Hustings roundup: Questions of professionalism at the centre of debate

Reporting by Dylan O'Neill and Brían Donnelly

The by-election Hustings saw the sole candidate for the role of Irish Language Officer, Míde Nic Fhionnlaoich, and the two candidates for the role of Entertainments Officer, Sophie Sheridan-Burns and Thomas Monaghan, debate their manifestos and address questions from the Union's Returning Officer Michael Foley, campaign teams and the University Observer. In the Fitzgerald Chamber in the New Student Centre, candidates spoke to a room of roughly 30 people, consisting almost exclusively of campaign team members.

Uncontested Irish Language Officer candidate Míde Nic Fhionnlaoich
(Picture: Nathan George Young for the University Observer)

First to speak was Míde Nic Fhionnlaoich in the Irish Language Officer race. Nic Fhionnlaoich told students that she wishes "to create a better experience of Irish on campus" by normalising the Irish through bilingual events and transcribing the SU student update emails in to Irish. She proposed working in conjunction with the campaign coordinators to organise the events, addressing the issue of "saying everyone is welcome, you're not making sure everyone is taking part."

When asked about the feasibility on translating the SU update emails, and if she transcribe the emails herself, Nic Fhionnlaoich said it was "important to make the effort at the start of the year" as she believed that the group with the most potential to gain were "the people in the middle - those who didn't have the best time in school [with Irish]."

Entertainments Officer candidates Sophie Sheridan-Burns and Thomas Monaghan (Picture: Nathan George Young for the University Observer)

In the Ents race, both candidates opened by outlining their manifesto points. Both candidates were quizzed on the UCD Ball, their working relationship with the Clubhouse, mediocre attendance at events and their biggest achievements and failures.

Incumbent Campaigns and Communications (C&C) Officer, Thomas Monaghan, answered first on the discontinuation of the UCD Ball, stating that the reason it was not included in his manifesto was because "last time it was held, it was too big...there was a fatality," acknowledging that it fell under the jurisdiction of Donnybrook Garda station who "make the final call." Monaghan suggested that going forward, it could be possible to have the Ball held off campus and team up with other universities. Last year, 'The Ball' was cancelled due to poor ticket sales for a collaborative event between UCDSU and DITSU that was meant to be held in Dun Laoghaire.

Sheridan-Burns reiterated the points Monaghan made, adding that she didn't want to make "fun false promises" on her manifesto. She proposed to expand the end of year event in the Clubhouse out into the Quad.

Both candidates expressed optimism in working with the Bar staff, Sheridan-Burns noting that as long as her events "fit the clubhouse terms" she would be able to bring in more music gigs to the Clubhouse. This was also mentioned as the reason that her "Shite Night" events would have to be held in the Student Centre, as according to Sheridan-Burns, the Clubhouse did not want to hold an event that was advertised as a drinking event. Monaghan also recalled having multiple meetings with Clubhouse staff for events he wished to hold in the bar, stating that in these meetings he had discussed "the pros and the cons" of each event.

Polling times for the Union's byelection

Sheridan-Burns held the position that organisation and promotion were crucial in event management, when asked about how she would engage students to attend events in the future. Monaghan agreed that promotion was a big factor in the management side of events, but defended the turnout for Bingo Loco in October of last year.

Monaghan listed the Fresh Sesh with John Gibbons, Pretty Little Thing and the world record attempt as his biggest events to date. Sheridan-Burns said that she didn't plan events, due to her College Officer budget of €500, but said that establishing the Newman Building users forum with fellow College Officer Sophie Gibbons was her biggest achievement this past year.

When the topic of why the Ents Officer was abolished when the Union faced financial difficulties and the reports of a lack of professionalism on the part of past Ents Officers was brought up at Hustings, Sheridan-Burns believed that "nobody should drink on the job during events" as a way to ensure professionalism from the sabbatical Officer. Monaghan said that the race was a "popularity contest" and that "students vote for more craic and more experience" in a candidate, which he believed made it "hard to stay on the straight and narrow," but stating that he didn't see himself drinking as much in the coming year.

Asked what their biggest achievement and biggest failure of their year was, Monaghan responded that his biggest failure was the manner in which he responded to online criticism of the Union's recent world record attempt. Monaghan alluded to a Facebook comment left on a post from the UCD Rants Facebook page in which he wrote, "Hey UCD Rants, why don't you call in to the SU next week? I heard they give out free tampons at reception". The incumbent C&C Officer said that he had intended to "stand up to an online bully who regularly harasses and who regularly intimidates the good work of other UCD students". Apologising for the comment, he stated that he had not anticipated that he would offend anybody by posting the comment, which, at the time of publication, has not been removed. Monaghan listed the Union's world record, which had been the subject of online criticism, as his biggest achievement.

Sheridan-Burns told the room that the introduction of a building manager for the Newman building was her biggest achievement and would make it easier for future college officers to fulfil their own manifestos. She stated that not having any major events held during the year was her biggest failure, alleging that College Officers do not get adequate support for such events. Later in the event, after being interrupted by Monaghan who stated the College Officers receive a budget for events, Sheridan-Burns hit back by saying €500 was not enough to hold major events.

Sheridan-Burns also addressed the restriction of her campaigning on Wednesday afternoon by the Union's Returning Office. An account which had previously been used to canvass for a role within the Union encouraged students to vote for Sheridan-Burns. A report was subsequently submitted to the Returning Office and her campaign team restricted from canvassing.