet, such as “football tournaments, yoga and Zumba classes!!” When drawn on the issue of sponsorship, Ó Mathúin alluded to some informal conversations which he has had with “entertainment firms”, particularly drinks companies. It is unclear as to how a sponsorship firm with a drinks company will gel with college strictures on alcohol advertising. He has also promised “bigger and better balls.”
Aleksandra Giersz, the third candidate, is, sadly, a somewhat exceptional figure in the “leadership race”, by virtue of her youth (she is a first year), her gender, and her non-Irish nationality. Her personal motivation for running is that she aims to have a career in event and backstage management. It is very clear that running for election is part of some sort of career plan, which involves putting down a marker for subsequent elections, should she not be elected this time. Unfortunately this has inspired her to make some curious moves in her campaign. She refuses to give definite and detailed policies as she is worried that people would “steal her ideas”, thus disadvantaging her if she were to run for election again.
As a result, her leaflet is fairly small and contains only a fraction of the text of Ó Mathúin’s and Murphy’s leaflets. What promises that are there are quite vague and are, moreover, standard fare for any candidate – she wants to organise more inclusive events, she wants to hear students’ suggestions on improving Ents, pledges better communication and promises to “arrange events in new and unusual venues.” Though having said that, her leaflet is my personal favourite; its aesthetics are pleasing, there is no contrived slogan (unlike Ó Mathúin’s groan-worthy #Bentertainment), there are no lame attempts at humour, chumminess is kept to a bearable level, and it is small and thus easily pocketable (and binnable).
At any rate, her deliberate obliqueness with respect to policies may leave many students wondering, firstly, what exactly they are voting for, and, secondly, whether she actually has any well-defined policies at all. On the sponsorship issue, she expressed a desire to renegotiate with Vodafone or, failing that, look elsewhere for sponsorship, but she also admitted to having no definite or particular plans. She is also enthusiastic about revitalising the Pav. She does not accept that she is relatively inexperienced compared to the other two and cites her volunteering experience at festivals around Ireland. Certainly she is an impressive candidate when you consider that she has only been in Trinity for four months. Regardless of how she does in the elections (and she has done well in TN’s opinion poll), we will certainly be hearing more from her soon.
All candidates, when asked, expressed their concern with Ireland’s drinking problem. Nevertheless, this concern has not really transferred into policy. Ó Mathúin states in his leaflet that “Alcohol is a serious problem in Ireland, especially when it comes to events!” As such, he has pledged, as mentioned above, to hold more non-alcoholic events because “There’s no reason why we can’t have the same fun sober!! “Nevertheless, he has also promised to move to a more frequent weekly club night and to hold “dirt-cheap events!” Murphy also wants a “weekly affordable night for Trinity students.”
As mentioned above, Murphy is the only candidate who has not been sanctioned by the electoral committee. Both Giersz and Ó Mathúin have been sanctioned for accidental infringements and Ó Mathúin’s punishment – the removal of his online presence for a week – was particularly harsh. Nevertheless, both students have remained sanguine in the face of the sanctions. Ó Mathúin in particular believes that he has converted the curse into a blessing by using word of mouth to spread the “Bentertainment message.” How successfully all candidates have spread their own message will be revealed in due course.
Unfortunately, Ben Ó Mathúin was unable to attend the Trinity News photoshoot.