Presidential Candidate: Breifne O’Brien

Breifne O’Brien is a 21 year old Agri-Environmental Sciences student and is currently the Ag, Food, and Vet Officer.

O’Brien offers ambitious ideas such as reducing fees for students on placement, making the bar serve cans, and reducing on campus accommodation costs. He says to challenge the issue of fees for students on placement “you’re going to have to get on to the people that are in charge of fees.” He admits that making the bar serve cans is “not something that you’re going to do in your first couple of weeks of presidency.” The cost of accommodation on campus is not set by UCD so UCDSU does not have a say on the costs though they could protest.

O’Brien has done some of his research and could name UCD’s finances committee. Nevertheless, he appears to have made an error along the way. He mentions the “University Management Committee” and has “UMC” scrawled on his hand but this board in UCD is actually called the “University Management Team” or “UMT.” It is one of the most powerful boards in UCD.

When asked about academic council O’Brien avoids the subject and complains that the UCD SU website has not been updated.

O’Brien does not know what the campaigns forum is. He cannot name any of the campaigns coordinators, even after he is given the hint of gender equality coordinator. As Ag, Food, and Vet Officer O’Brien sits on student council along with all the campaigns coordinators, class reps, and sabbatical officers.

He does not know what “SHAG” in SHAG week stands for.

He says that he wants to reduce the stigma around mental health. He says that “It’s all about talking, not to authorities… it’s just about talking, even to friends, encourage and promote talking.” He thinks “coffee mornings are great and all that but I suppose coffee morning is just kind of like brushing it aside like you have to take it on, tackle the issue head on.” He agreed that he would work with PleaseTalk on the issue. It is clear however, that he does not know what PleaseTalk is as he did not realise that it is run by students.

Speaking on the student centre levy he says, “it’s going to good causes.” He says that he does not know if the continued increases in the student centre levy are feasible. He suggests that one thing that could be looked into in relation to the student centre levy is “if you could maybe look into the feasibility of pool membership as well. I suppose students wouldn’t mind paying a slight bit more for getting more for their money.” Students can currently pay €99 on top of the student centre levy in order to extend their membership to cover access to the pool as well.

While most election candidates did not have a clear stance on Aramark, O’Brien does not support boycotting the company. He says that being asked about whether or not he supports the boycott is being asked “do I support the potential loss of 50 jobs on campus?” He does not support this potential loss. He states that if a motion to support the boycott was passed through council he would then support the boycott as the constitution states that he must support all motions passed through council.

While most election candidates did not have a clear stance on Aramark, O’Brien does not support boycotting the company.

O’Brien says that gender neutral bathrooms “should be welcomed.” Nevertheless, he has one worry on the issue. “The only thing about gender neutral bathrooms is we need to be sure that they’re wheelchair accessible… and that there’s still sufficient a number of bathrooms available for that are wheelchair accessible. [sic]” A post on O’Brien’s campaign facebook page mentions this and features a photo of him smiling with someone who appears to have a disability. Wheelchair accessible bathrooms on campus are already gender neutral and will not be affected by the introduction of gender neutral bathrooms.

When asked if the handing in of student council reports as Ag, Food, and Vet Officer had been flagged as an issue he responds, “I’m not sure, because I do [hand in reports].” O’Brien has not handed in all of his reports in advance of student council and in one student council he said that he would take his report as read but it was confirmed that a report had never been received.

When asked if he had made homophobic comments he says “not in a serious manner” but admits that a meeting had taken place between himself and sabbatical officers over remarks he had made. He says that it is “absolutely not” acceptable to make homophobic comments in a non-serious manner and “I can’t understand why these allegations were made against me.” He refers to the conversation where the comments were made and says that a “rural person” was “encouraging debate,” it is not clear if he is referring to himself or someone else. He says that he would attend Dublin Pride with the union.