Molnárfi calls on USI President-elect to publish “real manifesto” in open letter

Chris Clifford was elected USI President last week having run a joke campaign

TCDSU President-elect and Students4Change (S4C) Chair László Molnárfi has called on USI President-elect Chris Clifford to publish a “real manifesto” as he expresses concerns for the “future of the student movement”.

In an open letter, Molnárfi asked Clifford if he will publish a “real manifesto” following his election and whether he will consult “with Students4Change and other grassroots groups in third-level institutions”.

Clifford, President of MTU Kerry Students’ Union, was elected Union for Students in Ireland (USI) president for 2023/24 on the second count, having run a joke campaign beating opponents Sai Gujulla and Patrick Curtin.

His manifesto, titled “Da Manifesto”, included plans to “bring back €13 Tesco Vodka for students” and introduce “free on campus parking for anyone that proves they can do a donut”.

“Anyone who can prove they haven’t got the ride in six months will be granted compassionate leave and an all-expenses paid trip to Amsterdam paid by their SU,” the manifesto promised.

He also promised to increase the president’s wage to “69,6969.69”.

In his letter, Molnárfi thanked Clifford for commending the recent protests against Minister for Transport and the Environment Eamon Ryan. He also noted that MTU Kerry Students’ Union, of which Clifford has been president of for two years, has the highest electoral turnout of any student union in the Republic of Ireland at 35%.

However, Molnárfi said S4C “regret that you have not made an official manifesto available during your elections”.

“We believe it raises questions about the future of the student movement that you were elected on what was essentially a joke platform for most of the election season,” he said.

Molnárfi also pointed out that Clifford did not attend all USI election hustings, including in College. Molnárfi said students “were not able to delve into [Clifford’s] plans for the representative organisation of the 246,000 or so students and PhD researchers in the Republic of Ireland”.

The letter asked Clifford whether he will publish a “real manifesto” and whether he will consult with grassroot organisations such as S4C.

Molnárfi also asked what are Clifford’s “political leanings” and his thoughts on “radicalism within the student movement” as Clifford only mentioned the protests against Ryan for the first time in his USI hustings speech.

“If you believe in an engaged, political and radical student movement, how will you fight for this?” Molnárfi asked.

Clifford has claimed that although he ran a “snuff campaign” his intention was “to get students engaged”.

“I thought it would be a way of engaging students that don’t usually get involved with student politics to look at my campaign.”

He added: “My top priority is to engage with the Students’ Unions around the country and to work on general student engagement – they go hand in hand really. I want to be radical about that.”

Molnárfi was elected Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) president in March. TCDSU delegates voted to re-open nominations (RON) in the USI presidential race, following a ballot of its members.

Ellen Kenny

Ellen Kenny is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News and a Senior Sophister student of Politics and Sociology. She previously served as Assistant Editor and Features Editor