Hustings for candidates running for Union of Students in Ireland (USI) positions were held at SU Council tonight. Two Trinity students are among the candidates for USI positions, namely current Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) Welfare Officer Damien McClean and Colm O’Halloran.
Colm O’Halloran, TCDSU Faculty Convenor Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, is running for the position of Vice President of the USI Dublin Region, while McClean is campaigning for the position of Vice President of Welfare.
O’Halloran made a speech at the SU Council tonight, outlining his qualifications and plans for the role. He was previously Chair of SU Council and Chair of the Electoral Commission (EC). Over the last two years he has also worked in the Accommodation Advisory Service while participating in a number of activist campaigns in Trinity including Fossil Free TCD and Aramark Off our Campus. He said the SU “gave me friends and I felt part of a community,” and said that accommodation is an issue he is passionate about . He also stated that he wants to work more with grassroots campaigns like Take Back Trinity.
Kayla Gaffney from Dublin City University (DCU) is also running for the position, as is Aoife Deasy from St. Angelas College Sligo. Gaffney spoke of students feeling disconnected from the USI and the importance of engagement. She stated that as Vice President she wants to strengthen the USI’s relationship with SIPTU and continue to campaign for publicly funded education. Deasy, whose speech was pre-filmed as she could not attend Council tonight, spoke of her experience as the Irish Officer of her SU and her passion for the Irish language. She also stated: “I believe that the students of Northern Ireland need solidarity for the south” and emphasised Irish language learning as an example of this.
Two candidates are running for Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship. Aisling Cusack is current VP for Dublin region and spoke about the importance of diverse feminism and her belief in the Take Back Trinity campaign. Anna Heverin from University College Dublin (UCC) explained that “the smallest step can be the grandest gesture” and highlighted her emphasis on student workers’ rights, the Repeal campaign, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.
Running uncontested for Vice President of Campaigns is Michelle Byrne. Byrne emphasised her plans to build grassroots groups and advocacy endeavours. Byrne promised to fight for “commitment from the government.”
Niamh Murtagh and Rachel Sherlock from UCC are running alongside McClean for Vice President for Welfare. McClean spoke of his desire to work on issues surrounding consent, mental health, addiction, accommodation, and finance. Niamh Murtagh discussed her experience in the USI, having “redesigned mental health packs” for students and her desire to “train students to help on the ground with those suffering from mental health difficulties.” Rachel Sherlock hopes to highlight dangers surrounding the use of tampons, the welfare crews, and support Welfare officers in third-level institutions around Ireland.
Running uncontested for Vice President of Academic Affairs is Oisín Hassan. Hassan said that we must “work harder on rolling out campaigns” and “challenge the money-making agenda.” Hassan emphasised the strength of the USI as a “strong, united collective movement.”
Additional reporting by Ciaran Sunderland, Lauren Boland and Peter Kelly