SU Elections: Welfare Officer Analysis

All three candidates are strong in certain areas. Regina Brady comes across as quite personable in her interview, easily laughing the most of the three candidates and therefore, she might be more approachable and adept at dealing with personal cases (and she has already dealt with some this year).

Unlike the other candidates who only became involved this year, she has three years of experience within the SU. She claims she will do her utmost to ensure more people become involved in student life, and her sheer positivity makes this assertion seem credible. However, her responses to our questions are occasionally quite weak, which suggests some of her ideas on welfare aren’t yet fully formed. For instance, when asked who is to blame for the lack of mental health awareness in UCD, she replies: “The university, for being too big.”

Breslin, by contrast, offers a more comprehensive analysis in many cases. She speaks articulately on what she would bring to the role, saying: “I’ve always been very organised, and I think it’s vital that if you’re in such a role, you’re able to communicate and to quickly and effectively respond to people, and that comes from organisation.”

While lacking the experience of Brady at SU level, she is by no means inexperienced on the matter of welfare, as her election to the role of Vice-Secretary of the Welfare Crew attests. Moreover, her level of pre-college involvement in youth politics is impressive, having been involved in Donegal Youth Council since the age of 14.

On the other hand, Breslin is not quite as naturally personable as Brady and lacks her obvious charisma, which may come in handy when dealing with personal cases.

Danaher, by contrast, has a decidedly different CV to that of the other candidates. Her involvement in student politics is clearly not as strong. Nonetheless, her experience in the real world in “doctors’ offices” and “crèches” may make her appeal more to the average students who suspect the SU to be a clique.

She is clearly someone who understands the dedication that being Welfare Officer entails, as her assertion that it is “not something you [just] do from 9 to 5” suggests.

Nonetheless, her manifesto is arguably the most vague of the three candidates, while some of her ideas – such as the designated drivers scheme, which has been done before – while eminently realistic and achievable, seem somewhat stale and unoriginal.

This election looks set to be closely fought, and its result may well come down to whichever campaign team does the best job in promoting their candidate.

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Name: Rachel Breslin

Age: 19

Course: Second-Year Business and Law

Do you drink, smoke, or take drugs? I drink occasionally, I don’t smoke and I don’t take drugs.

Name the President, Registrar, and Bursar of UCD: Dr Hugh Brady is the President, the Bursar is Gerry O’Brien and the Registrar is Philip Nolan.

How do you rate the performance of this year’s officer? I think he did a lot of good work this year and especially with the Welfare Crew, because that’s what led me to get involved and it’s brought together a group of students who were really interested in Welfare and it has fostered that interest.

Review

Rachel Breslin believes she is the “most experienced, the most knowledgeable and the most passionate candidate running for this position”. While she has only become involved with the Welfare Crew this year, she has swiftly ascended the ranks and was elected Vice-Secretary of the Students’ Union Welfare Crew. On this matter, she says: “I know a lot about Welfare, because I see what Scott does every day.”

Moreover, she emphasis her experience outside of college as well, which includes being chosen by UNICEF to represent Ireland at meetings and international government policy level conferences on HIV/AIDS and being selected onto the Donegal Youth Council aged 14. “I have experience of standing up and speaking to people about welfare,” she says.

When asked what distinguishes her from other candidates, she responds: “I would pride myself, on my organisation skills, my leadership skills and my communicational skills.

“I’ve always been very organised, and I think it’s vital that if you’re in such a role, you’re able to communicate and to quickly and effectively respond to people, and that comes from organisation.”

Breslin’s manifesto includes a number of original ideas such as confidence workshops to reach out to students with self-esteem issues. On this subject, she states: “I struggled with confidence issues and public speaking issues when I was in school. I think that when people recognise that there are other people in the same position, they won’t be afraid to come along to these workshops.”

She also intends to promote the free counselling service in UCD more and prioritise students on need rather than on a first-come-first-served basis. “Counsellors are trained, experienced and qualified,” she adds. “I could never say they don’t have the knowledge to make the decision. I would trust them to make the best decision. I would have 100 per cent trust that this is the best system.”

