Communications & Marketing Race: Strahan tops the poll but election still within reach for Dempsey and Murnane

Comms candidates echo each other on contentious matters but poll indicates voters’ preferences for Strahan’s campaign

This year, the race to be the next communications (comms) and marketing officer is unprecedentedly contested, with Connor Dempsey, Sarah Murnane, and Beth Strahan campaigning for the position. This Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) sabbatical position has historically been uncontested. 

Their campaigns have been exceptionally similar thus far, all echoing student engagement as their foremost objective if elected. Other topics of importance include transparency, sponsorships, politicisation of the union, and inclusion of the Irish language.

Strahan, a final-year drama and theatre studies student, has received 43.25% of decided votes, a considerable lead from her race-mates. Dempsey, a final-year politics and sociology student, received 30% of votes. Murnane, a final-year history and politics student, is close behind with 22.7% of votes. And 3.9% wish to reopen nominations (RON). 

However, 44.6% of voters remain undecided, meaning that Strahan’s current lead may not guarantee her win. If Dempsey and Murnane can convince undecided students to vote for their campaigns, Strahan could fall in the polls. Therefore, the 2024/25 comms and marketing sabbatical officer position remains within reach for all three candidates. 

SU Engagement

The candidates have spent a large portion of their campaign calling attention to the lack of visibility between the SU and the wider College. Similar to previous years, lack of engagement has been the primary topic of discussion. However, this year, candidates are adamant their plans will miraculously rectify this issue. 

Strahan’s approach to engagement has largely centred around her theatrical experiences. Citing skills in marketing, directing, and the ability to put “bums in seats”, she believes student outreach hinges upon transparency and connecting with the majority. To achieve this, she stated that a comms officer must understand demographics, and the responsibility of student outreach rests solely on the officer. At the council hustings, Strahan went so far as to directly criticise current comms officer Aiesha Wong, stating: “If our communications officer has given up how can we expect our students to engage?” 

Similarly, Dempsey has focused on “bursting the bubble” of the SU, relying upon his experience as the current union engagement officer. Accessibility and visibility of the union are at the forefront of his engagement plan, valuing in-person outreach and canvassing to increase union involvement. He has committed to working at St. James’ Hospital and the Hamilton Building once each week to build rapport with students. 

At the Media Hustings, Dempsey was questioned on his role as engagement officer and how he has yet to achieve bursting the SU bubble. He responded by seemingly evading the question, stating he created the role because he was “tired of everyone talking about engagement and doing nothing about it”, without offering any specific details as to how he has managed to not increase engagement in a position where that is his sole responsibility.

Although Murnane shares the objective of transparency, her campaign is founded upon the tagline “Make the SU Craic Again”. Her plan to improve union-to-student relations is to make the SU “as fun as possible”. Suffice it to say she has taken an untraditional comms approach by proposing hosting events and SU information sessions as the key to engagement.

Further, when questioned on the “endgame” of engagement, both Dempsey and Strahan highlighted that emails and council attendance are not the pinnacle metrics of student engagement. Conversely, Murnane unsurprisingly stated that engagement is about student attendance at College events and council, given her unrelenting campaign focus on events.

Digital Engagement

Social media and marketing are the foundation of the comms sabbatical post. Weekly emails, newsletters, and Instagram graphics have long been hallmarks of the position. But along with criticising the ineffectiveness of past comms officers, the candidates have outlined the need to restructure the union’s approach to digital engagement. 

Strahan and Murnane both proposed podcasts as an innovative approach to revamping SU media. Strahan has promised to launch a podcast series aimed at providing an audio alternative to weekly emails for updates on SU projects. Murnane hopes to establish a podcast reminiscent of the viral Chicken Shop Date series. Her goal is to sit down with other sabbats and union members to uncover the veil of the SU in a lighthearted manner. 

Murnane stated that SU social media is being “criminally underused”, pledging to post content on a daily basis to maximise the potential of union engagement. To her, rapid posting will not lead to student burnout from SU content and guarantees the quality of her work will not decrease. Although she has previously served as PRO for the politics society, she has no practical experience with this specific strategy to make such claims. 

Dempsey has taken a notably different approach, focusing on the value of in-person relations and modernisation of the union’s website. He believes comms officers must go beyond social media to have the greatest impact. Although this proposition may be compelling in theory, indisputably, social media is the primary source of connection between students and the union. 

At media hustings, the candidates were asked who they believe speaks for the SU. Murnane and Strahan stated that the comms officer is the “glue” and “middleman” of the union, tasked with promoting balance and collaboration between all the sabbats. Dempsey similarly shared that comms is the “mediating force” of the union. 

