Leadership Race 2016: Ents candidates interviews

Caolan Maher, Grace O’Boyle, Padraic Rowley and Katie Browne speak to Trinity News

Read other interviews here


Grace O’Boyle

Grace is a third year history of art and architecture student from Donegal. She originally studied general nursing for a year and so has spent four years living in Dublin and attending Trinity.

When speaking about what she can bring to the role of Ents, Grace mentioned her appreciation for diverse groups of people. Although she decided to change course, Grace said she made it her priority to get to know people in general nursing.

Due to her background in the health sciences, O’Boyle said she would like to make Ents more accommodating for those in the health sciences faculty. She outlined her ambition to “hold a massive event after Christmas.” This event would be “directed at people who had to do two sets of exams.”

When discussing her manifesto, she said that one idea she wants to pursue is a BT Young Scientist type event for third-level students to showcase innovations within the field. According to O’Boyle, this could “include students from other colleges in Dublin and Ireland” and could be “an academic and also social event.”

She also said: “I’d love to run a college version of the Gaeltacht,” and pointed out that the Irish language is important to her background.

Asked about how Ents events could be made more inclusive of people with disabilities, O’Boyle acknowledged that the question was “a really, really tough one,” but proposed that Ents “needs to look at venues that are totally secure” for attendees with physical disabilities.

O’Boyle was enthusiastic about Ents running “more than just night events.” This encompassed her proposals for events with a “social cause” in addition to the kind of events held during RAG Week with charitable causes. As an example, O’Boyle proposed a film festival event as one idea that could raise awareness of LGBTQ issues.

Crediting the work of the SU on social issues, O’Boyle said Ents should “enforce the safe space the SU has created” for groups such as the LGBTQ community. She claimed to empathise with the struggles that young gay men and women sometimes face given that she has a family member who faced such difficulties.

When questioned as to whether Ents should be maintained as an SU entity despite withstanding financial losses for the SU, when the officer’s wage as well as accommodation and expenses are taken into consideration, the candidate’s position was frank: “You have to maintain Ents.” She described Ents as a “core part of Trinity” and pointed out that when coming to college “it was the entertainment aspect that got me excited.”

On whether or not the ambitious nature of events is financially sustainable, O’Boyle maintained that “you have to put money into events” and was of the view that Ents cannot work “once you start saying something is too ambitious.”

However, O’Boyle also said that Ents “can definitely be more efficient.” O’Boyle offered no specific plans for this and said it was difficult to propose a solution “until you are in the position.”

Despite salary costs partially contributing to the annual net loss of Ents, O’Boyle was of the view that “an Ents officer deserves a salary.” She claimed that “there is more to Ents than people think” and mentioned that Ents officers spend extra hours attending events.

On the question of whether or not the possibility of receiving commission from venues was appropriate for an Ents officer, O’Boyle stated definitively: “I don’t think you should receive commission.”

The importance of the Ents officer making their presence felt at events was stressed by O’Boyle: “You have to be present, you have to be approachable and you have to be friendly.” According to O’Boyle, the hands-on nature of the role makes it “definitely different” to other positions in the SU.

Speaking about the issue of drugs and alcohol, O’Boyle recognised that “there is a cultural issue with drugs and alcohol,” but was of the opinion that because Trinity is in a central location in the capital, students “can’t escape it.”

O’Boyle said that “to discourage drugs would be seen as the right thing to do” but, pointing to the inevitability of drug use amongst students, she felt that the ‘What’s in the Pill’ campaign advocated by the USI was a good way to make drugs “as safe as you can.” On the other hand, she is not an advocate of drug testing at nightclubs and says that without proper funding “they [the tests] are not up to scratch.”

On the topic of Trinity Ball and whether the Irish concert promotion company MCD has too much control over the event, O’Boyle said: “Ents officers need more of a pull in the contract” and made the point that “Trinity itself is a massive institution.”

