UCDSU Election Candidates: Final Analysis
Three of this year’s races are uncontested; Katie O’Dea, Conor Anderson and Brian Treacy are the only candidates running for the roles of C&C Officer, Graduate Officer and Education Officer, respectively. All ran competent campaigns. Anderson’s being relatively low-key, as is usually the case with the role of Graduate Officer.
Campaigns & Communications Officer
Katie O’Dea’s benefits greatly from her experience and enthusiasm. She can be eloquent and soft-spoken when discussing her ideas, but loud and energetic when behind a megaphone leading a protest. This duality is present in her manifesto, as she plans to both connect with students on an individual level through ‘Lunch with Sabbats’ and engage the student body as a whole to participate in campaigns on the national stage.
The weaknesses of her manifesto lie in the Entertainment section where she hopped on the Rag Week buzzword bandwagon; being critical of past years without offering much of a plan to improve it. This criticism is perhaps irrelevant though, as the inclusion of Ents in her manifesto was a formality, because, if the constitutional referendum passes this week, this part of the role will be reassigned to the newly created sabbatical position of Entertainment Officer.
Brian Treacy’s strengths lie in his knowledge and his willingness to learn. As Higher Education Officer of the University Observer, he has gained the skills to represent students academic interests on the numerous boards he would sit on as Education Officer.
While he has some big ideas in his manifesto that seem like pipe-dreams, he has laid down groundwork for some, such as speaking to the Registry about a possible plan to reform the way students view their assessment dates. He understands that applying for Extenuating Circumstances or SUSI grants are imperfect processes that often leave some struggling students without much needed assistance and seems to be completely genuine in his desire to help students get the utmost from academic life in UCD.
George Merrin and Úna Carroll are contesting the role of Welfare Officer. It’s evident that Carroll is the more prepared candidate. Merrin brings some new ideas to the race, but the inherent problem with a public campaign for welfare officer is that a lot of time is spent discussion of new incentives when, in reality, the majority of Welfare’s job is casework.
One particular goal Merrin outlined on his manifesto was to have free sanitary products available in all bathrooms. It was only after he mentioned this at Hustings did Carroll refute the possibility of this, saying that free products could not be supplied to bathrooms that already had vending machines in them. She then presented her own version of this concept, one that she had not mentioned in her previous interview with the Tribune, to mimic the Red Box Project in Manchester that supplies free products outside bathrooms in a big red box. One question outlined an important concern about Carroll’s proposal; would students confuse the red boxes with the purple boxes that the Mature Student’s society use to collect sanitary products for those in need.
Also at Hustings, Carroll mentioned her discussions with the health centre about the expansion of HIV testing on campus. As far as the Tribune knows, the Health service already offers HIV testing as part of it’s current STI tests. Perhaps Carroll meant that she plans to make it freely available in the Welfare Office. With the growing number of HIV diagnoses in Ireland, it was a common topic for candidates, however none have officially mentioned support for wider access to PrEP.
Merrin has somewhat managed to put a positive spin on his early involvement in Katie Ascough’s anti-impeachment campaign, saying that his record as a pro-choice student supporting a pro-life student proves that he can be approached by any student with any issues, regardless of their stance on abortion.
Both candidates Mental Health points are lacking. Their responses at Hustings to being questioned on how they would tackle the immense counselling waiting hours was to encourage student activism on the topic, a baseless plan for an issue affecting students at their most vulnerable. Merrin hopes to address the “grey area” for students with mental health difficulties applying for extenuating circumstances. He plans to guide students through the process, but without having spoken to anyone in the administration, there is no indication of how the process could be changed to be more accommodating of these students, if at all.
Conversely to Merrin’s plan to return to specifically dedicated week campaigns, Carroll wants to spread campaigns across the academic year. The former allows topics to be forgotten, while the latter lacks emphasis, but both candidates seem to agree that they want a change from this year that ran a two day campaigns each semester. Both candidates have interesting ideas and friendly demeanours; this race could come down to popularity and candidates on-the-ground campaigning.
In a presidential race with half the number of candidates we had running last year, the sparsity has allowed to room to comprehensively compare candidates. It’s strikingly clear that one of the three presidential hopefuls is more qualified for the role than the two others: Joanna Siewierska. Having worked in the Irish Second Level Student Union (ISSU), worked with government ministers and trained class reps, there is no doubt that she has the most relevant experience.
Siewierska was not exempt for the tiring trend of Rag Week promises, but she, of all candidates, seems to have the greatest understanding of the flaws in recent year’s events. At Hustings, she recognised that Rag Week is not the President’s responsibility directly, but that she would need to ensure that the Union Officers have the proper resources available to them to run an event of such scale.
Unfortunately, what is one of Siewierska’s greatest assets could work against her too; there may be some voters than don’t warm to her technical and knowledgeable approach to questions. She lacks the ‘lad’ personas that the other two candidates embody. Her realism may seem boring beside the saccharin promises of campus Fan Zones and nights out.
Michael Geary has been auditor of Ag Soc this year, as a large society with an impressive charity collecting record, this experience would definitely benefit Geary as president. He seems to have the largest online following and has, by far, the highest readership of all our election interviews. This is perhaps due to the Ag faculty being a substantive voting bloc and having a strong devotion to their own candidates.
However, Geary has had some hiccups along the way. Most unfortunately, his name was misspelled on his campaign t-shirts. It’s unclear who was responsible for this awkward mishap, regardless, it does not inspire confidence in his campaign. Since hustings, Geary has publicly announced his support for the Vote Yes campaign in the Student Levy referendum. After giving a non-answer during his Tribune interview (as both other candidates did), this late endorsement of the Yes side seems like a last ditch effort to gain support.
Geary has dealt well with being questioned about Keepin’ It Country, never explicitly condemning his fellow committee members, but being clear in how the show was separate from Ag soc and does not at all reflect the views of Ag students.
In our Presidential Profiles, the Tribune gave Declan Kelly the nickname of ‘The Dark Horse’, but perhaps ‘The Populist’ would have been more accurate. Without any society or union experience, Kelly is the anti-establishment candidate.
Kelly’s manifesto is extensive, but there is little substance behind the promises. He seems to hold his ideas with a loose grasp, first listing the return of UCD Ball to campus as one of his presidential demands and then contradicting this at hustings by suggesting moving the Ball to Dún Laoghaire if needed. Most Welfare and Education promises he mentions are already fulfilled by the Union. The ideas he seems most enthusiastic about are mostly related to A lot of points relating to events and perhaps lie more under the jurisdiction of C&C; busking on campus, fan zones and increasing attendance in the Clubhouse.
Instead of creating his own campaign social media, Kelly has simply adapted his own, making it difficult to discern how much online support he has actually gained. While he may believe that this use of his personal social media has allowed him to be more relatable and transparent to students, the caption of one of the last photos before his election content being “The gradual decline of Sir Dicklord Kellycopter” really only makes him seem unprofessional.
Please check UCDSU social media for a list of polling station locations and voting times.
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor