While it’s a contrast to last year’s uncontested one-man bid by current President Rachel Breslin, this year’s Presidential race presents two almost incomparably different candidates. With policies on completely opposite ends of the scale, Mícheál Gallagher and Aidan Kelly only agree on one thing: that next year’s President must focus on bringing the social side of UCD back. That however, is where the agreement ends even on that one point, with Gallagher pushing to ensure students have a bar open all year round on campus and Kelly proposing the introduction of a ‘sexy tepidarium’.
Gallagher arguably has an advantage, having served in a sabbatical position already as this year’s UCDSU Welfare Vice-President, while Kelly as the second year Medicine rep has openly admitted that he has distanced himself from all responsibilities that position entails, including attending Union Council. He argues that looking at the Union’s position now, having been run by previous sabbatical officers for at least the last five years, that maybe what the Union could use is this inexperience.
While it is an interesting point, it’s unlikely to wash with the University Management Team, who he failed to even name. This is despite his belief that the way to achieve many of his aims is to work closely with them. He is similarly unconcerned by the inner workings of the Union itself, and has little regard for the cost of many of his promises. He may be aware that the Union has financial difficulties, but his solutions are to sell University assets such as the gym equipment and procure sponsorship of buildings, and he fails to see the difficulties in the feasibility of such plans, and in the small questions of ownership and property rights.
His plans however, are very student focused. Rather than concentrating on perhaps what could be considered larger issues on campus, he wants to fight for cheaper hot chicken rolls for students and plans to cater to students’ welfare with a puppy room, and is confident that these can be achieved. Gallagher, on the other hand, is more aware of the Union’s current position and the bigger issues which must be dealt with by the President.
Breslin has largely rectified the financial situation and while there is still a large debt to pay, the Union has been set back on track this year. Gallagher notes these financial issues, but is aiming to push the Union forward with his rebranding policies, something which is sorely needed as students’ opinion of the Union remain low.
It is questionable however, for Gallagher to advocate moving the focus away from the National Fees Campaign, at a time when we have disaffiliated from the USI and have no national representation besides that coming from our Union. While there are many local issues that need attention, such as Residences as he notes, the President’s voice is now our voice on a national level and staying silent will not aid students’ position.
It is difficult to compare the two candidates properly, but what is obvious is the stark contrast between the two when it comes to both their knowledge of the position in question. Kelly seems to believe that his policies will better the lives of individual students which, though admirable, is not entirely what the role calls for. Rather than wishing to lead the organisation, he is quick to push both work and blame onto anyone but himself, and with that combined with a nervous disposition, it is a challenge to imagine him at the helm.
Though it is easy to see Gallagher leaning too heavily on the influence he believes the President of UCDSU will have over the incoming UCD President as a mechanism to achieve many of his promises, it is clear that he is far better acquainted with every facet of the role, and is well prepared to take on the bigger issues affecting students in UCD and those affecting UCDSU itself, should he be elected.