She was of the view that Ents should negotiate a contract with “a lot of diligence.” O’Boyle was unapologetic for her views here and stated that “people might shut me down for this.” On the other hand, she made clear that “Trinity have to maintain a good relationship with MCD,” as she feels that Ireland is too small to find another contract of the same quality.

O’Boyle would like to see an initiative in place encouraging students to “create art projects to display at the ball.” She felt that there would be a lot of interest in this from societies such as TCD Visual Arts Society and proposed that workshops could be established to help students with their projects. – RF


Caolan Maher

Caolan Maher, a second year earth sciences student, said that he has been involved in Trinity Ents “since the first day I got here. The whole Ents side of things caught my attention.”

Maher’s experience as an entertainment organiser includes setting up the club night Wrekt, which brought over 750 people to the Grand Social for their last gig. “If you can run a club night with 750 people, imagine what you could do with Trinity,” he said.

When asked what he could bring to Ents, Maher said: “I feel Ents is very separated from the rest of the college… Ents at the moment is very separated from what a lot of students really want because there are a lot of students who don’t get their voices heard. We need to tactically and strategically expand our Ents team to cover all the different sorts of people in this college because there are so many different people in this college.” Some of the groups that Maher claimed feel distant from Ents are international students, mature students and LGBTQ students.

“The four pillars of Ents,” Maher outlined, are “Culture, Community, Connection, and Caolan.” He added that: “Ents is not entertainment. I feel it’s actually about trying to bring people together socially on a whole new level. Everyday you should have someone to talk to and what that means is providing casual meet ups and promoting college and society events.”

In response to a question about the perception among some students that Ents only accommodates those students interested in party culture and does not encompass the whole student community, Maher said that he would tackle this by making use of question and answer surveys to find out what students really want.

“People do like drinking at the Pav, people do like going out to D2 and Palace, there’s nothing wrong with club nights,” he said. But for students who do not fall into this set of interests, and in order to open Ents up to a wider audience, Maher wants more casual meet ups and events geared at other sections of the college community, such as LGBTQ students.

He was subsequently asked for specifics on how Ents could be more accommodating to LGBTQ students. Maher did not offer any concrete ideas, but said that people need to be more understanding of these issues and that Ents can be a platform for promotion and for engaging with these students.

When asked if he feels that the current venues used by Ents are LGBTQ friendly, he said: “I actually don’t feel they are, no.” Again, he returned to a more general discussion about providing a different atmosphere at Ents events, saying: “Intimacy is the key for a certain style of events where people have the chance to connect and foster a sense of belonging with the people around them. There’s a lot of key venues we’ve missed out on so far.”

Staying on the issue of the Ents culture and its inclusivity, Maher was asked whether he feels the party culture that some people feel is inherent in Ents has misogynistic elements to it. After a pause, Maher’s brother, who was also present at the interview, intervened to explain what misogyny was, to which Maher replied that he understood the term.

His brother pointed out the issue of ‘lad culture’ at social events to Maher. “Yeah, I do agree with that, it is a real problem… I’ve had to push lads away from friends of mine who are girls, because they feel intimidated. What I think we need to do is make people more aware of the issue… It’s about providing people with information,” Maher said.

When asked about the perceived drug culture associated with Ents, Maher commented: “I think people feel that way because of the type of large events Ents has been running, but I don’t feel Ents should always be like that.”

He proposes more non-alcoholic, casual events, in contrast to the big club nights often associated with drug use. “If people are going to take drugs though, I personally am not in a place to judge them for that,” he said. He proposes working with the welfare officer to promote better education among students about the use of drugs, such as ecstasy, on nights out.

Asked whether he would support the distribution of reagent testing kits (which examine the contents of pills and look for the presence of particularly toxic substances such as PMA/PMMA), he replied: “It might put a bit of a blacklist on our college compared to the others… If we have testing kits in the SU, I feel that might put a negative influence on students and say that it could be okay to take [pills]. I don’t feel we should disperse these kits. I think we should educate students on this topic when they come into orientation.”

