Equality hustings: Gilroy promises to pressure College to cut Israeli ties while Ó hEidhin claims “time for talking is over”

Candidates had the first opportunity to show how they differ from each other, from expanding the Irish language to getting rid of the “nanny-state” tobacco-free campus

After being delayed by Trinity College Dublin Students Union (TCDSU) council, Equality and Council hustings began to highlight differences in approach in election races. 

In the TCDSU sabbatical elections’ contested races, candidates faced questions on issues of engagement, Gaeilge promotion and impeachment of the University Times editor. 

National and international issues also came to the fray, such as College’s continued ties with Israeli institutions.


While Jenny Maguire introduced herself in Irish at equality hustings, Ralfe Balfe introduced himself with an anecdote of having “a wee” next to Cillian Murphy. 

The interaction between the opponents for the union’s most senior role was unlike any previous year. When Balfe proposed hiring students to form a wall that would keep students out, Maguire playfully asked him what the workers in questions would be paid.

On a more serious note, Maguire also criticised the Central Societies Committee (CSC) for not providing anti-racism training. She also criticised the union’s level of engagement with foundation course students, saying that the union “doesn’t actually try to reach out to (them)”.  

During hustings, Balfe demonstrated how seriously he takes his competition when asked what he liked best about Maguire’s policy: “When reading Jenny’s manifesto, I thought, “this is good, this is brilliant”. I thought maybe “this is the best manifesto I’ve ever read.”

Comparing Maguire’s policies to his own, Balfe noted that he had promised to get rid of the “nanny-state” tobacco-free campus rule, while his opponent did not.

Maguire was not asked about Balfe’s policies, but asked why she did not include policies for students with disabilities in her manifesto.

The candidate pointed out she did have references to disability in her manifesto, including creating a framework for the Academic Registry, IT services and disability service to support students with a Learning Educational Needs Summary (LENS) report.


Rather than focusing on what the education officer candidates have promised, the equality husting took aim at what Eoghan Gilroy and Sé Ó hEidhin failed to address.

When asked about not mentioning College’s ties with Israeli institutions, both candidates strongly advocated for cutting these ties to Israel.Echoing the promises of Maguire, Gilroy said he would be the “loudest, most annoying voice in the room” and put pressure on College to cut ties.

Ó hEidhin appeared to criticise Gilroy’s response, stating the union is “beyond the point of talking”. They promised to target specific lecturers and schools within College that had ties to Israel and take direct action, including “blocking” professors’ offices.

Both candidates welcomed the introduction of Oifigeach na Gaeilge and promised to promote the Irish language on campus. Neither candidate, however, offered plans on how to expand the Irish language in education beyond relying on the newly-created sabbatical role.

Gilroy claimed the Irish language was not included in his manifesto because it is merely “foundational” and promised more policies will be “put out there” over the coming week. 

At council hustings, Gilroy and Ó hEidhin once again differed in their approaches when asked about implementing a working-student status. Ó hEidhin said “there are staff who push back against a working student status”, whereas Gilroy called for collaboration, suggesting that there was a “real sense of empathy from the college”.

Ó hEidhin also said they “wouldn’t do anything different” than previous education officers when it comes to pressuring College to introduce the working student status, even though, as Gilroy pointed out, the last five education manifestos have promised to introduce this. 

Welfare & Equality

Though apologising to the audience ahead of time for possibly coming across as tired, candidate Hamza Bana put forward a number of ambitious proposals which included “reducing pricing of the nursery on campus” and pushing college “to fund period products” in the manner of UCC and NUI Galway. 

Hannah McAuley, however, was the only candidate to mention wider political campaigns, including plans to “write a signed letter” to the Dáil outlining the experience of students ineligible for the SUSI grant due to “unforgiving” income thresholds. She also doubled down on her promise to increase the welfare loan, saying that she would implement as much of an increase ‘as possible’. 

Discussing his promise to use 100% of his salary to buy people’s sweets if elected, Nathan Harrington said: “I think that the amount of money I can spend on tiny little Cadbury’s bars is so much more than if I were to donate a lump sum to food banks – I doubt that would go very far.”

