It’s been a couple of years since we’ve had an incumbent run for President within UCDSU. While Barry Murphy hasn’t actually served a full term as President of the SU, he’s been at the forefront of it between the impeachment of Katie Ascough and then deciding to run for President after said impeachment. He was quoted as saying he ‘never wanted to see a polling station again’ following his election and yet here he is again, asking for your vote for election.
‘I was sick of the attention on me personally and I was really broken. I ran for president because it was the right thing to do. This is now a different time and I would like to think I’ve done a lot of work and brought it back off its knees.’
When asked why he was re-running he said ‘You do it because you want to do good for the students. I by no means love myself, I’m a very shy individual and always have been’.
Whether Murphy got a fair crack of the whip in terms of being President is up for debate given he’s only really been in the job since November. However, he isn’t shy about telling students what he’s achieved in the last year or so such as the ‘House Hunterz’ campaign which did lead to meetings with the Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy as well as funding. In fact Murphy does claim to have done a lot of things and reading his manifesto would suggest he’s done a lot of this alone which of course is untrue.
What does Murphy intend to do if re-elected? Well he wants a rewrite of the UCDSU Constitution which he describes as ‘weighty’ and ‘outdated’. ‘It’s a weighty document that was made at the time in reaction to going bankrupt and pushes all the power back on the President’. Murphy finds it ‘peculiar that staff don’t report to the COO’. *
‘No 20 year old should be expected to step into the shoes as CEO of two companies and it’s something that I believe went wrong with the impeachment with someone who’d never even worked a part-time job before coming in to being CEO of two companies. It’s a huge undertaking and you need experience to do that.’
The constitution also seems to hand a lot of power over to the Returning Officer, a job which Murphy described as ‘a handy gig for a law graduate’ with ‘the cheapest office in South Dublin’. ‘The Returning Office operates nowhere else like it does here. Yes it needs to be independent but the Returning Office is an employee of SU and so needs to report to the SU’
‘Even before I decided to re run, I was pushing for elections to be brought forward to before the break for the sake of student welfare and I was threatened to be reported by IADB by the Returning Office because it wasn’t my place and it was out of courtesy that they were talking to me’.
When challenged on why the SU hadn’t supported the Boycott Aramark campaign, Murphy said the SU needed to aim at bigger targets.
‘There are certain issues with that campaign. I don’t think it’ll work. If you boycott one restaurant in UCD, you’re left with very few food options and there’s also the issue with staff with the possibility of staff losing their jobs. UCD don’t give a fiddler’s if Aramark is there or not. If the motion comes without the Aramark part, it may be passed. We should be aiming bigger. There’s 32 Direct Provision units across the country and Aramark work in 3 so we should be targeting the government. By targeting them you’re getting to the route of the problem. Aramark are just employed by the government.’
The crux of Murphy’s campaign is continuity and being able to keep putting pressure on UCD. Murphy says that his re-election would allow him to keep his foot on the gas regarding important campaigns such as mental health and consent. ‘It happens every year in the first 2 weeks of June where the university pushes through things such as services they provide int he Student Centre and that has happened in a number of the last few cycles’.
A big part of his manifesto is food options which he says he’s done a lot of work on already. ‘It’s what you can control and what you can control. The president’s daily workload involves the shops and it’s overseeing the choices we make as regards food selection whether it’s a grocery or pit stop shop. For example our deli has grown a lot and that has been a lot of my input. We also brought in microwaveable dinners which was very much myself as well with a student start up company that we supported and there’s vegan and vegetarian options there too’.
According to Murphy, UCD may not be keen to re-run the consent campaign where each first year was shown a video about consent. ‘They’re already starting to hesitate about doing it next year. A new naive incoming set of sabbats may accept that pushback but because we know how well it went last year, we won’t accept it’.
When asked was it fair to call any incoming sabbat naive Murphy responded ‘Even if you have experience in the SU, until you get into it, you will never know what it entails. Anyone coming in who hasn’t been a sabbat is naive or doesn’t know the full workload of a sabbatical role’.
It’s clear that Barry Murphy is the most experienced candidate running for President. That being said, whether students will buy his manifesto is up for debate. There’s no question he worked hard and stepped up when the role of President needed to be filled but the reputation of the SU is by no means fixed. There is a lot of ‘I have done’ in the manifesto with less fixed ideas of ‘what I want to do’. There’s also the issue that despite him claiming he’s a shy individual, re-running for a job that he said he didn’t want only 4 months ago looks suspicious and optics are everything as we know. It smacks of an obsession with legacy and image which he did deny in the interview.
Murphy believes he’s the best person for that job. ‘There’s nobody else better qualified then someone who is already doing the job. I’ve seen campaigns that have worked and campaigns that have gone badly and I’ve learned from those. Any of those that have gone badly I’ve made an effort to reflect and to correlate the facts and that is something that if I was re-elected would continue to do next year.’
However, just because you believe you’re the right candidate for the job doesn’t mean that you are and whether UCD students are ready to take Murphy at his word is completely up to them. However, being President already comes with the inherent advantage of people knowing who you are which in a college with such low student turnout as UCD is vital. Murphy is also transfer friendly for the same reason.
Murphy is the main candidate in this Presidential election and so it’s up to other campaigns to try and unseat him. How he comes across at Hustings may swing it for him or could completely undo him.
Rachel O’Neill – Editor
*This post was updated from an earlier version which misquoted Barry Murphy.