Questioned as to whether he feels that eliminating drug culture would be a very difficult task, Maher said: “I don’t feel it is, no, because the thing is that people often take drugs as an escape from themselves.” He believed that his proposal to provide more casual events as a way of making students feel more comfortable, would mean that students would not feel the need to take drugs at Ents events. “To have a good time, you don’t need drugs, and it’s simple as that,” he concluded.

Maher was then asked about the finances surrounding Ents. According to official SU documents, over the previous two years, Ents has made an annual loss between €20,000-25,000 when factoring in the officers’ salaries, expenses and accommodation. He was asked why he feels Ents should be maintained under this scenario, to which he replied: “Because if we don’t, there’ll be nothing connecting this college together.” He added: “It was my understanding that Ents made money on most events, having known [previous Ents officers]… I wasn’t actually made aware of that until now, but if Ents goes, everything goes. It’s really close to my heart.”

Maher wants to provide more support to students looking to organise their own events, citing a failed attempt at a mystery tour early this year. One of his own big ideas is to organise a festival at the start of next year to provide a chance for all students to come together outside of Trinity Ball. He also wants to run a day and night of culture in Trinity to celebrate the college’s diverse range of cultures, which he envisions as being a day off from classes facilitated by the college.

Asked if he has any plans for Trinity Ball, he said: “There’s nothing I could do to change Trinity Ball if I was elected. I could bring more student involvement into it, but I cannot change who’s booking Trinity Ball.” He identified the event’s promoter MCD as a problem: “The relationship that exists between MCD and Trinity is totally skewed.” – RoN


Padraic Rowley

Padraic Rowley, a fourth year computer science student, believes he can bring fresh ideas and a new approach to Ents. He has been heavily involved in student life in the past four years, having served on multiple committees and within the student union. One of these was as Ents Officer for Student2Student, a position he says has shaped his manifesto.

When asked about the current culture of Ents, particularly in the context of inclusion, he explained that: “One of my whole points in the manifesto is inclusion, but not inclusion in creating specific events for groups, because although that does the work of sending a message “we celebrate this group as accepted now”…the easiest way to go about inclusion without making people feel like their being treated differently, is to lead with a strong concept for your event, so taking it back to what Katie has done this year, Hogwarts express was not a gay night, a straight night, a lads night, it was Hogwarts express – that was it.”

He stressed that inclusion was a core issue for him, that “Coming from S2S, it’s always a concern that everyone feel included: that’s the primary objective.” Inclusion is one of the five points he mentions in his manifesto, as well as referencing it throughout the interview, and seems to be a wedge issue that Rowley believes separates him from other candidates. “A lot of my events haven’t been that laddish to begin with – I had 24 relay and things like that; yeah I’ve done club nights, but definitely regarding inclusion, as one of my main points.”

Speaking about the perception that drug use and Ents events go hand in hand, Rowley believes “It’s naïve to think, as an Ents officer, that you can stop the usage of drugs in a college venue when drugs have been going around for decades.” He stresses that the key goal must be safety, achieved by working with other sabbatical officers, and seems appreciative of Katie Cogan’s work in opening up the topic for broader discussion. “I think it is feasible to work with the welfare officer to ensure safety with drugs.”

When asked if he’d support the SU supplying reagent testing kits, which are used to test drugs for presence or absence of certain chemicals with a view to safe drug use, he seemed open to the idea: “There is a key difference between giving out condoms for sexual safety, sex is going to happen, it’s not illegal, and selling kits – it’s not encouraging, it’s leaving the option open.”

He stressed repeatedly that the usage of drugs shouldn’t be encouraged, but explained: “Realistically, the people who are going to buy those kits are people who want to take drugs in the first place. It’s not adding to the market if you’re selling them. If you’re giving them out for free, you’re giving the idea that people should be trying these things and should be facilitated in doing so. But if you’re charging, you’re saying, “we know you might do this, but please be safe”.”

