Bryan Mallon is a Senior Sophister Irish Studies student from Co. Meath. Mallon is the current chairperson of DU GAA and vice-chair of the Fianna Fáil Wolfe Tone Cumann. Mallon frames himself as the “only non-Students’ Union candidate”. Referencing the belief held by some that students are either “SU or anti-SU”, if elected Mallon has pledged to be the “bridge between both”. He describes himself as “a lot more down-to-earth. I don’t think people can relate to anyone like they can relate to me”.
Mallon believes that students are “looking for [candidates]; being very hands-on in College internally and trying to find that balance between internal politics and national politics. Personally I’d be more leaning towards internal politics.”
“I think it really needs to lean more towards internal politics because they are the things we can truly change.”
Drawing on the analogy of national politics, where he believes that the “tribal” nature of Irish people would lend itself to more focus on local issues, Mallon said: “I think it really needs to lean more towards internal politics because they are the things we can truly change. We can go out and take to the streets. But there’s not a guarantee that we can actually change these things. When you make a lot of noise within College, that’s where you really can make a difference”.
Asked why his manifesto was light on policies compared to other candidates, Mallon professed his belief that the role of SU President should be less policy-driven. He sees the President as “the general overseer of everything that goes on within the SU. You’re the leader. You don’t have such a specific policy-driven role as Education, for example”. He clarified that more policy documents would be released online during the campaign.
One of the policies that Mallon mentioned was a document on students from Northern Ireland. He believes that since the decision for the UK to leave the European Union not much has been said to reassure students. “Students need to know that there is a Students’ Union President and sabbatical team there to help them”.
“I want nothing more than to go back to my old school as Students’ Union President and tell them: ‘not only can you come to Trinity, but you can actually do well there.'”
Mallon gave special mention to the Feasibility Study in Admissions. He pledged to “look at the results and ensure it becomes permanent”. Should this happen, he plans to lobby the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) to install the scheme in other universities. Expanding access to Trinity is a key pillar of his campaign. He singles out those affected by the “migration crisis” and those from the Trinity Access Programme (TAP). When asked how he would achieve this, Mallon said that the obvious answer was to “call for more funding”. Yet he also stressed his belief that, as President, he would have to improve these initiatives without increased funding. “Of course we’re going to call for more funding for these things. If one of the candidates doesn’t want extra funding […] then why the hell are they running? We might not get that funding, we might have to make hay with what we have”.
Mallon also mentioned the Trinity Access 21 programme, spearheaded by former SU President Lynn Ruane, whom he described as “inspirational” and “outstanding”. “This is voluntary, it doesn’t cost more money to go around and make sure everyone knows that this programme [TAP] is running. I want nothing more than to go back to my old school as Students’ Union President and tell them: ‘not only can you come to Trinity, but you can actually do well there. You can fit in, and you can become one of the most popular people in Trinity.” Mallon also stated his belief that the barriers to attending Trinity are “not always financial”. “There is a lot of people who are afraid to come to Trinity because they’re afraid they might not fit in.”
Asked about the effects of a “Students’ Union for all students” approach on current and future mandates, Mallon pledged to continue existing mandates. He described repealing the Eighth Amendment as something he “believes in”, and also as “one thing they [students] really care about as well and it’s something that doesn’t cost any money. It’s a movement that needs to keep going”.
Highlighting the fact that three of five positions will be uncontested this year, Mallon told Trinity News that compelling more people to run was a matter of “talking to people”. As the “only non-Students’ Union candidate”, he believes that his own campaign will compel more people to run for positions. “I think I break down that barrier. If I do win, or if I do well even, it is a case study almost to show that you don’t have to be involved in these things. You can actually do it”. Mallon believes that the number of women in this year’s race is “masking a problem” and questioned why they were not “running for the big one”.
“I think I break down that barrier. If I do win, or if I do well even, it is a case study almost to show that you don’t have to be involved in these things. You can actually do it.”
Despite being the vice-chair of the Fianna Fáil Cumann, there is no mention of Mallon’s political affiliation in his manifesto. When asked why he had decided to omit this, Mallon described the Cumann as “a very small society”. Mallon explained he had only joined last year “in a serious capacity”, and described the position of vice-chair as “redundant”. Returning to the balance between national and local politics, Mallon said that “fixing potholes” was worthwhile. “When you fix the pothole outside the graveyard you should see how happy that makes the old people in the area”.
While Ógra Fianna Fáil supports the introduction of student loans as a means of funding third level education, Mallon does not support the party line. “Fundamentally I believe education should be free. How can you charge someone for learning information?”. Yet he was unsure on whether free education was “realistic”. Describing the grant system as “key” to his mission of making Trinity more accessible, Mallon called for an expansion of the grant system to more students. “I want to shift the conversation towards grants”. He mentioned his own experience with the grant system, and stated his belief that some “creases” needed to be ironed out.
“We’re only in the first year of [consent classes] in Halls; it’s a big step but let’s not bite off more than we can chew.”
Mallon said that while strides have been made of late towards equality for LGBTQ students, there is still “a lot to be done”. “Coming from the country, I didn’t know much about these issues – it was Trinity that educated me. Not just Trinity; it was a friend that reached out to me. You see the consent classes in Halls – that’s one way as well. Can that be expanded to include LGBTQ issues as well? Where I’m coming from, people wouldn’t be informed on these issues.”
While he would like to see a rollout of consent classes to all students, he is keen to remain “realistic”. “We’re only in the first year of it in Halls; it’s a big step but let’s not bite off more than we can chew. Let’s keep going at this. We don’t want to call for too much and then end up not being able to get any of it”.
“I’ve heard there’s more of a lad culture in Halls this year. That’s something that needs to be cut out”. This “lad culture” is something that Mallon believes “definitely” feeds into sexual assaults, which he believes “plague[s] university campuses”. “A lot of the time there’s a line and lads just don’t understand, even if they are fully informed on a lot of issues”. Mallon also gave specific mention to male victims of sexual assault. “Generally as men we’re expected to have sex if someone is pestering us in a bed and then we learn not to feel guilty about it afterwards.”
During the course of the interview Mallon was asked about a series of social media posts he had made. In these posts he engaged in objectifying female students, slut-shaming, and in one case, maintaining that bringing an adapter to the library entitled him to sexual favours from female students making use of it.
“[…]I’ve been educated since I said these things. Even if it stops just a handful of people using these words, that’s a good thing, and it’s something I’m very much up for.”
When asked how students could stand by him given these statements, he said: “it just shows that there are things that are said that are wrong. I can be a case of how you can make this better. It’s people who educated me.” Mallon mentioned the inappropriate use of the word “rape” in a sporting or social media context. “That’s not right. These things need to change. I’ve said things in the past. I used to be not just a lad, but an eejit.”
“I’m sure some people will like to lambast me for it. But I’m not afraid to admit I said these things in the past and I’m not afraid to say that I was wrong. I understand. These are little things that could easily be avoided by having a simple conversation. I hope people see that I’m not afraid to talk about these issues and that education changed it for me. Education is the crux of everything we are trying to do here. It is fundamental to solving these problems. I’ve been educated since I said these things. Even if it stops just a handful of people using these words, that’s a good thing, and it’s something I’m very much up for”.