We undertook the gruelling task of reading through colourful manifestos, watched hours of hustings and grilled all of the candidates running in the University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) Executive Elections. Do the Presidential candidates pass muster? Should you vote for RON?

Liam Coyle for President

UCDSU President Candidate Liam Coyle is a very different presidential candidate compared to his opponents. His goals of being diplomatic rather than ‘militant’ have also made him out to be a ‘middle-of-the-road’ candidate that is open to compromise and may sacrifice some of the students’ desires and needs in order to get UCD management to agree to other desires and needs. One gets the impression from interviewing Coyle that he seeks to lead and guide students, rather than listen to their needs and do whatever he can to make them happen. Ultimately, he is the politician’s politician, and it is up to the students that he would be representing to decide if that is what is needed at this time.

Ed Leonard for President

Leonard’s manifesto is supposed to be encompassed in the slogan “setting the wheels in motion”. However, his manifesto does not describe anything that has not been promised before. It is difficult to see what exactly he is going to set in motion when reducing the student levy, reducing rent prices and improving library services have been promised every year and by nearly every candidate running for the presidency. The one distinct promise of a bursary to help students in financial difficulty is not supported by an estimated budget nor a plan on how it will be means-tested. Leonard’s campaign is one that focuses on the small things the SU has traditionally done such as coffee mornings and free food and period products. There is nothing new or radical to his campaign which sets him apart from his opponents. 

Ruairi Power for President

The experienced Power plays the political game better than any of his opponents, however, a vote for Power is a vote for continuing the theme of a “radical Students’ Union” (or as the Harpy put it ‘Wadical Action UwU”?). In this race, Power represents a vote for the status quo of Belfield’s student politics. He is the most experienced of all of the candidates, his term as Welfare Officer this year certainly makes him appear to be the best candidate on paper. Add to this, Power’s performances in hustings and a triple threat of interviews and he seems tough to beat. This is borne out in his advantage in social media engagement and surprisingly dominant performance in the polls. His manifesto and ideas, other than his plans to address the Students’ Union’s “legitimacy crisis”, are disappointingly bland despite their pretty Soc Dem colours. He knows what to say, how to say it and he plays the game best out of any candidate, he might deny that he is the favourite, but Coyle and Leonard are playing catchup.

UCDSU pres election
Polling shows that Power looks set storm the Presidential race // Graphic: Hugh Dooley, College Tribune

Molly Greenough – Welfare Officer

Passion? Yes. Understanding of UCD’s ills and the means to fix them? Not so. These remarks go some way towards summating Greenough’s campaign for Welfare Officer. Though no stranger to Union dealings having served as a class representative, Law College Officer and current Mental Health Campaign Coordinator – Greenough shows less familiarity with UCD’s deeper problems casting doubt on the feasibility of her manifesto. “Unsure” appeared one time too many in response to questions on mental health and on-campus rent increases. There’s little doubt Greenough will be there for students. But will this translate to broader institutional reform sorely needed by a locked-down and fed up student body? Unsure. 

Carla Gummerson – Graduate Officer

Gummerson was a very balanced candidate. She offered up a manifesto that has both achievable goals and aspirational movements that will continue long after she has left her second stint in the role. Gummerson was not afraid to admit her mistakes, such as not focusing on first-year graduate students, and was able to accept there is an engagement issue with the union. However, Gummerson was able to offer up solutions to issues surrounding engagement. Furthermore, Gummerson seems very optimistic as she is “not learning the role” this time around. She believes this will help her in achieving her manifesto goals. Her ability to accept that it wasn’t a perfect year, coupled with ambitious and achievable plans, is a good sign for Gummerson’s campaign. My only worry would be the fact that the graduate officer race is uncontested. I believe making this role enticing could prove difficult.

Aoife Bracken for Education Officer

Aoife Bracken has one common thread throughout her manifesto – practicability. She does not appear to be shooting for a radical approach to the role, electing instead to choose smaller, but perhaps more attainable goals. One of these is her proposed resit fund. Rather than promising to abolish resit fees altogether, she plans to implement a stepping stone to mitigate fees until a time comes when they can be abolished. The fund itself takes a more liberal form; it is not intended to be means-tested, however, the practicability of it currently seems tenuous as Bracken has not yet specified how students will access the fund. She is also aiming to get more funding for the library so that students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds will not be limited in terms of study space. Bracken’s manifesto, therefore, speaks to one of education’s greatest barriers – cost.

Darryl Horan for Campaigns and Engagement Officer

Bouncing back after a narrow loss in the education race last year, Darryl Horan looks more at home, running unopposed for Campaigns and Engagement. With plenty of experience campaigning both inside and outside the union, Horan seems to be more suited to the role he is running for now. His campaign slogan is simple, ‘Building Student Power,’ and his manifesto is concise. Just a few issues dominate his agenda, most notably, working to abolish
student fees. With engagement being a buzzword for all candidates this year, it remains to be seen whether Horan can deliver under the weight of pressure. His campaign ideas are bold, prioritising long-term ambitions over short-term student interests. It is unclear if that is really what is required to turn the growing tide of student disengagement.

Sarah Michalek looks to be in danger of losing her election to Reopen Nominations // Hugh Dooley, College Tribune

Sarah Michalek for Ents Officer

Sarah Michalek decided to re-run for Ents Officer because she would love the opportunity to host events on-campus. She describes her manifesto as “purposely vague” so as to avoid making empty promises to students. Her manifesto focuses on charity events, mental wellbeing workshops, safe drug and alcohol campaigns, and specifically on engagement with future second-year students. If elected, Michalek hopes to build on the work she has done this year and also incorporate some of last year’s proposals which she was unable to fulfil due to the pandemic. Her goals are clear however, they may not all be feasible this year. “

Written by, in order:
Stephen Kisbey-Green – Co-Editor
Manny Choudry – Deputy News Editor
Hugh Dooley – News Editor
Rowan Kelleher – Assistant News Editor
Luke Murphy – Co-Editor
Rosie Roberts-Kuntz – Assistant News Editor
Conor Paterson – Features Editor
Emma Hanrahan – Assistant News Editor

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