Regarding Gaeilge in College Health services, both Harrington and McAuley interpreted this issue in two manners: they proposed hiring more Gaeilgoirí and then advertising this service to students. Bana also expanded his desire to make College Health more accessible and inclusive to students of colour to Irish speaking students.

Bana and McAuley offered policies and promises typical of a welfare candidate, Harrington’s reference to people with disabilities as “disableds” and plans to introduce “LGBTQIA+ lectures to teach people how to have queer sex” with “demonstrations” was scrutinised. Harrington said he did not believe anything he proposed in his manifesto was “derogatory” and encouraged the audience to follow his Instagram.

Communications & Marketing

When asked about promoting the Irish language in the union, all three candidates said while they were not Irish speakers themselves, they plan to expand Gaeilge in College with the new Oifigeach na Gaeilge. 

Connor Dempsey, the union candidate, cited the importance of the recent referendum that gave Irish equal status in the union and emphasised the language can just “become part of the union’s affairs”. Sarah Murnane focused on a “massive” expansion of Irish online, while Beth Strahan pointed out the Junior Common Room (JCR) in Trinity Hall does not have to follow TCDSU policy, so the future comms officer will need to  first years have access to the Irish language.

Engagement was another issue each candidate had similar views on, but differed more in their response. Dempsey, the current engagement officer of the union, cited discussions he has already had with officers about setting a “higher standard” for engagement but did lay out the finer details of outreach.

In a question about engagement and accessibility online, Murnane failed to touch on how exactly she plans to approach accessibility, aside from alternative text and platforming the voices of disabled students.

Strahan took the strongest stance on engagement, putting the responsibility of outreach solely on the comms & marketing officer’s shoulders: “If our communications officer has given up how can we expect our students to engage?”

Citing her experience as a theatre director, she promised to launch videos “podcast style updates” and “more audio files of council meetings” for greater transparency.

Oifigeach na Gaeilge

Sole Oifigeach na Gaeilge (Irish Language Officer) candidate Pádraig Mac Brádaigh focused more on what the new officer should do, rather than arguing for why he should be elected. He pointed out that there are members of staff in College Health who do speak Irish, but that it is not immediately clear, suggesting the union and College set up a “kind of fáinne to show that you speak Irish”.

On access to the Irish language, Mac Brádaigh spoke of his own experience as an international student, and described the Irish speaking community as “warm” and “welcoming”. Mentioning his teaching experience, he said that “a lot of international students wish they could engage more with Irish language and culture but they don’t always get those opportunities. 


Uncontested Ents candidate Peadar Walsh took a strong stance on his policies of inclusion and accessibility. When questioned about making events safer, Walsh described the standard of care seen by bouncers in some nightclubs around Dublin as “absolutely shocking”. 

“It’s not fair for us to give them this business and then be treated like this…if we have to boycott venues, we have to boycott venues,” he said, which was met with a resounding applause. We’re going to do this in collaboration with the Welfare officer and other PTOs” stated Walsh, who was met with applause from the room. “I cannot organise an event if I think somebody is going to be mistreated or discriminated against”, continued the candidate, receiving further applause. 

The University Times (UT)

The candidates differed more in plans of including Irish in the paper. Charles Hastings promised to reintroduce an Irish language editor in the paper and to translate “simple headlines and bylines would be extremely easy and allow Irish speakers to be heard in a very simple way”.

Brídin Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce said she would to have articles written in Irish rather than just translated. Citing Irish publications such as an Tuathal, which is published by the Cumann Gaelach, she says that “there is no excuse to not have Irish people and Irish language in the newspaper and Radius [magazine]”.

The candidates also differed in their response to making the UT editor an impeachable role. Hastings, who was fired from the paper last year after attempting to impeach then-editor Ailbhe Noonan, said he would pursue changes to the constitution, but will focus on the welfare of students and staff so impeachment isn’t necessary.

Ní Fhearraigh-Joyce said impeachment “should only happen at crisis point” and said she would instead have an “ethics officer” to deal with staff grievances. She also pointed out the election was for a “newspaper” rather than a political position and argued “I don’t see talks of the President being impeached”, although sabbatical roles are already impeachable if necessary.

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