An issue with many events in college is the inability of people with mobility difficulties to attend. When asked about specific nights to address this, Rowley promised that he’d “set aside certain nights, but to the best of my ability I always make sure to do that [have the night accessible] anyway with Halloween ball I insisted that we had wheelchair access to the crypt.” He also pointed to a Harry Potter quiz he’d organised, saying that public apologies had been made to those unable to attend due to access issues. Again, this seemed to feed back into his strong emphasis on inclusion: “In general, a lot of clubs have wheelchair access – a lot of buses. It’s not that hard for you to do.”

One of the main planks of Rowley’s campaign is an app he has developed, called ‘What Next?’ which he claims is finished and ready to go. “You open it up, it has five buttons across the screen: something for you to do, something cheap to do, something with good music, something interesting and the fifth button I want to add is somewhere good to eat you might not have tried before, for a good price.”

He places his app at the heart of his prospective year in Ents, acting as one of the primary ways that people would interact with Ents: “Some of these places, people mightn’t go to – but when there is a five little things, well, the app is called ‘where next’. You’re sitting down in a bar, you didn’t plan on going out, you’re with your friends and you ask yourself “fuck it, where next?”

He speculated that the app could also be monetized: “I’ve thought that why not let a club pay to put themselves on  if it’s a cheap night and is picking up traction. I’d have to look into the feasibility of it, but as a potential income stream for Ents it’d be a very simple one. Other Ents officers can continue to receive that after me.”

In terms of transparency and access to the Ents officer, Rowley hopes to use his app for this as well: “They can reach me in person, but I’d like people to reach me through my app. There is a lot of software I’m going to be developing throughout my campaign; I’m going to have my app – it’s going to have lots of events on it, from club nights to art galleries to comedy shows – and in there is going to be a section to get in contact with me, or people could use my email which is in the events section.”

Last year, the Ents officer organised an event that lost a substantial amount of amount. This feeds into issues around funding events, with Ents generally running at more or less zero cost if one excludes the Ents officer’s salary. Rowley wants to more or less maintain the status quo: “The phrase everyone knows is you got to spend money to make money; the events I made the biggest money on for societies were expensive…you can make profit on events, and you can then use that profit to fund other events, riskier events. The one thing you do have to remember is that you can’t just bank everything on one big event. Every Ents officer has one or two events that don’t hit the market that well, the point is that you make up the balance.”

As the central event that the Ents officer is involved in, Rowley had plenty to say about Trinity Ball and the new contract that was drawn up recently: “Essentially we are shafted – I mean, the amount of time I could waste on renegotiation when the same value of effort could go into other things.

I think it’d be good to put up a poll, see what acts people want, and go to MCD with that and probably get as much of a fruitful result as trying to hammer down MCD as the Ents officer. The one year we did it ourselves, it didn’t sell out. I don’t have the connections to do it, no one has the connections to do it – if they’re telling you ‘yeah, I’m going to get Bono in’, they’re probably lying or his son.”

Rowley has placed politics and engagement as a big part of his plans: “You can tie ents into anything – look at mental health, a serious part of it is finding something to do that makes you happy: that is literally the job of ents. Another job is helping the president and welfare officer in implementing their ideas around the college. Ents should be out there, with more of an on the ground link in with students.” – OVC


Katie Browne

Katie Browne is a third year psychology student from Waterford. She is the current chair of Psyche Soc and is the ents officer for Trinity GAA for the second year running.

Browne claims that the experience she has gained from being an active member in both these societies would make her ideal for the job of Ents officer. Speaking about her position in Trinity GAA, she said: “Trinity GAA is one of the biggest clubs in Trinity, so the officer has to cater for up to nearly a hundred students at any time.”

