“There are all these different things that I can look at and say that I know I’ve done something good here.” UCD Students’ Union’s Education Vice-President, Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin, feels that he has “done something good,” during his tenure, but many students will scratch their heads wondering just what this is. His year has undoubtedly been one of the worst for the Education office in recent memory, and it seems as if Ó Súilleabháin is either unapologetic or totally oblivious to the fact that he has had such a bad year.
Recent events have cast doubt on Ó Súilleabháin’s ability to maintain the office of Education Vice-President. His attempt to run for the position of Education Officer with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) was met with anger and disbelief by class reps, SU Executive members and Ó Súillebháin’s fellow sabbatical officers. UCDSU Council voted to support the Re-Open Nominations campaign rather than give their sizeable support to their own candidate. This in itself is indicative of the fact that Ó Súilleabháin has simply not done the job that he was elected to do.
Asked about his USI campaign, Ó Súilleabháin said “I’ve no regrets about running for USI,” a move which was met with disbelief and anger by his colleagues. When he says that he has “been really touched by the outpouring from people whose opinions matter to me,” it is clear that the opinions of the vast majority of his peers simply don’t matter to him. Or perhaps it’s indicative of the ball dropping on inter-personal issues that have marred this sabbatical team’s year. It would come as no surprise if the public outrage and disbelief shown by Ó Súilleabháin’s contemporaries simply hasn’t been mentioned behind the closed doors of the SU corridor.
Ó Súilleabháin simply does not seem to have any idea of how badly his year has gone – either this or he is trying his best to bury his head in the sand. When The University Observer asks what his low point of the year was, he concedes that his being beaten by RON at the USI Hustings did not look good, but is quick to blame coverage of his implication in the Science Day controversy, saying “It was just bad reporting, which everyone panicked about because if you take it at face value, it doesn’t look good.” Unfortunately face value is the only thing which can be read from this story, since Ó Súilleabháin has repeatedly resisted any attempt at explaining the matter or clearing himself of any perceived wrongdoing.
Similarly, Ó Súilleabháin said that his high point of the year was the Green Party’s endorsement of the revised Programme for Government, which saw the prospect of third-level fees abolished for the time being. “Myself and Gary worked very hard on that,” he says.
Ó Súilleabháin has based his year’s performance on taking credit for other people’s work and behaving in a completely unprofessional manner. His lack of professionalism was clear in his refusal to speak to Campaigns and Communications Vice-President Paddy Ryan since October last year. He said that “myself and Paddy have personal differences, but it hasn’t affected any work that we’ve had to get done,” but it is unclear how a union can present itself as united to represent students when one sabbatical officer cannot push personal differences aside to do his job.
In studying his manifesto with The University Observer, Ó Súilleabháin pointed to ideas he claims were completed throughout the year. However inspection of the facts show that his claims are, at best unfounded, at worst outright lies. For instance, he said that he had completed a promise to change UCD Connect email to a Gmail platform – something that has clearly not happened. Ó Súilleabháin has been quick to deflect responsibility for his lack of action despite other officers having been forced to take up his workload. For the students who have been let down by the Education Office this year, that Ó Súílleabháin says he “would do very little differently” will be a slap in the face.
It’s unclear whether Ó Súilleabháin genuinely believes he has had a good year or if he is simply hoping that by staunchly denying any wrongdoing to the end, he will ride out the year with his job intact. Sadly for UCD and for UCDSU he will.