With a year where national campaigns were brought to the forefront, Campaigns and Communications Officer Pat de Brún certainly had his work cut out for him as he embarked on a year of representing the students of Ireland, and not just those of UCD, on more than one occasion.
A priority of de Brún’s when he was contesting the position last year was to make the Students’ Union a more relevant, visible and accountable body; this is something he believes that he has achieved during his tenure as C&C Officer. “I think that we did that and that I’m proud of it, it’s obviously not perfect but I think it was a big improvement.”
Whether this goal was achieved to the extent that de Brún planned is questionable, but there was undoubtedly a considerable amount of effort put into the Union being more visible to the students, with lecture addresses, residence visits and open meetings taking place on a relatively regular basis.
De Brún cites the importance of the open meetings and the significance of being more accountable to students as the foundations of a stronger Union. “It makes us more open to criticism, but I think that’s beneficial for us, it makes it more difficult for the Officer, but it improves the Union, it’s debate and it’s constructive – constructive criticism improves us.”
One of lowest points of the year for de Brún was the cut to the distance requirement for the grant: “It was very difficult, as we had worked and worked and lobbied the Oireachtas and this was just one issue that never came under our radar as a national movement.” He describes it as a “cruel” step taken by the government, which was served as a “low blow” to students.
A day de Brún regards as one of his “biggest successes” and simultaneously one of his “lowest moments” was November 3rd, the day of the national march against raising the registration fee, graduate unemployment and cuts to the grant.
The low point of the day came a few hours after the march took place, when news started to filter through regarding a breakaway group and that “there was a chance that all the work and all the intent of all the students that had marched under our banner and for the issues that they believed in was in danger”.
The march can ultimately be seen as de Brún’s biggest success of the year. Having acted as the co-ordinator of the event on UCD Students’ Union’s side, it was his doing that an estimated 5,000 UCD students took part in the event.
De Brún acknowledges that despite having been involved with an intensive campaign to prevent the increase of the registration fee, the move still came. “It’s a bit disheartening sometimes that you can do everything right and run a campaign to perfection, but you know some cuts are going to happen.” However, he insists that he “doesn’t have any regrets, I worked hard all year and we’ve had a lot of challenges but we’ve had a lot of successes as well.”
De Brún defends the aspects of his manifesto which he failed to achieve, such as the weekly information leaflets and Union noticeboards across all faculties, as being down to naivety: “The one thing I would say is that when you’re a second year Law student, it’s difficult to grasp exactly how things operate and how realistic some things are.”
The recruitment and training of Class Reps was something de Brún insists was a major step forward. “We had a record number of Class Rep nominations and a record number of Class Reps,” the outcome of which was having a “more engaged and engaging council”.
Due to the extensive effort put into national campaigns, they took precedence over campaign weeks such as International week, Environmental week and LGBT Week. “Campaign weeks and the likes didn’t get as much attention as other years, which is unfortunate as those weeks are very important.”
It is also due to these more pressing matters arising that de Brún did not implement his idea of year-long campaigns, as opposed to just concentrating one-week events. However, he insists that that a year-long campaign was in fact run by the Irish office, having himself “put together some proposals for Irish language residences, that was in theory accepted and still being considered”.
Regardless of the fact that a few of the propositions in his manifesto never came to fruition, de Brún enjoyed a reasonable year as C&C Officer who managed to strike the right balance in communicating with students and “fighting the fight” – we have undoubtedly seen a considerable amount more of the Union on campus this year than last and with de Brún having been elected as next year’s president, we are certainly due to see much more.