SU Election 2020: Ruairí Power- Welfare

Ruairí Power is a 20-year-old Psychology student and an election hopeful for the position of Welfare Officer. He currently serves as the auditor of the UCD branch of the Social Democrats. He has been heavily involved in the Fix Our Education campaign and is running as part of a “slate” of radical candidates alongside Darryl Horan.

“The main thing would be looking out for the students and I know that is signposting; putting people in contact with the relevant services and advocating for the best interests in various boards you sit on.” answered Ruairí Power when asked about the role of the welfare officer. “It’s using whatever position, towards committees and governing authority and your casework to further causes of student welfare on campus.” 

Power feels that he has experience in the “campaigning aspect of it” and “got a leg to stand on”. He has worked with different advocacy groups and societies in opposition of rent hikes, the commercialisation of UCD, and is a prominent member of Fix Our Education campaign. He says he is “basically good at coordinating, working with other people and with different groups.” Power thinks that “you can’t drop the ball” when it comes to campaigning because “if you don’t tackle the structural issues, it’s only going to get worse.” He emphasises campaigning and wants to “find time every single day of the week to try and prepare for some aspect of the campaigning.” 

He chose to campaign about awareness around HIV stigma and coercive control as well as a campaign against sexual violence. He thinks that “coercive control is something that doesn’t get as much attention as more standardised forms of sexual abuse and violence. Emotional neglect is just as important as physical neglect. It’s just about attention to issues that students might not be as aware of.”

Power believes that the casework involved is the single most important aspect of the welfare officer's role, especially this year when the mental health services are experiencing severe cuts. He admits that “there is a lot of case work to be done and I think it’s easy to be bogged down on it. It’s difficult outside the job to know exactly how much is in it because you haven’t done it.” But he feels that he can handle the casework because of his background as a psychology student. He hopes to evenly split his time between casework and campaigns. He has a good understanding of what’s involved in being a welfare officer, but is shaky in specific details. When asked how much was the welfare budget, he admitted he didn’t know. 

There is an emphasis of improving the student support services in UCD. He wants to cut down on waiting times on the counselling services and believes it doesn’t make sense that there are waiting lists in September. Power said that he would advocate for “fully functioning primary care”. He also wants to end the self-advocacy of students with disabilities and show an understanding of the hoops they have to jump through to get support. He feels that the student support budget needs to be ring fenced and that the HEA should intervene. He criticises the “unnecessary” spending of UCD on the University Club, luxury flights and other “vanity projects” such as the proposed entrance. “Students need that [money]” and these expenditures “have no impact on student welfare.” 

He also wants to provide “security of tenure” to staff working in health and counselling services. Power wants to give staff a 12 month contract instead of the 9 month contract because “people need secure jobs and security.” 

As part of his manifesto, Power wants to end the outsourcing of appointments and is “not a fan” of them. He feels that “it’s important to scrutinize where funds are going” because with outsourcing “you don’t know how the money is being spent.” When asked about the merits of outsourcing, he would still prefer to have “to spend it in UCD”. He acknowledges that different students may have different needs with different therapies and the more treatments available to students in UCD the better, but admits that there is an issue of “how we’ll bring it inside of the college”. He also hopes to bring rapid HIV testing to campus next year. He would prefer to have it provided on a universal basis for free and doesn’t want cost to be a barrier, but he seems unsure about the costs it might entail. 

When asked about the food bank he proposed in his manifesto, he admits that he kept the section of whether it’s going to be means-tested or universal “vague” because it ultimately “depends on the budgetary constraints'' of the SU budget. He admits he doesn't know “if the money is there for that”. He also wants the SU to subsidise “staple foods” and “basic commodities” such as bread and rice and that the SU will recoup the costs. However, he says that he hasn’t spoken to the COO of the SU shops, David Collins, and has yet to contact him. 

Ruairí Power is clearly a passionate candidate and wants to usher in significant changes in how UCD supports its students from bringing in a food bank to ending outsourcing of appointments. His extensive involvement with campaigning with Fix Our Education shows he’s more than capable of handling the campaign side of the role and his background as a psychology student might serve him well in handling casework. However, some aspects of his manifesto may be limited by budgetary constraints.