UCDSU has turned its back on Education Vice-President Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin. By not backing his candidacy for USI Education Officer, student members of UCDSU Council have sent a clear message to their counterparts around the country that their patience and their faith in his abilities has all but run out. It’s admirable, then, that they refuse to back him as a national representative and advocate for third level education.
While many students may not know, approve of or agree with the existence or functioning of the Union of Students in Ireland, they are our representatives on a national level and should therefore have the best possible candidates vying for the positions come election time. According to UCDSU, Ó Súilleabháin is not that candidate. Although this paper has never been particularly kind to USI, or indeed its affiliated unions around the country, the people running for election must be admired for stepping forward to represent our interests.
And some admiration must be reserved for the UCD students who stood up against one of our own officers when they believed him unsuitable for the job. Ó Súilleabháin asked members of Council to judge him on his record, and they duly complied. His record, according to his critics, is a myriad of broken promises, lies and inaction. The scandal surrounding last year’s Science Day finances could be one that Ó Súilleabháin never lives down. While none of the allegations have been definitively proven, the lingering suspicion alone can only follow Ó Súilleabháin through his college career. All in all, his record does not recommend him to USI – and neither, quite rightly did UCDSU.
But the question remains: if his capabilities regarding the position of USI Education are so questionable, if his standing as an honourable person has been so disputed, and if his record is so mediocre, why then is he still acceptable as the Eduction Officer for Ireland’s largest university?
If Ó Súilleabháin is unsuitable for USI, surely he is unsuitable for UCDSU. The argument that a bad officer is better than no officer was summararily rejected last week with regards USI. In that case, is no officer better than a bad officer for UCD?
There were students that defended Ó Súilleabháin’s performance on a personal level, saying that his dealing with students one-on-one have always been exemplary as far as they were concerned. Perhaps UCDSU President Gary Redmond should step up then and remove all other responsibilities from the Education brief and let Ó Súilleabháin concentrate on his strengths. Redmond has a responsibility to his students, the vast majority of whose representatives have voted against the current Education Officer, maybe now is the time to do something to ensure a message is conveyed to any other student considering a career in student politics – a message that a poor officer is not better than no officer, and that poor performers will be substituted with just that.