Electoral Commission investigating messages from Trinity GAA Chair appearing to offer €300 bar tab in exchange for votes for Sean Ryan

Presidential candidate Ryan denies the offer of “any bar tab”

A member of the campaign team of Sean Ryan, a candidate in the President race in the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) sabbatical officer elections, has appeared to offer members of the Freshers GAA football team a €300 bar tab in Dicey’s Garden Club on Harcourt Street in exchange for votes for Ryan. Ryan denies promising any bar tab.

In Whatsapp messages seen by Trinity News, Chairman of Trinity GAA Eoin O’Neill said: “One of our members is going for a position in the SU lads so v [sic] important everyone gets out and votes next week in the elections. He’s promised us a beer tab of €300 in Diceys [sic] if he wins and all the predrinks we want next year. Keelan will be talking more about it tonight with you’s [sic]”. “Keelan” refers to Keelan Beirne, the freshers’ team manager. The message was posted on Wednesday morning, before the Freshers’ team held their training for a quarter-final championship match on Thursday against IT Tallaght in the Electric Ireland HE GAA Fresher 2 Football Championship. The messages were posted into a group chat named “Freshers football 17/18”. Two sources confirmed to Trinity News anonymously that the messages referred to Sean Ryan, on which campaign team O’Neill is a member of.

Speaking to Trinity News, Ryan said: “I didn’t promise any bar tab like. I go to Dicey’s a bit like. The boys are always slagging me for being in Dicey’s – I had my 21st there so. That’s about it like. I didn’t know that message existed like.”

Meanwhile, the sender of the messages, O’Neill, who also serves as the manager of the Ladies’ GAA football team, said: “His name [Ryan] was never mentioned in our group chat or anything like that, never mentioned at training.” When asked to confirm whether Ryan had offered the bar tab, O’Neill said: “No I think that’s lies.” When showed a screenshot of the message later, O’Neill said: “[It was a] bit of an inside joke, [I] was letting on our Treasurer McGuck [Darren McGuckian] was running for Ents as a joke. We organised a night out for it as mock campaign. [It] was just a team bonding session after their match…I can assure you it [the message] was not about Sean Ryan or any other candidate.”

When Trinity News contacted Beirne said “it [the offer] sounds like a joke”. Beirne continued: “The likes of us know Sean is fond of Dicey’s like and say he had his 21st and he likes there and a lot of the freshers would have maybe came there with us and maybe met him [Ryan] there and you know saying Seanie [Ryan] would be putting on a tab for celebrations – no, he wasn’t trying to buy votes or anything like that.”

Chair of the Electoral Commission, Gillian Kiely commented: “The Electoral Commission have called a meeting with the candidate Sean Ryan on Monday in order to investigate this issue further.”

O’Neill’s actions could be in breach of Schedule 3 of the TCDSU Constitution. Article 2.2 states that online “group messages must not be sent”.

Schedule 3 also has strict guidelines regarding gifts, outlining: “Candidates may not give any form of gift or anything which may be construed as a gift to students, as determined by the Electoral Commission.”

Schedule 3 of TCDSU’s Constitution outlines election regulations and dates. Breaches of EC rules usually result in a strike against a candidate, with the candidate removed from the ballot after their third rule break.

Ryan, a fourth year Law student, has previously been sanctioned twice by the EC but has not received any strikes. Last year, he was on the campaign team of the then-Chairperson of Trinity GAA Bryan Mallon, who came second in the Presidential race.