Barry Murphy, elected Campaigns and Communications (C&C) Officer, is one of the two candidates in the presidential by-election, and has been acting president since former president Katie Ascough took annual leave to campaign against her own impeachment.
There have been allegations that Murphy took the decision to campaign in favour of impeaching Katie Ascough, in order to further his own position in the SU, an accusation which he vehemently denies. On running he said, “I really didn’t want to… but basically the more I thought about it, the more I decided it wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but it’s what is needed for the Student’s Union.”
There have been allegations that Murphy took the decision to campaign in favour of impeaching Katie Ascough, in order to further his own position in the SU, an accusation which he vehemently denies.
Murphy believes his experience in the union to date would be beneficial to his term as president if elected: “Having gone through the quick process of being acting president and having to learn quickly about all the boards…I already [have] the initial groundwork done.” Despite the fact that the other candidate in the race Rebecca Hart, has spent more time being involved in the Union (five years), Murphy believes that his time as a sabbatical officer will bring the requisite experience and stability that the Union needs: “You need someone who already has that experience to get it back on track.”
If elected president, Murphy’s current role would be left vacant until such a time as a by-election is called. Which it is believed, may not take place until spring. Murphy does not appear to see this as being too much of an issue, stating that the “the benefit of having a president with experience and who has been acting in this role, who has had the crossover training, I think that outweighs the benefit of having a president who has to learn very quickly, when there is no time for learning, at this point in the SU.”
Murphy believes that if elected President the role of C&C Officer would remain unfilled for the remainder of the year.
In the event that the position of C&C Officer is left vacant, Murphy plans “to get a committee together… of college officers and campaign coordinators who are really passionate. It might actually work better, because instead of having one person trying to support a load of campaign coordinators, you have many campaign coordinators taking on that role.”
Murphy believes that a review of the governance of the union is needed and he, like many presidents before him would like to bring in an electronic voting system, which he says UCDSU are “already working on it. We have already got a creative director working on that on our website.” Murphy admits it would have a cost but one that he believes would be a worthwhile spend; “The cost of democracy, I can’t see [that] being a waste.”
Murphy also plans to discuss a cap on re-sit fees, and to add further funding to the Student Welfare Fund, to help cope with the overwhelmed counselling service. The money for the Welfare Fund could come from the SU shops which Murphy says are “profitable.”
The increase in funding and decrease of costs, would have to be approved of by university management, whom Murphy says, “are disappointed with what has gone on within the union, because the representation has fallen apart.”
With an experienced stable president at the helm, Murphy believes that the Union will be taken seriously at meetings and that the SU can continue to get things done. The plan for the cap on resit fees is already underway, with UCDSU in conversation with university management and while details are currently confidential, Murphy is confident that it is something which will “definitely be achieved by June 2018.”
In terms of attempting to repair the damage Murphy has some hopes; predominantly by publicising the work of the Union.
The SU has suffered reputational damage in the lead up to and during the impeachment campaign. Not only was there coverage in national and international media of the scandal, but there were also resignations among the SU staff, directly linked to the Impeachment campaign and how they were treated during it. In terms of attempting to repair the damage Murphy has some hopes; predominantly by publicising the work of the Union. “UCDSU doesn’t tend to celebrate successes like they possibly could. I really want to make that happen… Why not tell students about [the successes]?” By “following mandates, actively campaigning [for students]” Murphy believes the union can regain the trust of the students of UCD.
While the tenure of the new president will be a short one, if elected, Murphy says that he does not have plans to run again in March for the next Sabbatical term. He would be happy to be able to leave in 2018 being able to say “I have set this place up with a team, that there is an energetic and passionate team of staff and sabbats, the staff are ready to take in a new bunch of sabbats. Our reputation is revived, that we can go forward.”
Murphy’s knowledge of the role of president having been in the position for the past month is sound and gives him an edge.
A major focus of his campaign is stability and continuity for the union. The reputation of the union comes into focus more sharply in this election than most others in the past. Whilst many believe the impeachment campaign was not about bullying, there are those (especially in the media outside UCD) who see a presidential candidate who campaigned vocally for impeachment, and who had had a crucial hand in removing her from office.
The underhanded appearance of this has the potential to be damaging to UCDSU on a national platform.
Murphy believes that if elected President the role of C&C Officer would remain unfilled for the remainder of the year. Whilst the plan for a committee to take over this role appears doable, moving a five-person strong sabbatical team to a four-person strong team does decrease the strength of the Union’s voice.
What Murphy is lacking is fresh ideas. He suggests projects that the union are already working on, which are therefore clearly achievable. His suggestion that sufficient money can be used from the income of the SU shops to alleviate the pressures on UCD’s counselling service seems naïve considering the Welfare Officer is quoted in this issue saying that a considerable increase would be needed.