Kicking off our Students’ Union election coverage is our analysis of the Presidential race, and its sole candidate, Rachel Breslin. Check back every day for analysis of each race, on Facebook for full video interviews, and our pull-out Election Special in the next issue
Name: Rachel Breslin
Course: On Sabbatical as Welfare Officer, but has completed two years of Business & Law
What is the role of the president?
“The person who at the end of the day coordinates all the officers, makes sure that all of their activities are in harmony with each other, takes the lead on new projects being implemented by the Union.”
Do you think the current President has achieved the goals you believe a president should?
“Mostly, yes. He hasn’t had the license to go about these goals in as much a way as he would have liked as so much of his year has been dedicated towards urgent and pressing financial matters.”
Will you be voting for or against the new constitution?
“I will be voting for the introduction of the new constitution.”
Running unopposed is apparently not the blessing one would expect it to be. Breslin is keen to emphasise that it can add pressure to the campaign. “RON isn’t an easy thing to run against,” she says, “because you are against people’s perceptions of the ideal president and so you need to make sure you match up to that.” She says that running unopposed has not affected her basic approach to campaigning. “It hasn’t changed my manifesto. I always believe everything in there is achievable.”
Breslin is keen to point out how she has achieved the majority of goals outlined in her Welfare manifesto last year. Success is ongoing, as she cites the soon to be implemented Pay-Now, Use-Later taxi service and recently securing approximately 10,000 euro to outsource counselling services and cut waiting lists in UCD.
Breslin pinpoints her experience as Welfare Officer as a reason to vote for her, particularly regarding her knowledge of the SU’s intricacies and its troubled finances.
When questioned as to what her weakness would be, she remarks: “My Ents side wouldn’t be as experienced as past presidents in terms of running events.” In response to the perceived failure of two Welfare-affiliated events from this year, First Fortnight’s Republic of Loose concert and the Residences Ball, she says that Republic of Loose was not an act that she booked, only an event that she endorsed due to it taking place on Mental Health day, while the Residences Ball was cancelled to avoid making a loss on the event.
Breslin declares she will support the outcome of the proposed referendum on the Union’s stance on free fees, but she adds that the Union “also have a second duty, to people who didn’t vote for fees who would be disadvantaged by fees coming in.” She believes that “A better grant system, a graduate tax or a loan scheme would increase access.”
If elected, Breslin will be the first female president since the late nineties, but she does not see this as reflecting on attitudes in student politics. She attested to encountering no problems from being a woman, but worries that consistently male election winners will put women off the election process. She feels that it is important that there are more female representatives, and notes “If I’m elected it will be important because females will see this isn’t a male organisation.”
She does admit that not having a welfare sponsorship proposal ready early in the year meant that she lost the opportunity to have a free bus to a supermarket for Residences students, though she says “it’s certainly something I would tell my successor to look into.”
Asked if the SU’s exorbitant debt levels may impede on her achieving her goals she says: “I don’t think it necessarily needs to limit the scope of what we can achieve.” She notes that by cutting “unnecessary campaigns”, she managed to work with a welfare budget that was less than half of the previous year’s resources. She believes that the Union must work alongside the University to “quickly and effectively become financially liquid again.”
Asked if she would be willing to take a pay cut, Breslin comments that changes in how the SU pays tax has reduced her current pay. Upon it being pointed out that this does not constitute a nominal pay cut, she states this should be considered, but that she would be unsure about cutting sabbatical officers pay without knowing the officers’ own financial situations.
Photography by Caoimhe McDonnell