Running unopposed for the position of Campaigns and Engagement officer in the upcoming University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) elections is Darryl Horan, a master’s student in Global History. The College Tribune spoke to Horan about what key issues he wants the Student Union to campaign on this year and told us how he hopes to build engagement from students along the way.
Horan is running under the slogan of ‘Building Student Power,’ which he describes as ‘bringing students into the union and letting them use it as a vehicle for their own issues.’ As an experienced campaigner, he has noted that students ‘are quite a militant bunch.’ He wants to use it as a means for students ‘to take hold of their own lives.’
A key part of Horan’s manifesto and what he wants to campaign on if elected is the abolishment of fees and a move towards fully funded higher education which is free at the point of delivery. There is no mention of any campaign for a fee reduction in light of the change in learning due to COVID-19. Horan argues that that would ‘present the idea that higher education is a commodity,’ adding that ‘it is a right and we want everyone to have access to it.’
Another key for Horan is housing. He commits to setting up a renters’ forum to ‘bring student renters together, to talk about their issues and talk about how the union can go forward campaigning on them.’ He wants to build on this and expressed his desire for a constitutional referendum to formalise the renter’s forum and talked about the potential for a paid sabbatical officer for housing. On the topic of on-campus rent prices, which is not mentioned in his manifesto, Horan committed that the union would ‘keep campaigning on opposing any rent hikes,’ but stressed that the issue is that housing in Dublin both on and off-campus is unaffordable.
It is striking from Horan’s manifesto that anti-racism forms an important part of his campaign. It is an issue he cares deeply about, recalling the first-ever protest he attended being in UCD on the 2015 migrant crisis. He raises the issue of the decolonisation of Irish academia and is encouraged by the progress made on the issue so far. However, he said ‘right now it’s very specialised in the humanities,’ stressing his hopes to expand it to other disciplines by reaching out directly to academics in order to widen the scope of the issue.
The final campaign issue that is included in Horan’s manifesto is the environment. He wants UCDSU to be at the forefront of the campaign to stop CETA, the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada which is currently making its way through the Oireachtas. Horan cites the investment courts which could be enacted in the deal which he claims could stop minimum wage increases and argues that ‘students in Ireland are disproportionately on the minimum wage,’ adding ‘they need higher wages.’
On the engagement side, Horan spoke enthusiastically about the potential that hosting town halls on campaigns and issues could have. He sees town halls as a way ‘to engage with students on their own terms,’ by sitting down and listening to the issues they have. A return to campus town hall is one particular one he says would be a priority. Horan mentioned ‘active advertising’ as a way to maximise engagement in the town halls. As part of this ‘active advertising,’ he wants to distribute a per-semester leaflet to student renters on campus and also in an online format. While he says the Student Union email is ‘the main form of communication,’ he admits ‘it’s not going anywhere.’
Finally, in his manifesto, Horan outlines the case for the Students Union running more thematic weeks, citing the success of SHAG week. When asked about the potential worry that running too many thematic weeks could reduce their impact, Horan defends the idea saying this would allow the Students Union to run their events ‘in a more coherent format.’ Horan mentioned trade union week as a key thematic week he would like to run in order ‘popularise ideas around workers rights what issues students will face after university in the workforce,’ along with an anti-racism week and an international solidarity week.
In 2020, Horan ran unsuccessfully for the role of education officer in a very tight race. Since then, he said he has ‘come to enjoy the campaigning aspect of the Student Union’, citing his experience campaigning as a class rep, but now wants to work ‘full-time on campaigns and engagement.’
Conor Paterson – Features Editor