Irish language

The hot topic of this year’s election has been inclusion of the Irish language. Candidates repeatedly responded to questions regarding how they plan to approach Irish in union communications. 

They all stressed the importance of integration and equality of the language. 

Dempsey hopes to normalise the language in a manner that is not “tokenistic” and offer resources that encourage students to learn Irish. 

Murnane sets out to expand the use of Irish online, sharing that her focus is on producing exclusive Irish content, rather than translating English posts and videos to Irish. 

Strahan detailed similar plans to Dempsey and Murnane, but uniquely highlighted that due to policy reasons, if first-years are to have equal access to the Irish language, the comms officer must work closely with the Junior Common Room (JCR) in Trinity Hall. She stated that equality of the Irish language is paramount. 

Inclusivity and Accessibility

As with every year, inclusivity and accessibility were frequently discussed. 

Interestingly, Murnane has taken a backseat approach to inclusivity and accessibility. Neither her manifesto nor her answers at the various hustings indicate an interest in improving SU disability measures. At media hustings, she was questioned on her lack of accessibility plans and if she truly believes “Making the SU Craic Again” is enough to promote an inclusive and accessible environment for all students. She answered that she wants “everyone to view the union as a wider community than themselves”. Murnane was given the opportunity to rectify her silence on the subject but merely stated that accessibility is a byproduct of increasing engagement and she plans to focus on “everything”. Unfortunately, disability accessibility does not appear out of thin air. 

Dempsey and Strahan, on the other hand, are outspoken on their plans to lower barriers for disabled students by working with them to guarantee equal access and accommodations within the SU. They also plan to continue to build upon current SU procedures relating to alternative text, descriptive audio, and more. 


In the last month, TCDSU have cut ties with Domino’s following pro-Israel content promulgated by the company. This has sparked serious debate within the union as to the ethics of sponsorships acquired by the comms and marketing officer. 

Dempsey outlined that his focus for sponsorships is to “balance perks with essentials”. With this, he hopes to make basic necessities more affordable for students, like partnering with healthcare companies. To make sponsorships accessible, he plans to create a “centralised hub” on the SU website listing all available student deals. 

Strahan echoed Dempsey’s goals of alleviating student financial pressures. with CSC societies and surveying students for relevance and demand of partnerships are core tenets of her agenda. 

Murnane diverges where she aims to be “Irish-led” in sponsorships, partnering with local companies for mutual benefit. She said she values ethical sponsorships and branding. 

Politicisation of TCDSU

Along with sponsorships, the Domino’s case brought into question whether the union should be political, and as if reading off a script, they all answered along the same lines: when it comes to politics, listen to the student body. 

Dempsey added: “boycotts really have worked, as we saw with Domino’s. However … every instance deserves a conversation…If we can boycott for a purpose, that’s something we should engage in”. 

Both Murnane and Strahan stated that the “SU is a democracy” and that students will be political irrespective of whether the SU is. 

None of the candidates stated their actual views on the political status of the union. 

Candidates were also asked about how they would work to stop the spread of right-wing misinformation to protect queer and ethnic minority students in the wake of the Dublin riots.   

“We need to put faces to these stories. We need to show queer people exist,” Dempsey responded. He failed to effectively answer the question of how he plans to stop the spread of misinformation. 

Murnane explained that the role of the union is to be as honest and engaged with students as possible for their safety. Her approach to counteracting misinformation is, therefore, to “correct it as much as you possibly can” and “take the punches as they come”. 

Strahan repeated similar objectives. She stated it is the role of the comms officer to platform union voices and ensure students are aware of the resources available to them. 


According to Trinity News’ poll, Strahan tops the poll across faculties, gender, and political affiliations. 45% of her voters come from Arts and Humanities, compared to Dempsey’s 27% and Murnane’s 21%. However, a majority of Dempsey and Murnane’s voters, albeit fewer than Strahan’s, belong to the STEM and Health Sciences departments.

For political affiliations, Strahan’s voters are almost equally represented across ideologies: 35% left, 39% centre-left, and 38% centre-right. A majority of Dempsey and Murnane’s voters are left-leaning. 

Strahan seems to be the likely winner of this year’s comms and marketing race. It is anticipated that second preferences of both Dempsey and Murnane will swing Strahan’s direction in the final voting process. However, given the large number of undecided voters, Strahan may not yet be in for a comfortable victory.

A previous version of this article contained incorrect statistically regarding the gender breakdown of voters in the communications and marketing race. Trinity News apologises for this error.

Gabriela Gazaniga

Gabriela Gazaniga is the Deputy Editor of News Analysis and is currently in her Junior Sophister year earning a degree in Law.