In a disconnected Dublin, TCDSU must continue to advocate for change

Cost of living, accommodation and the rise of the far-right in Ireland will challenge the newly elected sabbatical officers

In an email addressed to the entire student body on the 16th of February, Provost Linda Doyle reiterated the fact that 2024 has been dubbed the “Year of Elections”. Up to 50 countries will head to the polls to some degree to vote. One of these fifty nations, of course, is Ireland. With the imposing family and care referendums being just around the corner (March 8), Ireland will have several other opportunities to vote again before we get to March 2025. Local and European elections are to be held in June, while a general election also seems to be inevitable. 

Our closest neighbours in the United Kingdom will also head to the polls, with Rishi Sunak saying an election will “most-likely” be held within the second-half of this year; but who knows what that truly means. On the continent of Europe, several nations teeter on the brink of a snap election.  Spain being an example, struggling to settle their beef (pardon the pun) with the agriculture industry, who flock to the cities and cause traffic chaos. Of course then, we’ve got the US elections that are to be held in November, where the two senile men will compete for each of their second terms. 

Coming back to Linda Doyle’s email from February 16, Linda’s main point of focus was to highlight the “chronic underfunding” that Ireland’s higher level and research sectors receive. I found it quite interesting how there was a complete omission of a mention of the student union elections from that email, as it too, is an important election that is taking place this year. However, its omission from the email did not appear to hamper the popularity of the sabbatical elections. I am unsure as to whether that means nobody reads the Provost’s emails or people found their information regarding the SU elections through other mediums. 

“In my time at Trinity, the 2024 SU elections have been the most documented, most discussed, and most contested elections”

Either way, in my time at Trinity, the 2024 SU elections have been the most documented, most discussed, and most contested elections. A total of 14 candidates ran for the 7 positions. The sheer number of candidates alone indicates a student body that is political and clearly interested in promoting change in the hopes of creating a better college. Coupled with the highest voter turnout since 2020, all signs lead to a vested interest in the ongoings of the university. 

As a current Erasmus student, the fact that there was an option to vote online was of major benefit to me. Fellow Trinity students who are dotted all over the world had the opportunity to vote, something that TCDSU has to be commended for. In my personal experience abroad, the elections remained at the centre of discussion throughout the month of February. In perhaps the most Irish of experiences while abroad here in Salamanca, I found myself discussing the politics of Nathan Harrington’s campaign with other Trinity students. All of this, discussed in an ‘Oirish’ pub while wearing a World Cup 2002 jersey, watching the Six Nations, with the worst Guinness imaginable in my hand. We never came to a direct conclusion about Nathan Harrington in the end…

Since then, the dust has settled and the emotions felt by all those that were elected have hopefully balanced themselves back out. So what’s the deal? What are the challenges facing these fresh-faced representatives? Well, delving into the manifestos, it appears that the promises of those elected are fairly compatible with each other. In regard to all of those who have been elected, equality, fair representation, and an overall improved student experience are of the utmost importance to them all.

But what does this mean for the overall student cohort? Some students believe that TCDSU does not truly represent them. An air of exclusivity has seeped into this current year’s elected group. Their style of leadership and decision to radically politicise the union has upset the moderates in the college community. This is not to say that the work they are doing isn’t vitally important, but if you are to represent the student body, you must represent all those who are in it. 

With that being said, Jenny Maguire’s active involvement in a number of popular initiatives on campus and in Dublin has made her a de facto successor to  László Molnárfi. Her experience includes being an active member of TCDSU,  former DU Players secretary, and co-organiser of Trans and Intersex Pride Dublin. Anyone who frequents campus will see her involvement at every level of university life something that may be of use as president. 

If we are to follow this line of enquiry that the newly elected union are to be a succession to this years representatives, there is an expectation that engagement will remain high between the Students Union and groups such as BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), Students4Change, CATU (Community Actions Tenants Union), EmpowerTheVoice, and government representatives. The occupation and the disruption of Trinity’s tourism money-machine with the aim to support the Palestinian cause will undoubtedly be of utmost importance again for the incoming representatives.

Dublin as a city is becoming even more disconnected from those who reside in it”

As well as their unwavering support for Palestine, the union must deal with the pressing matters of accommodation prices, cost of living issues, rigid teaching practices and the utter disconnect between the hierarchical facets of society and those that are subjected to their absurdity. Dublin as a city is becoming even more disconnected from those who reside in it. Private student accommodation companies are now solely providing 51-week long leases, a contract length which will only benefit the coffers of the landlords. Trinity  themselves continue to push for a 2% rent hike, even amidst the sheer extortion that students face. 

TCDSU must also deal with the general safety of Dublin. The last 18 months have seen an horrific increase in anti-migrant/far-right sentiment in Ireland. The events of November 2023 during the Dublin Riots still run raw for some. If the union can provide a safe-space within the confines of the university, then they are contributing massively to the improvement of this city. 

Harping back to what I began with, 2024 has the potential to be one of the most important years in recent memory. We may not be able to control the happenings outside of Ireland, but within our nation, politics is on the brink of change. The inevitable next general election could see the first fully left-wing government in Ireland. It is vital that the work that TCDSU undergoes on our campus continues onto the streets and into homes all over the country. 

To finish off, the work that TCDSU performs is clearly having an effect. Those who voted the way they did, did so for a reason. Issues that are prevalent in all corners of society need to continue to be the foundations of our student union. If they cease to be fundamental parts of the agenda, then action must be taken. Democracy gives the people the power to choose. As Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said at their 2024 conference: “People across Ireland feel the country is no longer working for them … there is a clear sense of disillusionment and disconnect … we should be able to provide a future for our young people … We deserve better. We can achieve better.” With these elected representatives, I hope the new TCDSU can provide us some alleviation from the current situation. We all deserve better, and we can achieve better.