One of her achievements from her time as the club’s ents officer, which she feels shows that she has the organisation skills to be SU Ents officer, was the weekend mystery tour she organised last year, where she booked two night buses, a hostel, and organised day trips and free entry into nightclubs for both days of the trip.

She also claimed creativity is key to being a good Ents officer. During her time as auditor of Psych Soc, she claimed the society has begun attracting a wider range of students from subjects other than psychology. The reason, she said, is that “we’ve tried to kind of vary our events and make them unique.” As an example of this, she mentions a recent night in Chaplin’s, where the society organised a social experiment. Members were paired up with other members that they didn’t know very well and were told to ask each other personal questions. The point of the experiment, she said, was that you were supposed to “form an emotional bond with the person.”

When discussing her manifesto, Browne said: “one thing I would like to bring in is  ‘Ent-duction’, which is a one day workshop that introduces students to what Ents is about.” Speaking about her own experience as a first year, Browne said she didn’t know anyone involved in Ents, which made it harder for her to participate. “Ent-duction” would “allow students to meet other people who are involved in entertainment and have similar interests.”

The introduction of a Christmas day for Trinity is, Browne said, a “big part” of her campaign. “My plan would be for the Pav and the buttery to have Christmas dinner, promote Christmas attire, and have live performances in and around campus.” When asked whether her plans for Christmas day are modelled off Maynooth’s Christmas Day, she said that while they would like them to be similar in ways, she would not like the focus to be so centred in the student bar, “I would prefer more on-campus performances.”

When Browne was asked whether the controversial nature of Maynooth Christmas day, which has led to cases of drunken disorderly behaviour in Maynooth in past years, is something Trinity wants to emulate, she responded, saying: “what I would be pushing for is performances in non-drinking areas, so it wouldn’t be the same.”

Browne also spoke of her plans for a Trinity exhibition, a night which would allow societies and musicians to showcase their abilities to the rest of the college community. As well as “Trinity Ed Talks,” which are educational talks promoted by Ents in the hope of increasing student engagement on issues such as repealing the 8th.

Trinity News also asked Browne about the perception around college by some students that Ents only accommodates a certain type of student, those interested in party culture. “The idea of the Trinity exhibition, having those kind of events that isn’t pushing that mentality, getting societies involved, which isn’t just a club night, I think will weaken that idea,” Browne claimed.

Furthermore, Browne was asked on why she felt a union, which are traditional set-up to act as a unified political voice for its members, needed an entertainment sector. “Students are attending college”, Browne said, “they should be able to have that sense of enjoyment outside of your college work and I think that’s what Ents is there to provide… I just think it’s a necessary part of student life”

According to official SU documents show that Ents, both last year and the year before, has made an annual loss when the officer’s salary, accommodation and expenses are added to the cost of running the events. Browne was asked whether it was acceptable for Ents to be taking up SU resources. She responded saying: “events wouldn’t happen in Trinity without such funds, there’s no such thing as a free venue in Dublin, and I would like to believe that the money that has been spent has been well spent.”

Browne also spoke about concerns around drug culture and Trinity student life. In regard to discouraging students from using potentially harmful unchecked substances; her way, she claimed, is not to deter students from using drugs, every student that goes into college is over 18.” A way of making students more aware of the substance they take could be provided, she said, is by using the Facebook page “to the best of its ability’ and sharing articles warning of the dangers of contamination.

In regards to Trinity Ball, Browne commented that over the last few years: “it has been very techno originated. “I have no problem with techno music but I also like bands,” “I would mix it up a bit if I was able to in that it wouldn’t be all DJs as I’d want to accommodate students who don’t appreciate that kind of music.” However while saying that, Browne claimed that she has to yet to see the MCD contract but has heard it’s quite stringent. She said she would push for bands as hard as she could but acknowledged that it may not be possible depending on the contract. – CM

Ríain Fitzsimons, Rory O’Neill, Conall Monaghan and Oisín Vince Coulter contributed reporting to this piece