The word “furthermore” was a recurring theme of the JCR’s Halls Hustings. The Halls specific questions from Halls were notably challenging, often containing two or three questions within them. In a phenomenon which is either a symptom of candidates’ responses to polling or simply correct reflections of polled voters’ assessments, candidates who are topping the polls generally performed better than their counterparts.
Experience is a topic which has been returned to repeatedly over the course of this presidential campaign, and was rehashed again at Halls’ Hustings
Experience is a topic which has been returned to repeatedly over the course of this presidential campaign, and was rehashed again at Halls Hustings. It is indeed difficult to top Leah Keogh’s direct work as a sabbatical officer. Instead, Luke MacQuillan once again sought to frame his experience outside the union as a benefit, while former JCR president Ben Cummins’ explanation that he does have experience and that it’s just more diverse than Keogh’s union positions was compelling and delivered with confidence. MacQuillan chose to frame his lack of experience as a draw, saying he wanted to “show people that anyone can get involved”, but how he would plan to engage students in a meaningful way beyond the symbolism of securing the president role felt less clear.
Keogh’s most difficult question of the night was posed by a member of the Scéim Cónaithe. Through the JCR president, they asked why the translations of her manifesto contained errors and were “difficult to comprehend,” accusing her of using an online translation tool. She responded easily, asserting that each translation was done by a native speaker. She was even backed up by Cummins, a gaeilgeoir himself, who said that the Irish translation was perfect. It was unclear why floortime was being dedicated to an accusation which was initially unsubstantiated, and ultimately appeared to be baseless. Despite this diversion, Keogh’s leading position appears to remain comfortable.
Things began to heat up for education candidates Bev Genockey and Daniel O’Reilly in the main portion of the night. Genockey was asked a very specific question about who specifically a committee decision could be attributed to. Genockey answered well, explaining not only her hand in passing the motion, but also the futility of arguing over whose ideas were whose. However, what stood out most was the waste of time such a question seemed to be, intending more to stir drama between the candidates than to help students determine who could better serve them.
While this race remains difficult to predict, efforts to do so were made easier when it came to the stock “leadership experience” question. While Genockey did appear to boast materially less experience than O’Reilly, her enthusiasm and dedication to not just leading, but collaborating was clear in her response. In contrast, O’Reilly answered by again citing the fact of his Dean’s Leadership Award, saying his leadership style “might be unconventional, but it’s award winning.”
The Welfare and Equality race’s portion of the night was relatively in line with how previous Hustings have gone for both Dylan Krug and Sierra Mueller-Owens. Both were asked standard questions about engaging Hall’s students with welfare services. At this point, Krug’s “What Do I Do Now” documents have become such a staple of his campaign that the JCR’s Welfare Officer Emma Gallagher noted, “you have talked about them a lot.” However, when asked how they will work in practice, he said only that he hoped they would “proliferate themselves.”
These candidates present two very different visions of the Welfare officer: one which is hands-on in dealing with students, and one which will point them to the right documents.
Both candidates were quizzed on their experiences with casework. While Mueller-Owens noted her time as Gender Equality Officer and an S2S Mentor, some more depth in outlining the casework experience involved could have warranted merit. On the other hand, Krug, after admitting he had little experience in the area, seemed to partially step around the question, saying he would point students to the proper resources. These candidates present two very different visions of the Welfare officer: one which is hands-on in dealing with students, and one which will point them to the right resources.
With a comfortable lead over RON in the polls, Aoife Cronin entered these hustings with very little to be worried about. This was displayed by both the comparative lack of questions she was asked and the relative ease of those questions. She performed confidently, pledging to update the “Living in Dublin” guide, and generally platform student supports within Halls. However, Cronin being paid little attention in the students’ last chance to probe the candidates does raise questions about how seriously uncontested races are taken. Although the presence of so few this year is a welcome change, this can’t be an excuse not to challenge those running unopposed.
While both Greg Arrowsmith and Antonia Brady seemed on form last night, Brady’s edge in the polls over Arrowsmith showed through her clearer plans for holding online events. Sticking to the line he’s held throughout the campaign, Arrowsmith showed a preference for exporting remote events to societies, claiming larger events just don’t work online.
On the other hand, Arrowsmith showed more concrete plans for in-person events, outlining his plans for monthly large events flanked by regular events which remain free of charge. Despite Brady’s lead in the polls, the lack of clarity around what exactly the role of Ents Officer will look like next year makes it difficult to determine how next year will play out.
The most shocking thing about the University Times editor portion of the night was Peter Caddle’s attendance. His last week’s abstention from Equality Hustings to talk to “ordinary student members” raises questions about why he finds the JCR more “ordinary” than those who organised Equality Hustings: representatives of students with disabilities, LGBT+ students, students from ethnic minorities, and Irish-language speakers. While he claimed this was a decision made specifically to avoid the “SU niche,” it is unclear how the JCR is significantly less niche. Aside from this, both candidate’s performances were fairly commensurate with how they have run their campaigns thus far. Emer Moreau made clear her experience within University Times, and reiterated some of her main manifesto points. Meanwhile, Caddle took every opportunity to disagree with how UT is currently being managed, and to propose ending their print run as the solution to any and all problems.
What was most mystifying about this portion of the night however, was the JCR’s seeming reluctance to address the most dangerous and contentious things about Caddle’s campaign:— his proud association with a website that has promoted eugenics, repeated dishonesty, and recorded bigoted comments. The choice to focus on why Halls’ events aren’t covered enough in UT over the candidates’ credibility was yet another example of poor use of time at these hustings.
With registration rates this high on top of so many contested races, the next two days will be a test of the Union’s capacity to be the force for engagement so many candidates have promised us it already is.
Yannick Gloster closed the night by proudly announcing that over 6,000 students have registered to vote, a number higher than any turnout rate of a recent SU election. How many of those students will ultimately cast their vote is a different question. With registration rates this high on top of so many contested races, the next two days will be a test of the union’s capacity to be the force for engagement so many candidates have promised us it already is.