SU Elections: “Quite apolitical” Eoin Hand puts local issues into the spotlight

Hand wants to be the president of students who “go to lectures, eat lunch and go home”

Eoin Hand, hailing from Cashel Co. Tipperary, is one of the three students contesting the SU election for President. Energetic and charismatic, he explains that his reason for running is that over his four years in college he found himself “constantly hearing about problems people faced” in their interactions with the college, and even the SU itself, so he wanted the opportunity to rally students to tackle those issues. Central to Hand’s platform is that he will be a “conduit” for every student in Trinity, particularly those who “go to lectures, eat lunch and go home”, and are not engaged with the SU.

Despite never having held a position within the SU, Eoin says that his lack of experience in the SU, and the knowledge of its inner workings, will not hinder him, stating that leading the SU is all about “determination, diligence, the ability to take criticism and solve problems”.

Hand dismisses the focus on the separation of micro and macro issues, saying that “putting your own house in order” is key to communicating Trinity’s stance on larger issues. He believes there is no point in having referendums on issues such as direct provision and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. According to Hand, the SU should focus on campaigning for these issues on campus, for example pressuring Aramak to leave campus. With regard to the BDS movement specifically, Hand concedes he does not know a lot about the situation, but repeats that Trinity should focus on putting its own house in order to address international campaigns such as these, and Trinity shouldn’t associate with companies catering to students or staff which contribute to “people suffering unnecessarily”. “It’s hard for us to look at these situations because we won’t understand the politics or history behind it”.

Outside of student politics, Hand describes himself as “quite apolitical”. He noted that in his home county of Tipperary, Independent candidates received nearly half the vote in the general election, noting that Tipperary has a “headstrong sense that we’re looking after the people (from Tipperary) who will look after us”, and manage to get things done to better the community. Hand says that “as far as politics is concerned, I will always vouch for the people, doesn’t matter what party they’re from, who can instigate change, and do good”, “who get the roads fixed, who get the signposts up, who get funding for the special needs schools in Cashel”.

In reference to the comments by another candidate Harry Williams that Trinity should follow UCD and leave the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and retain €100,000 in affiliation fees, Hand believes the “broader protection and support” of USI is essential for the SU to fight against rising accommodation costs and for rapid HIV testing. He described rising rents in college-owned accommodation as “spreading like a pandemic”, and the USI as necessary to lead a national movement against the increases. In Hand’s opinion, the College seeking to raise rents for Trinity accommodation by the maximum 4% is obeying “the letter of the law but not the spirit”, and “taking advantage of students”.

Hand strenuously advocated against the possibility of income-contingent student loans, calling the idea “terrible” and “awful”. He said that it gives credence to the idea that “we’re not really students for the sake of education, we’re students for the sake of making lots of money”. Noting that Ireland currently has the highest third level fees in the EU, Hand claims it is “unnecessary” and “really odd given we also have one of the fastest growing economies in the EU”, and compared the Irish case to the example of the Netherlands, where first year is very difficult, but then if you pass first year “the rest of your education is tuppence, its ridiculously cheap”.

Hand did not identify any area of the SU budget that he would cut, and supports the provision of funding for the production of Irish communications from the SU. He added that it would be a “shame to disregard” Trinity’s historic connection with the Irish language, in particular Douglas Hyde, a graduate who founded Conradh na Gaeilge and became the first President. Hand feels that the current official SU policy is outdated, having simply been “taken from the previous constitution which was made eleven years ago”. He gave the example of the oifigeach na Gaelige’s months long fight for Academic Registry to include fádá’s on student’s names on T Cards. According to Hand, Academic Registry failed to see an issue with the omission, whereas he felt that “if you are a student who comes from a Gaeltacht area, and your name has always been in Irish, that’s a direct disrespect to your heritage and your name”. He conceded that “I barely speak [Irish]”, but reckoned that to be a “real shame” as it can feel as though “you’re in a foreign country”.

In relation to corporate branding and endorsement agreements within the SU, Hand believes it is important that the SU partner with companies that share the values of students. He suggested that the SU could approach corporations who employ a large proportion of Trinity graduates and say “look, we are churning out great employees for ye, is it possible to have a working relationship where ye can sponsor the SU, in terms of bettering the quality of life for students on campus.”

A central plank of Hand’s campaign has been establishing student spaces, particularly in the Hamilton, furnished with microwaves. He notes that in the Arts Block there is “couches galore”, and it creates a “lovely feeling of community”. He notes the lack of places to relax in the Hamilton, giving the example of the installation of Costa Coffee into a “valuable space” in the Hamilton as commercial interests trumping the need of students. Hand tells me that a student space was proposed in the past for the Hamilton, but was ultimately scrapped due to a contractor dropping out.  Hand relays an anecdote of the Education Officer in UCD, who offered to personally clean and maintain the microwaves if that was what it took to secure them. If this was the obstacle in Trinity, Hand says he would be similarly happy to clean the microwaves himself as he would see himself as an “employee of the students” if elected President.

Hand’s manifesto includes mention of a “unified manifesto.” He describes the drafting process as “all the minds coming together, writing down the main points of their manifesto”, and that “signed sabbatical document” would be distributed to college officials. He said that it would show “a level of mutual respect” if college officials held onto their sabbatical document, as opposed to treating student representation as a box-ticking exercise. Hand also insisted that this would be an effective way for students to measure the progress of the SU, and to ensure that “all the talk, all the political jargon from the campaign is followed through”.