Two students will contest the election for President of the UCD Students’ Union that will take place on March 6th and 7th. Mícheál Gallagher is the current Welfare Officer for UCDSU and was the first to put his name forward in what had initially appeared to be the second consecutive Presidential election to be uncontested following Rachel Breslin’s sole-candidacy in last year’s election.
Gallagher’s manifesto concentrates on the areas of education, pilule campaigns, entertainment, welfare and the relationship between the Students’ Union and the student body itself.
On the subject of education, Gallagher states that he intends to work with external organisations in an attempt to provide opportunities for students to improve and add to their repertoire of skills in the belief that “having skills outside your traditional area” will present a competitive advantage in a labour market heavily favouring employers.
The library and the possibility of a 24-hour study area is another area of focus for the candidate who stresses the prioritisation of library opening hours and resources on the Students’ Union agenda should he be elected. With Sunday opening hours only being instituted in the weeks leading up to the semester one exams, Gallagher acknowledged there was uncertainty as to whether this policy would remain in place. “Whenever I get elected I’ll be getting my teeth stuck into [the opening hours issue].” “It is possible that it will be closed [on Sundays],” he added.
In relation to the possibility of a 24-hour study area he admitted that he was not sure on the cost of providing this service but stated his belief that “it won’t be a cost to the Union, it will be a cost to UCD.”
With UCD students having voted to disaffiliate from the Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI), Gallagher was asked for his opinion as to the effectiveness of the USI and the outcome of the disaffiliation referendum. While his manifesto states: “Mícheál realises that the UCD student body is becoming somewhat disillusioned with campaigning nationally against fee hikes and seeing no results”, he nonetheless believes they did achieve some successes with the co-ordination of lobbying the government being one example that was offered.
When questioned on how the SU would now approach the subject of campaigns and fees, Gallagher presented a position that emphasised a focus on local issues rather than participation in national campaigns. His feeling on the cost of education was that while he believed in free fees, the economic circumstances meant that he was now “in favour of a loan-scheme of some description.”
As to the possibility of another referendum on UCD’s membership of the USI, the candidate said that he would be meeting with both the No and Yes sides from the recent referendum in order to “develop a framework of reforms that they’re happy with and that we’re happy with.”
Moving to Welfare, Gallagher reveals in his manifesto that the counseling service in UCD has a waiting list of over 5 weeks but promises to cut this period “through bold new proposals such as bringing in trainee counselors.” Gallagher acknowledged that such proposals were not yet set in stone and thus not definitive but said he would “do everything in [his] power” to ensure they were enacted.
Returning to the USI and his opinion as to its effectiveness, Gallagher stated that while he believed the Get Up, Stand Up, campaign (Gilmore 250 in UCD) was “very well run” from a logistical perspective, he thought “our time may have been better spent towards getting high quality policy people in to develop some sort of loan scheme.”
With an imminent change in the way that Ents is run on the cards, Mícheal has considered various options with regard to the Ents manager. He is confident that “there’s going to be no nepotism” and that the ideal candidate should be “someone with no connections to any promotion agencies in Dublin and no conflicting interests.” His manifesto alludes to the fact that he intends to employ a person with experience who will be able to make up for the loss of the sabbatical position of the Entertainments Vice President.
Mícheál says that he is quite happy with the performance of the union this year, especially due to the fact that the union encountered numerous problems in that “from September through November we didn’t even have a receptionist, we were left without a general manager.” He commends the current president, Rachel Breslin, for her response to the hardships of the union; “Rachel fulfilled both the role of president and general manager during Ireland’s toughest year in the recession to date. I’m quite admirable of how she performed.”
The current welfare officer is clearly someone who enjoys his job, remarking, “you do it because you love doing the job and because you love representing students and I think people should vote for me because I really want to give this my all next year and make UCDSU an organisation that they can be proud of again.”
By Jonny Baxter & Peter Hamilton.
Click here to read about the other candidates contesting this years sabbatical elections.