Paddy Ryan is the first to admit that his year as Campaigns & Communications Officer has been far from perfect. “I suppose taking up the job and the whole transition into the first semester was bumpy,” concedes the Tipperary native. “Everyone perceives the job they’re taking up to be different to what it’s going to be.”
Ryan’s year has indeed been a bumpy one. Though the second semester brought better fortunes for him – assisted by the shift of criticism from himself to his colleague, Education VP Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin – the first term brought more criticism than any individual sabbatical officer had been subjected to for years. Ryan acknowledges that his year began bumpily, and debits this to his self-professed different approach to campaigning.
Instead of the traditional week-long campaigns, Ryan “initially wanted to have continuous campaigns: I tried to figure out how to do it. It just didn’t work for me. I think the first few campaigns suffered as a result… I had so much planned – so many ideas and things I wanted to do. I was being over-eager and over-ambitious. I said I’d go hell for leather at this. I tried it all and it didn’t work.”
Unsurprisingly, Ryan cites the backlash against him a result as the low point of his year – but curiously, also sees the criticism as the high point too. “It’s when you’re at your lowest that you find out who your friends are. When everyone starts rallying around you and tell you, ‘no, come on, you can do this, we believe in you’ it’s both a high and low point.”
It is unfortunately telling that Ryan doesn’t cite any particular campaigning victory as the climax of his year; major achievements like recruiting a record number of class reps or the successful resistance to third-level fees have, realistically, had little to do with his input, being largely built on the work of SU President Gary Redmond. The flipside of this, though, is that Ryan cannot take much blame for some of the year’s failures, such as the introduction of charges in the Student Health Service – again, because the dominant style of Redmond’s hands-on leadership has sidelined him.
Once he reverted to the weekly campaign model Ryan’s year was solid, but unremarkable. He may have gotten unlucky with the reception to his plan for year-long campaigns rather than concentrated weekly ones, but the fact that the surviving campaign weeks had only a limited impact means that overall verdict of Ryan’s year must be that the Engineering student – in both his approach to the job and his decision to seek it in the first place – bit off more than he could chew.
Thankfully for his own sake, Ryan sees his tenure as a positive experience. “It brought me to the reality that life is a lot harsher than you think it is, but I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve matured a bit. I’ve had great craic. If I was in the same position I’d definitely run again. Will I run again? No.”