All 12 candidates took to the Trinity Hall canteen stage tonight in the final hustings of the campaigning period. With polls opening in Halls after the hustings, and some candidates bolstered by a boost in today’s polls, candidates made their last public speeches outlining why they should be elected.
University Times Editor
When speaking in Halls tonight, Eleanor O’Mahony emphasised the importance of the University Times (UT) in Trinity life. “UT can throw you head first into College life. We’ve covered everything that matters to you guys.” She also referred to her own involvement in society life in Trinity and the commitment she has shown to students. “I’ve worked in many societies and the SU, I’ve put myself forward for everything because i want to work for you.”
In her speech, O’Mahony reiterated the ideas she has discussed at previous hustings including the creation of an alumni network and her plans to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the paper, saying that she sees the anniversary of the paper as “an opportunity to make the paper even better”.
When questioned by JCR Welfare Officer, Aoife Grimes, on the cost of UT and whether the print issues can be justified, given that students generally use social media to keep up to date on news, O’Mahony emphasised that she wanted to make the paper “more cost neutral”. “I think print paper is paramount for success,” she continued. “I also think it’s hard for students off-campus to find the paper offline.”
Following this question, O’Mahony was asked what sets her apart from other UT Editors, and what she planned to do differently. O’Mahony referred to her manifesto in her answer, describing it as “quite ambitious”. She pointed to her plan for the introduction of office hours as a way to increase the paper’s accountability and her commitment to increase student engagement as features which separated her from previous candidates. O’Mahony also referred to her intentions to introduce a creative team which would fundamentally change the paper, and open up UT to those who are not writers.
Matt Dundon, a third year Politics, Philosophy, Economics and Sociology (PPES) student, was the first Ents candidate to speak, opening his speech by saying that “my manifesto is strong”. “Ents wants to work closely with all societies so their potential is tapped into,” Dundon said when addressing his manifesto plans. As co-founder of the Midnight Disco, Dundon hopes to lend his experience to the position. “I’ve built my own brand. I’ve worked with all the major spaces in Dublin,” he highlighted. For students with sensory disabilities, Dundon said that these would “be free” at Ents nights out, should he be elected. Dundon spoke of the key points of his manifesto, proposing to launch BYOB events in “unconventional locations” and hold outdoor cinema screenings at the Pav. A question was posed about the BYOB events, with Dundon saying these will “be regulated,”while continuing by commenting that “people will be able to moderate their drinking”. “I, like you, was once a resident of Trinity Hall,” he commented, and said “when you vote for me you’re voting not just for a manifesto but for a person”.
David Flood is a third year Mechanical Engineering student and the current Captain of Trinity Surf Club, an organisation with over 400 members, and a resident presenter at Trinity FM. “You deserve more from Ents,” Flood said, opening up his Halls speech. “You deserve an Ents that’s ambitious.” Beginning with a key point in his manifesto, Flood said: “I want to host a Christmas party where we can all get together…I want an international mystery tour where Trinity can take Europe.” When discussing his idea for a College wide foreign trip, Flood pressed that “Ents is more than a night out”. Flood cited his experience for the role, being a co-founder of Dublin coffee walking tours, as well as Surf Club Captain. “People might say I dream too big but, as Surf Captain, I’ve pulled it off,” he joked. Imploring the students to vote for him, Flood said: “I ask you to open up the floodgates for bigger, better and more inclusive Trinity Ents.”
Communications and Marketing
Niall Harty focused again on his private sector marketing experience to highlight his proficiency for the role. He reiterated his commitment to upholding “ethical sponsorship” and outlined his desire to use his marketing experience to “drive innovation” in the SU. He also highlighted his experience running social media pages and repeated his central campaign promise to “bridge the gap between the students and the SU”. Rynne said his online experience has left him “proficient in social media management,” which he believes will benefit him in the role of Communications and Marketing Officer. Defending his “Don’t Back A Hack” slogan, he attributed disillusionment with the SU to ineffective communications on the SU’s part.
Cian Rynne began the night by calling out his opponents, claiming neither of them can “communicate without staring at their notes”. Asked to elaborate on his manifesto plans he described them as being “achievable” and “not a shopping list”. Rynne again mentioned his plans for a hacks guide as mentioned in his manifesto, which plans to improve the level of assistance given to Junior Fresh students on campus. Rynne told those gathered: “What I want to do for Halls is teach people how to do things safely. Cycle safety, bike maintenance, that sorta thing.” Asked about the issue of overspending in relation to marketing within the SU, he responded saying, “we spend a lot of money on a lot of stupid things”. He made sure to point out that he intended to “cut” on spending and that he would not would not see the SU dependant on commercialisation. Rynne said his experience running the Trinity College Doggos Facebook page was a benefit, saying he has “fostered a community in Trinity” and that he “created a movement”.
Paraic McLean started with an anecdote about running for, and subsequently failing to get elected to, the position of JCR Ents Officer. He reflected that “Halls was one of the best experiences of my life” and pledged to “work with the JCR to ensure that first years coming into Halls know what to expect”. McLean also mentioned plans to establish workshops in tools such as Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator”. He also emphasised his commitment to ensuring students can budget more efficiently by highlighting budget supermarket deals in the weekly TCDSU newsletter. When questioned on how he plans to make information about the JCR available to Junior Fresh students prior to their arrival in Trinity Hall, McLean said that he will “combine the brands of TCD, TCDSU and JCR to make things a little easier”.
