UCDSU on-campus voting takes place on the 4th and 5th of April.
The existing UCDSU Education Officer is asking students to ‘Rely on Ní Riada’ and select her to be the new President of the SU. Martha Ní Riada has a year of Sabbat experience under her belt, and a handful of achievements to show for herself too, such as achieving a decrease in resit fees for students. She is knowledgeable about the structures of UCD and has demonstrated a strong understanding of how to get things done on the job.
Ní Riada decided to run for UCDSU President in November after “seeing the positive impact” her work as Education Officer was having on students, “I could see there were things being changed by the work of the union, and I could see the value of it […] I wanted to run for President because I could see things I wanted to do differently.”
Ní Riada anticipates that her presidential style will differ from those that have come before her, but she admits that she will take learnings from each of the previous SU Presidents that she has worked with. She believes that her hard-working nature and willingness to listen to others puts her in a unique position to lay the foundations of the relationship with the new UCD President Orla Feely.
When asked if she thinks that the race for SU President being uncontested is a problem, Ní Riada said; “Generally uncontested races are a bad thing. For a healthy democracy, contested races are better” however, she maintained that the primary reasons for a lack of candidates resulted from issues surrounding the housing crisis and the cost of living crisis, two issues that the Union are actively campaigning against. She also blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for poor engagement from the older years, who were previously more inclined to run for sabbatical positions. “I’m hopeful in the coming years we will have more contested sabbatical races because the interest is quite high, but the students who are interested are too young [to run].”
One of Ní Riada’s core manifesto points is visibility, recommending more SU presence on the ground and believing that the Union needs to be proactive in attracting students to its activism. She wants to increase transparency as to what the UCDSU Sabbatical Officers do on a day-to-day basis and to explain what the Union achieves on the college’s various boards and committees.
The current Education Officer wants to create a “culture of consent”, by working with the UCD Dignity & Respect Service to identify areas of concern on campus. She demonstrated a cohesive understanding of the way the college’s anti-harassment structures worked, though did not specify how she would enact change to create said culture.
Ní Riada aims to make on-campus food options cheaper, while the SU shops do not regularly make a meaningful profit from students, she will look to focus on the other organisations on campus, such as the Centra in the UCD Village which is run by the Michael Wright Group, “In the village, the Centra is extremely expensive […] we’ve already been discussing with the Bursar [UCD’s chief accountant] and other people in UCD Estates, and they do recognise that it’s extremely expensive.”
Ní Riada recognised that the Union had no control over the private companies who run many of the food establishments on campus, but said “UCD does own the building they’re in and gives them the licences to rent the properties, so have some say over what is sold in the shops” and would seek to leverage this to put pressure on Centra to lower its prices.
The only Presidential candidate who has focused many of her campaign promises on the topic of the environment and sustainability, promising to ensure that sustainable thinking would stay at the forefront of UCD’s agenda. Ní Riada believes that the University’s new position of Vice-President of Sustainability comes at an important time for the college and offers opportunities for the Union to work with the new appointee to collaborate on future projects.
The Presidential candidate anticipates that a highlight of her Presidential year will be the digs drive in September. She hopes that under her supervision the drive will “get a large amount of beds” and effectively “emphasise the need for seven-day lets [sic]”. She also hopes that the profile of the Union on campus will be higher under her tenure.
She is in favour of rejoining the Union of Students in Ireland; “If we’re not in it, we can’t change it.”, but says that she would respect students’ choice not to restart a relationship with the national union, though notes UCDSU has the same problems as USI with engagement and transparency.
Ní Riada noted that “if we do join USI, that’s something that’s very important, that campaigns we are involved in have an endpoint” and that these campaigns must bring about change.
Emma Hanrahan – Co-Lead of Investigations
Hugh Dooley – Co-Lead of Investigations