The College Tribune spoke to final year Law with Social Justice student, Míde Nic Fhionnlaoich, about her recently announced campaign for the next Students’ Union Welfare Officer.
Míde describes herself as follows:
I’m a final year law student from Conamara, Galway. I’ve spent the last 3 years involved in the SU in various roles. In my time in UCD I’ve also been heavily involved in societies like the Cumann Gaelach. My manifesto is focusing on empowering students by making them aware of their rights and how to protect themselves with the law, fighting for increased and sustainable funding of mental health supports, and supporting the physical and sexual health and wellbeing of students.
When asked why she is running for Welfare Officer, Míde spoke of the repetition in student issues, citing housing and mental health supports as two of the main problems students face year after year: “I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with students facing overburdened Mental Health supports, ever-increasing housing precarity, and spiralling living costs, from playing a part in the Not a Business protests in 2019 to the It’s Not Me It’s UCD protest just this month.” She aims to address these issues in her term; tackling the housing crisis, she believes, should involve some level of student empowerment:
“I’d like to address issues regarding access to housing, both through lobbying for rent controls with UCD and the government and through mobilising students, making them aware of their rights as tenants and licensees. Without proper concentrated education on what your rights are, it’s easy to be exploited, and I think that’s something the SU can and should address.”
The pressing issue of mental health support for students is also high on Míde’s agenda, it being “the perennial welfare issue”. She continued:
“Since I got to UCD, and before, the SU has been campaigning for better resourcing of counselling. UCD has been warned against using stop-gap solutions like outsourcing to address systemic failures and we’re really seeing the impact of these failures with the delays students are facing in getting help. We need to put pressure on the university to draft and deliver a fully costed Mental Health Strategy as a matter of urgency, so that’s also something I want the Union to focus on in my term.”
Election to Welfare Officer would not be Míde’s first role with the SU. Since first year, she has been involved both as a student representative and as the Law College Officer. While this in and of itself does not, she believes, make or break a candidate, she said her ability to do the job during Covid shows her capabilities as a worthy candidate for Welfare Officer: “With a part-time role and limited resources I was able to create a book voucher scheme for law students, fight to ensure continued access to online databases for law journals, and also contribute to things like the review of the Bullying and Harassment Policy and Sexual Harassment Policy.” Míde’s role in this area was a hands-on one, allowing her to gain “first-hand experience of offering peer to peer support”.
In terms of campaigning, Míde plans to do so both online and in-person, if permitted. She sees value in “hitting the pavement and hearing from students who may not necessarily be engaged with the union”. This, she believes, is an important way of ensuring she effectively represents students if elected. She wants people to know that “even if they aren’t interested in the Union, we’re always going to be there to support and fight for our members.”
Hugh Dooley – News Editor
Rosie Roberts Kuntz – Assistant News Editor