James Cunningham is this year’s sole candidate for Welfare Officer. As a former JCR Welfare Officer, the Trinity Hall hustings comes with a sizeable home advantage for Cunningham. During the course of his speech, he highlighted his “passion for the role” and a desire to help students. He said one of the main planks of his tenure would be tackling student poverty, proposing to implement a food token system. He also focused on making welfare services more accessible and expanding them to off-campus locations. To this end, Cunningham plans to expand the welfare team and set up “diverse working groups” to tackle issues within College.
Cunningham answered a question regarding engagement, a central point of his manifesto. He emphasised, as he did in speech, his desire to have “more ongoing things”. Cunningham said it is simply a case of “putting more effort in” to increase participation and mentioned his plan to have a wider variety of events “outside campaign weeks”.
Responding to a question on the College Health Service and its limited resources, Cunningham said he would try to make more information available on peak times. Cunningham wants to “highlight access to other services” to reduce strain on the College Health Service.
Aimee Connolly chose to keep the focus on her manifesto and points raised at previous hustings, promising once more to increase the availability of SU services outside of House Six. She said she “would like to bring office hours out to Halls” and noted the isolation students living in Halls can experience. She proposed to start a “who to contact campaign,” while also reiterating the “module fair” proposal outlined in her manifesto.
Answering a question on the difficulty of module registration experienced by visiting and Erasmus students, Connolly said that she wanted to try and be “proactive rather than reactive” in tackling the issue. She said she hoped to “try fix problems before students come here” and promised to be the “liaison between staff and students” in the case of such difficulties arising.
De Rís’ speech focused strongly on tackling the lack of representation in the SU elections, in the wake of the “RON for President” campaign launched today. He said that he wanted to be the President that could lead the change in the SU that would lead to more women and ethnic minority students running for TCDSU sabbatical positions. “That candidate is not RON,” he continued, “that candidate is me”. De Rís said he would liaise with the “off campus officer,” although no such role currently exists within the SU. Asked what makes him a different and good choice for President, De Rís quoted his plans to get more “engaged with students, listening to what students want and being on the ground”.
Michael McDermott once again used humour to criticise College’s response to the accommodation crisis, asking why money was being invested into areas such as sports facilities instead of making more housing available to students. “Making a joke about something still tells you something about that thing and someone’s opinion on it.” McDermott admitted he doesn’t “know much about [being] SU President. The President isn’t supposed to dictate what the SU does, he is meant to listen to the students”. McDermott was called out for not addressing the more serious aspects to his campaign, saying: “SU has a lot of mandates so I think we need to military to enforce them.” Responding to this criticism McDermott said: “If I did get into the SU I’d talk a bit less about Syria. Satire is funny but it tells you a lot about something and someone’s views on it.”
Paul Molloy, as he has repeatedly pointed out during his campaign, emphasised his position as a Trinity Access Programme (TAP) student. Telling those gathered that he was “one of the unlucky ones” who didn’t live in Halls, he pointed out that “next year a lot of you will struggle to find accommodation”. Asked to elaborate on how he would tackle the issue of the student housing crisis he said: “USI should be at forefront of marches for student housing. We are currently 4,000 beds short of the amount we’ll need in 2022.” Molloy also said he intends to work with Dublin City Council on this issue. Challenged on how he intends to see the SU further engage with students on campus, mainly in relation to those studying health sciences, he said “a lot of health science students do not feel they belong” and that he would like to see the SU engage more closely with these students and to try get them “into the Arts Block to feel included”. Upon answering a question on lack of engagement, Molloy stated that “people don’t know what the SU does”. “They see the SU as a club for hacks that you can’t get involved in,” Molloy said.
Sean Ryan began his night by saying “I deserve to be the next President because I know what the students want. I recognise small and simple things in the SU that can help students”. He emphasised that “there is no reason why I should not be on this stage. I’m passionate about students and passion goes a long way. Having a knowledge of the SU is nice but not imperative”. When questioned on which aspect of his manifesto will most revolutionise the Union, Ryan mentioned his commitment to student engagement, stating: “I cannot walk up the steps of House Six because I’m disabled. I want to take the SU out of House Six and engage with students.” Asked how he intends to expand upon workshops in relation to gender equality, he said “I have been in contact with Lynn Ruane” and that he has gotten “tips he got from her”.
A question was asked by TCDSU Disabilities Officer, Laura Beston, as to what the candidates aim to do to fight supplemental fees. “These fees are something that is very close to my heart,” De Rís said. “I fight tooth and nail, we will oppose this at every milestone.” Ryan promised to get “the Students’ Union behind this cause against College”. Molloy promised that he would “do everything in my power to fight against these fees”. McDermott highlighted the 5% increase in postgraduate and international fees which will be implemented in the next academic year. The issue of an increase in international fees was highlighted by audience members, with McDermott saying it is “time to put our foot down”. “Now they’re trying to make us pay for failing exams,” he exclaimed.
This article was amended to include the topic of the increase of 5% in international fees that will be implemented next year. Questions were posed by audience members, with responses by the candidates.
Reporting by Peter Kelly, Shane Hughes, Meadhbh Ni Mhidigh, Julia Geoghegan, Grainne Sexton, Michael Gilna, Rory O’Neill, Seana Davis, and Niamh Lynch.