SU Election 2020: Darryl Horan - Education

Darryl Horan is a 22-year-old History and Classics student running for Education Officer. Horan is a member of People Before Profit and is running as part of the "Radical" slate, alongside Ruairí Power. He states that the most important part of the position is “being there for students when they need you”. Horan believes students should vote for him because he has “a track record of being a radical voice fighting for change in UCD”. 

Much of Horan’s manifesto focusses on continuing, if not increasing, the more radical approach made by UCDSU in recent weeks. When asked about this shift by the SU, he expressed support. He said he had “been very much on the side of encouraging (them) to do so and pushing them even further and yeah I hope it continues.” While he does not consider himself to be a traditional candidate in terms of SU experience, he states that he has “a wealth of UCD based and national based campaigning, with a particular focus to improving student experience.” 

Horan wants to emphasise the campaigning aspects of the position. This move makes sense given both his background in political campaigning and the changes made to the role in the SU constitution last March. He states he wants to dedicate most of the Education budget to campaigns, leaving “20 to 30% to exam supports”. 

One of the more ambitious promises in his manifesto is to achieve a reduction in repeat/resit fees. He says he would do this “by continuing the wave of protests we have right now…building up to a partnership with the university…whereby the university has to concede on some of these issues.” The last major attempt to solve this problem was by Robert Sweeney, Education Officer in 2017/2018, who managed to get a €50 decrease on resit fees and no change in repeat fees. Horan believes it will be easier now than it was then because “there wasn’t a movement for change when Rob Sweeney was here”. 

Horan supports UCDSU rejoining USI. This move makes sense given his emphasis on campaigning, both nationally and within UCD. With regards to fees, Horan wants to build a national coalition to campaign on this issue. Rejoining USI seems a logical step in achieving this goal. He also wants this coalition to include other groups such as the ISSU and Fix Our Education. He was optimistic about the possibility for progress on this issue, citing the recent General Election result. He claims that “virtually every party is in agreement that there has to be massive funding put into third-level education. We would just argue that some of that funding should be diverted to reducing fees.”

Horan also supports ending the student centre levy by lobbying the HEA “to include it under their free fees scheme.” This would exclude low-income students from paying the levy. He does not think it is likely he will be able to end it for all students in his time in office but believes ending it for some and making progress for the rest is an achievable goal. Horan also plans to lobby for increases in funding for the library and for students who undergo mandatory placement. He claims this involves both pushing for these concerns on committees and also campaigning nationally. 

Horan is sceptical of the ability to make significant progress through committees alone. He claims they need to be combined with “radical action”. When asked whether radical action might threaten the SU’s positions on these committees, he claimed that was a risk he was willing to take. “My worry would be, by protesting, if they just revoke these seats unilaterally…it’s that we never had a say to begin with”.

Horan was also critical of many aspects of the SUSI grant system. He stated that he has “been on SUSI my entire time here” and “would not be in UCD otherwise”. He claimed the grant had failed to keep up with the cost of living and called for an end to means testing. “The fact that say one year your family earns 23,400, yep you’re fine. If you’re family earns 23,600, you lose virtually about eight grand in funding. It has to be proportional”. Horan also stated that the biggest barriers to accessing an education in UCD for prospective students are “housing fees and, for rural students, transport”. 

Despite the emphasis Horan puts on campaigning, he still maintained that casework was a priority. “These are the people that need help now because they’re calling for it.” He stated he would be willing to forgo attending certain boards in order to deal with particularly important cases. He emphasised the importance of casework when assessing the performance of the incumbent Education Officer, Brian Treacy, saying “I think he’s done a good job, especially in relation to casework.” However, he also said “some students do feel let-down”, citing Veterinary students’ unhappiness with his handling of their twenty-credit module and “not being available on crucial dates for students”.  

Horan showed an impressive understanding of both the role and its place within the UCD administration. He knew the size of the Education budget. He was able to name every committee on which the Education Officer sits and all the support services in UCD. When asked about the state of the Access Centre, Horan said that most students he had spoken to had negative responses, “particularly those that would be queer.” He claimed, “the Access Centre staff are not as sensitive to their issues as they should be” He cited self-advocacy as another problem. “They don’t feel represented in this regard.” He also said it should be less centralised and that “there should be a committed officer in at least every school to help disabled students.”  

When asked what he wanted to change about how union staff were managed, Horan stated that “all staff in the union need a living wage.” This would include corridor staff, shop staff, and the editors of the University Observer. He claimed that “a union is supposed to be there to protect workers and students. UCDSU is not protecting its workers by not giving them a living wage.”

Darryl Horan has significant campaigning experience and an understanding of the problems UCD students face. His manifesto has detailed and ambitious plans and given the groundswell of support for radical action in UCD at the minute, they are much more achievable than they might be in a normal year.