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Name: Regina Brady

Age: 19

Course: Second-Year Commerce

Do you drink, smoke or take drugs? I drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t take drugs.

Name the President, Registrar, and Bursar of UCD: President is Hugh Brady. Bursar is Gerry O’Brien and the Vice-President for students is Martin Butler.

How do you rate the performance of this year’s Welfare Officer? I think he’s done a very good job. He’s brought Welfare to a new level and it’s something we can build on. Obviously a new person will bring new ideas. I think he could improve by bringing more anonymity to the job.

Review

Regina Brady also claims to be the “most experienced and “most passionate” candidate for the Welfare position. She has been part of the Welfare Crew in UCD for the past three years and her roles within the university have included Women’s Officer, Inclusion, Participation and Awareness (IPA) Secretary and Peer Mentor. She was also chosen as a delegate for the National Please Talk Conference (a campaign which she hopes to expand if elected).

She argues that her experience at a university level is what makes this claim valid. “I know people say it’s nice to have a fresh face,” she says. “But people need to know exactly how the Union structure works – how to deal with politicians, how to deal with universities. I know Rachel talks about her position in secondary school, but I didn’t put that in my manifesto. It’s what you’ve done since you’ve come to college.”

While praising the work done by current Welfare Officer Scott Ahearn, she feels there is room for improvement in certain areas, such as making students more aware of events on campus. “I want to restructure the way talks are held, she says. “I want to hold talks in busier areas. We need to be in students’ faces. Like when we had Miriam O’Callaghan in the Atrium. People were eating there and that made them notice it.” She also lists “road safety” and “drug awareness” as the two other areas that she’d look to look to improve on.

If elected, Brady’s plans include “Come Dine With Me” between apartments on Res and a Drug Awareness campaign in which guest speakers including ex-addicts and gardaí are invited to share their thoughts.

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Name: Lorna Danaher

Age: 20

Course: Second-year Business and Law

Do you drink, smoke or take drugs? I do drink, I unfortunately do smoke but no, I don’t take drugs.

Name the President, Registrar and Bursar of UCD: Registrar is Philip Nolan, President is Hugh Brady and Bursar is Gerry O’Brien.

How do you rate the performance of this year’s Welfare Officer? The performance of this year’s SU has been very good. One thing that I don’t really like are the posters and this is a small thing, I think they’re irrelevant and students don’t even notice them any more. I think we need to find a new way and also it’s just about general media – we just need to find a new way to get through to students.

Review

Lorna Danaher lists her “experience with people” as being key assets for the role of Welfare Officer. While not having the level of experience of which her opponents hold within the SU, she believes her real-world experience to be just as important.

She says: “I’ve worked with special needs children in the crèche, I’ve worked in another crèche as well. I work with people on a regular basis; I’m very good with people. I’m also an experienced debater and I think that next year is going to be a big year, with fighting with the college and a lot of the cuts that might be coming into place.”

She vows to put in the substantial workload that’s required for the job, saying: “Welfare to me is a job that you take home with you, it’s not something you do from 9 to 5. I think it’s a job that if you’re going to do it, you have to accept the fact that I would be putting my phone number on the door, I will have an open-door policy and I will be there as much as I can.”

Danaher’s top priorities include financial assistance, mental health and res life, and plans to introduce ideas such as a Designated Drivers Scheme whereby designated drivers are given free non-alcoholic drinks in the Student Bar.

On the issue of sexual health, she feels that more work needs to be done to promote the on-campus STI Screening service and wants condoms to be made available on campus.

Another of her goals is to create more accessible drink and drugs campaigns, “educating them by entertaining them. I actually know a magician and this is something I’m really excited about. He’s basically working on a Drink Aware campaign and doing it through magic. We’re going to be working with Drink Aware to try and get the relevant facts in with the performance.