First joint Trinity News and QSoc hustings proves to be an insightful affair

Stephen Hatton, former LGBT rights officer, and current editor of Trinity News Matthew Mulligan, chaired the hustings and alternated the questions between queer issues and broader election topics

leadershipraceA large crowd filtered into the Joly theatre at 7pm today for the Trinity News and QSoc hustings. Stephen Hatton, former LGBT Rights Officer (LGBTRO), and Matthew Mulligan, current Editor of Trinity News, chaired the hustings and alternated the questions between queer issues and broader election topics.

The presidential candidates were first to brace the wrath of Hatton, in particular Kieran McNulty, who was questioned about his plans to develop awareness for LGBTQ+ issues. McNulty referred to his plans for a Trinity Pride Week and highlighted his own personal experiences: “[it] took me three years to come out until I was finally comfortable with my own identity.” Hatton enquired further as to whether the College Equality Officer was amongst those who Kieran vowed he’d spoken to, which he responded, “no, I sent them an email and they didn’t get back.”

Carty was quizzed on his home county, Roscommon, and it being the only county with majority ‘no’ result in the marriage referendum. Carty confirmed that, although he thinks it’s “a fair representation” of the dominant attitude within the county, he himself is “100% behind LGBT issues.” He insisted that students must “march on Belfast” and “march on City Hall” regarding the existing inequalities present for Northern Irish citizens, while O’Brien vowed to prioritise a rational alternative to MSM ban for blood donation.

Asked about the lack of female candidacy, Dan O’Brien agreed it was an issue and felt it was due to the ‘Women in Leadership’ workshops providing a short-term result. Stephen Carty spoke similarly about the lack of events encouraging participation in the run-up to the race, in comparison to last year, being the root of the problem: “this college is 60% female […] we have to ensure we do get a mandate to improve female participation in the Students’ Union.”

McNulty expressed confusion as to why the three candidates were solely male, stating that college societies and higher boards were run by  “hugely capable” women, and argued the problem was bigger than the absence of the workshops.

The balance of time spent on internal and external college issues was again a hot topic in the presidential race. Carty reiterated his point from Monday night’s hustings, voicing that he feels he cannot “forget the internal issues”, while McNulty and O’Brien pointed to a more equal divide, describing the main aim to be “a voice” of the students and to “unify the student population”, respectively.

On improving queer students’ quality of life, O’Brien committed to the possibility of “gender neutral student accommodation”, McNulty outlined a “year-long campaign” and Carty insisted on the introduction of “gender neutral student cards.” In statement made later to Trinity News, Carty clarified that meant to say “gender neutral student records.”

Education candidates Dale O’Faoilleacháin and Patrick Higgins were asked to determine how they would improve the SU on an organisational level. Higgins noted that he would aspire to get “more class reps involved”, while O’Faoilleacháin echoed his manifesto point on accountability, wanting to enable students to question sabbats on their roles.

Quizzed on his manifesto’s lack of LGBTQ+ content, O’Faoilleacháin mentioned that he had “organised talks from TENI [Transgender Equality Network Ireland] about pronouns.” Higgins admitted that “[he hadn’t] worked on as much research as Dale” but still assured that he “would help […] any LGBT student with a problem.”

Welfare candidates received a thorough grilling, in particular Andrew Wafer, who was criticised for his “inclusion officer” idea, one which Hatton claimed has been enforced by QSoc for “three years now.”

Regarding repealing the eighth amendment, Aoibhinn Ní Lochlainn insisted that “women should be in charge of their own bodies.” Wafer simply outlined it as a “major issue” and Eamonn Redmond stated that “[the Welfare Officer has] to be sensitive on both sides of the argument.” Ní Lochlainn highlighted the difficulty in acquiring an abortion for women with “disabilities and of low socio-economic [background]” as being something that is “just not fair.”

The matter of accessibility to the sabbatical officers’ offices on the second floor of House six was heavily discussed. Ní Lochlainn offered a clear solution in using “a wee storage room” on the ground floor of House 6 as a base to work from, which was met with applause. The candidates were then asked to explain their qualification in terms of the counselling side of the role. Redmond stated he has “a repertoire of services in [his] backpocket” stemming from his Social Work studies ,while Wafer said he viewed the role as “two-sided” and made an argument for referral. Ní Lochlainn referenced her manifesto point on peer supporters.

