Dining Hall hustings: Maguire draws on union experience while Balfe practises punchlines

Kicking off the sabbatical election, the Dining Hall hustings revealed an unconventional presidential race

This year’s presidential race is proving to be one of sharp contrast between a traditional radical candidate and a comedic Oxford outsider as the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) sabbatical election kicks off with the Dining Hall hustings.

Taking place in Front Square, the Dining Hall hustings allowed students to formally meet their election candidates, although they did not have the chance to ask them any questions.


In an effort  to reflect the gravity of the responsibility to represent 21,000 students, presidential candidate Ralph Balfe started his address by discussing his great grandfather who died of tuberculosis in 1937.

“Did he believe in the importance of democracy, education, and improving the standard of student life in universities?” he said. “No. He thought uni students were pretentious and had no clue what the real world was like.”

In contrast, Jenny Maguire gave a more traditional hustings speech which offered a summary of her manifesto and primarily focused on housing and student workers.

Beginning with her reasons for running, the former gender equality and LGBT rights officer said that she has “seen when College doesn’t work”, having had to take a year out and repeat another year “all while working a job and medically transitioning”. 

While Maguire proposed her “first-of-its-kind” working student policy and criticised College for “punishing students just because they need a job”, Balfe criticised the Campanile for not housing students. 

“What contribution does it make to lowering the cost of living crisis?” he asked. “None… so I say knock down the Campanile and replace it with a 1:1 replica of the Burj Khalifa.”

Balfe’s broad promises were cut short by Casey, although several audience members called for him to continue his speech, including his opponent Maguire. Concluding his speech with a reference to Maguire, Balfe asked students to seriously consider what candidate they think is best for the role: “Jenny is intelligent, passionate, hard working, funny and beautiful. But she also does improv, which I’m afraid is unforgivably cringey.”

After promising to continue to take the union “into a more radical direction”, Maguire concluded her own two minutes with her slogan “Hire Maguire” and a declaration that she wants to and can “do it all”. 


Education candidate Eoghan Gilroy opened his speech by affirming his identity as “an access, and final year Law and Political Science student” as well as a “gay specialist barista” part-time.

Gilroy outlined some of his core experiences, including faculty convenor for the arts, humanities, and social sciences, but he emphasised his “candidacy is not just about my past experiences”.

“No student should ever feel unheard or unsupported throughout difficult times we may find ourselves in,” Gilroy said, “That’s why I will ensure that every student who reaches out for support receives a response within one business day.”

Deputy STEM Convenor Sé Ó hEidhin began their own campaign for education officer on a similar note of support and engagement: “Sometimes being in college can feel like drowning.” They addressed the broader issue of engagement within TCDSU, promising to make the union “more fair and more kind to students”. 

In their two minutes, Ó hEidhin’s only reference to academic policy was a call to “fix lecture recordings, because it’s ridiculous that we haven’t already”.

Gilroy, meanwhile, honed in on the issue of artificial intelligence (AI), referring to College’s “laissez faire approach to Generative AI” as “problematic”. Gilroy promised to “to ensure that students’ voices are heard in the development of policies surrounding AI usage”.

Though many candidates referenced the closed-off nature of TCDSU, Ó hEidhin referenced the issue most directly, stating: “Let’s open up the union. Get the union to touch grass.” “It’s not that complicated,” Ó hEidhin said, suggesting that the union should be more open to members who join for one issue, or offer time off to members that need it.

Welfare & Equality

While Hamza Bana and Hannah McAuley focused on more serious manifesto points in the contest for welfare and equality officer, Nathan Harrington pledged to use his salary to buy sweets and chocolate for students, instal lifts in the GMB and Museum Building, and to run a “free the nip” campaign on campus assuring the crowd that these are “serious propositions”. He delivered a few lines as Gaeilge to finish, saying “níl aon speech agam… agus ba mhaith liom a bheith do chéad oifigeach eile”. 

Bana, greeted with applause and strong cheers from the group surrounding him in front of the steps of the Dining Hall, delivered a speech stressing his experience in fighting for equality as the Ethnic Minority Officer of the Students’ Union.

Hannah McAuley, the least outspoken candidate in the race, delivered a personable speech. She wasted no time in addressing the reason for which she is running: “There’s people and systems that need help” and that she’s “spent the last few years watching the inequalities build up” on campus.

