The race for President consists of six candidates and is not only the largest in this year’s sabbatical elections, but also the largest race in recent years for a sabbatical position.
In interviews with the University Observer, all candidates were asked what the role of President entails, their answers included the usual buzzwords in this race: “face of the union,” “CEO of the union,” and “someone to represent students.” It is the final item that is the most important. The President sits on the highest boards within UCD including FRAMC, the Finance Remuneration and Asset Management Committee, on which they do not even have a vote, but they can give a voice for the student body.
The SU President needs to know who is making decisions that affect students and be able to negotiate those decisions. Current SU President Barry Murphy was the only candidate who was able to give an accurate rundown of the boards the President sits on, and their role on those boards. Certainly, Murphy’s knowledge and experience of the role leaves him well prepared to re-enter the position next year, however students may have a hard time voting for someone who appears this power hungry. Last time he ran for President he said that he would be happy not to run again. Now he is going back on this, leading students to wonder if he was being genuine before.
Amy Crean’s vision of an activism-focused union is appealing but does not take into account how students engage with the union. Currently, students are engaging with the repeal movement, which is led by UCD for Choice, not solely by the union, and union-led activism such as the March for Education, has had much less student involvement. In her interview Crean offered no solutions for getting more students involved.
Crean’s poor management of the LGBTQ+ society while auditor could be a concern. While Crean says that things have changed since then, and she no longer has the problems she had at the time, can students trust her management ability given her record? Additionally, that Crean will be in the USA during the lead up to the elections may lead some to wonder how much she wants this role.
Rosaleen Aljohmani’s manifesto offers big ideas, but with little thought, and few actually seem feasible. Aljohmani’s ‘Solidarity’ event, which was going to be a one-day festival to celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity never went ahead despite Aljohmani contacting societies to get involved, and setting a date for February. Aljohmani’s failure to accept any responsibility for the event not taking place, or for not contacting societies to inform them it was cancelled shows a real lack of leadership and follow-through.
Ryan Oakes has been a consistent feature of the union throughout his years in UCD and in his campaign for President, he is attempting to juggle the Ents and activism nature of the union. It is in Ents where Oakes could potentially make the most difference while his ‘activism conference’ idea is lacking. Running it like an activism Freshers’ tent may not be inspiring enough for students who will have already been bombarded in the actual Freshers’ tent.
Juliet McFadden is the outside voice in this race. She has no knowledge of the boards on which the President sits, and says that she will learn that on the job. While McFadden wants ‘less talk and more action’ from the SU, as President her job will mostly be talking on behalf of students. Her manifesto has good ideas for improving events and campaigns, but some of her ideas lean more towards the role of C&C Officer rather than President.
The final candidate in the race is Breifne O’Brien. As current College Officer for Agriculture, Food, and Veterinary, O’Brien’s conduct this year has been called into question by those at student council. Although O’Brien denies it, he did not submit his college officer reports to council at the times when he was supposed to. As SU President, O’Brien would at times be required to submit proposals to boards, and if they are not received, a cause may be lost for the union.
It is O’Brien’s attitude towards the LGBT+ community that is most concerning. While praising the introduction of gender neutral bathrooms he raises concerns that they could replace disabled access bathrooms. This is not what is happening under the recent proposal and shows a lack of research at the very least. In semester one, O’Brien was called into a meeting with sabbatical officers regarding homophobic comments he had made. O’Brien says he has not made homophobic remarks “in a serious way.”
With six candidates in the race, the counting of votes will end up taking a long time as second preferences and third preferences are transferred. This is a race where voting down the ballot will make a difference, and students would be prudent to research each candidate before giving them their number one, two, or three preference.