Samuel Riggs ,current SU LGBTRO,  asked how the next welfare officer could ensure and extend the inclusion of queer international students. Ní Lochlainn made reference to her ‘Coming out in Dublin’ panel discussion, aimed at providing an insight for students into the LGBT+ community in and around Trinity. Wafer mentioned workshops on “how to be an ally” and Redmond spoke about utilising societies in college to do so: “QSoc is doing a great thing […] charity societies, though, are easier to infiltrate.”

Communications and Marketing and University Times Editor were all interviewed together in order to save time. Hatton attempted to introduce Emmet Broaders; but, failing to, he stated his impression was Broaders hadn’t “communicated or marketed” himself well enough.

Asked about his LGBTQ+ policies, Broaders admitted to not having much research done on the issue saying that he was afraid he would “misrepresent” the LBGT+ community. He went on to explain his concept for a Trinity twitter account, whereby the curator would change every week, in order to showcase all the variety of people Trinity has to offer.

Asked whether they gravitated to either side of the role, Glen Byrne didn’t specify one over the other, stating he viewed them as “complementary” and “mutually interdependent”, while Emmet Broaders admitted to focusing “more heavily on the communications side.”

Sinéad Baker, unopposed candidate in the campaign for UT editor, was queried about her plans to increase the voice of the queer students in the UT. She explained about the current LGBTQ+ correspondent and how she would look to “promoting them to an editor.”

Mulligan inquired about the accessibility of entering the UT editor race; whether one was expected to have achieved a “high role” within the paper in order to run. Baker conceded that “it definitely does exist at the moment.” She stressed, however, that current editor, Edmund Heaphy, had welcomed any of the editorial staff to run for the position in a meeting in January.

Questioned about the classification of the UT editor as a sabbatical or a non-sabbatical officer role, Baker outlined that she believed the editor’s role was “independent […] as they cannot be mandated by SU council.” With regard to ensuring UT remain “unbiased” during SU election coverage, Baker stated she “[hadn’t] perceived” a bias, but if there was, writers should be “held accountable.”

The first question put to the Entertainments race candidates concerned the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in Ents events. Caolán Maher argued that the current Ents crew are just “people in blue jackets” and saw the current structure to be “lacking inclusion.” Paraic Rowley highlighted his experience with holding past events, prioritising inclusivity for all Trinity students both within the LBGTQ+ community and others who may be marginalised from Ents due to disability and lack of wheelchair access.

Grace O’Boyle mentioned a lack of engagement with Rainbow Week, while Katie Browne, the only candidate to mention LGBTQ+ in her manifesto, referred to her point on Trinity-ED talks educating students on transgender issues. Furthermore, she mentioned her recently made deal with the George for discounted entry for Trinity students during the weekends.

The question of the validity of the ents officer as a paid role cropped up again as on Monday night. All the candidates agreed that that it was worthy of being a full-time job with a salary. O’ Boyle described it as a “social role just as much as it is an organisational role”.

The issue of making ents event venues safe for queer-identifying women was mentioned, with Rowley referring back to his “general inclusion” manifesto point. O’ Boyle responded by stressing the importance of education for the students of Trinity in order to combat these matters. Browne, who resonated with the question, ensured that if elected, “[she] wouldn’t have an event in a place without a gender neutral bathroom.”

A question was then taken from the crowd, requesting an opinion from Maher about the allegations about his event in Halls last night. Maher responded that he “was not giving out cans.” Pressed further, following claims the allegations were declared true by sources in Halls, Maher replied: “I’m hardly going to jeopardise my campaign. I know the EC (Electoral Commission) rules”.

Current Ents Officer, Katie Cogan, posed the final question of the night to the candidates, by simply asking “what do you think the market [for ents events] in Trinity is like?” Maher argued for the need to survey the students, while Rowley was well-received for his answer regarding “signature events” which are “weird and different.” O’Boyle expanded on her development of  Trinity Ents suggesting “visual installations” while Browne explained that they are looking for “variety.”

Una Harty

Úna is a third year Nanoscience student and Trinity Life editor for Trinity News.