Communications & Marketing

All candidates in the communications and marketing race were critical of the union’s current outreach and proposed various remedies for its lack of engagement among students, with social media being strongly emphasised.

Connor Dempsey, the union’s current engagement officer, kicked off the communications and marketing race by critiquing the current union’s lack of effort in showing “that going to your Union officers actually gets results.,” though did not address how he has tackled this in his current role. Dempsey discussed the importance of being present for students: “I know students disengage in the SU when it’s physically and socially distant.” Critiquing the current union, Dempsey committed to working at St. James’ Hospital and the Hamilton Building once each week.

Beth Strahan focused similarly on outreach and engagement, centring her campaign around the slogan “where are you” – a reasonable question considering the recent failure to make quorum at Council. Strahan said that despite raising a considerable amount of revenue during Freshers week, “as that revenue is being made, voices are being ignored”, leading many to feel alienated and to not care about the students’ union. Strahan thinks her experience directing and managing theatre will inform her ability to “truly understand a demographic and engage with a majority”.

Sarah Murnane voiced similar criticisms that social media has been “criminally underused” by the union. Under her guidance, she promises that the union will be present and active across all social media platforms, particularly the likes of Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Murnane proposed a plan to create “third spaces” on campus where students can socialise and become familiar with the inner workings of the union and plans to develop an “SU newsletter”. 

Oifigeach na Gaeilge

Without the pressure of a contested election, Pádraig Mac Brádaigh outlined  his manifesto points clearly and confidently. Mac Brádaigh, the sole candidate for the newly-created full-time sabbatical position of Oifigeach na Gaeilge (Irish Language Officer), was the leading figure behind the Gaeilge Initiative referendum, which passed by a landslide 90%

He emphasised his engagement with the language on campus in the last four years, promising to give Irish-speaking students the opportunity to write a dissertation in Irish regardless of their academic discipline and increase the amount of modules taught through Irish: “It’s not fair or right to have to do an entire degree through English”, also promising a more bilingual marketing strategy.


Sole Ents candidate Peadar Walsh, a second year Computer Science, Linguistics and French student and current JCR ents officer, promised to provide more support to societies if elected to the position. 

Walsh proposed forming a partnership with other colleges in Dublin to “provide an accessible and sustainable framework for events going forward” and to “put pressure on venues to provide these supports to students who need it”. He also stated that he would like to incorporate “philanthropic causes” into larger, college-wide events, remarking that he thinks Trinity Ents has “massive capabilities to do really well for the causes that need it”. 

The ents candidate described safety at Trinity Ball as “a big thing for him” and he noted that he would like to implement safe areas, drug safety techniques and “proper crowd control” into the event.

The University Times (UT)

Both candidates for editor of the University Times highlighted accessibility as a priority within the paper in different ways. Charlie Hastings promised to install a disability editor and “[strengthen] ties to the student accessibility co-op and the TAP programme”. If elected, he promises to add in weekly office hours to prioritise mental health. 

Like her opponent, Brídin Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce hopes to increase accessibility but primarily looks to do this by increasing accessibility of ethnic minorities. She pledged to advertise to societies that represent minorities. “I will create a legacy of equality” she said. “A vote for me is a vote for accessibility.” 

Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce promised to establish a UT journalism programme and host pitching workshops, while Hastings plans to improve involvement by bettering communication with the student body and a more “streamlined” approach to recruiting writers.

Both candidates promise to improve Irish language inclusion. UT “must make sure that there is always room in the budget for direct Irish translation” says Hastings. As a native Irish speaker, Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce delivered her speech in both English and Irish. If elected, she promises to push for all editorial pieces to be published in both languages.

Voting in the TCDSU sabbatical elections opens next Tuesday February 27. Fill out the Trinity News poll to let us know how you’ll be voting.

Reporting by Kate Henshaw, Ellen Kenny, Ella Sloane, Eve Conway, Aidan Cusack, Evan Skidmore O’Reilly, Charlotte Kent, Gabriela Gazaniga, Conor Healy, Emily Sheehan, Maddy Pitman, Stephen Conneely, Faye Madeen Hazel Mulkeen, Jayna Rohslau, Ruby Topalian and Sam Walsh.