Profiles and analysis by Alex Court
Pat de Brún
A second year law student from Carlow, Pat de Brún is keen to make the Students’ Union more relevant, but may need to consider the problems with some of his promises.
Pat de Brún is quick to criticise UCD Students’ Union, saying “visibility is the main problem for me at the moment”. This confident man’s mind is made up that “the main reason I want to do this job, is to make the SU relevant and make it visible…”
The current Law B&L Programme Officer, de Brún’s solution is his pledge to get SU officers “out there lecture addressing, constantly letting people know what’s going on… Get the sabbatical [officers] to visit the houses on res and ask students what they want.” Not something we haven’t heard before.
This candidate plans to keep a closed perspective in considering student demands: “This is UCD Students’ Union and my only interest is to represent the students.” He says this will help keep the Union relevant, as “If you focus on UCD issues… you’ll get more respect from the students.”
Such a focus incorporates his plans to replace the Women’s Officer position with a Gender Equality Officer and making week-long events such as Green Week, the annual SU environmental campaign, into year-long projects.
De Brún talks these promises up by clarifying how “having a Women’s Officer and not a Men’s Officer is in itself sexist… having a Women’s Officer makes [no] difference to women running for sabbatical elections,” but cannot explain why the incoming sabbat team will yet again be entirely male.
As for year-long campaigns, de Brún insists that the current system is fraught with “costly fillers.” Projects like supporting UCD’s gay and lesbian community, he maintains, will be better achieved over a longer timeframe. Whether momentum can be sustained over such a period isn’t a question he’s overly worried about.
This policy isn’t applicable throughout, however, as Seachtain na Gaeilge would remain unchanged. Asked why the Irish language is made an exception of, the response goes “because… as we’ve seen over the past couple of years it has an extremely high turnout for every event…” Perhaps his Gaeilge policy derives from his Gaelscoil education, and is nothing short of hypocritical.
While he is confident, and would do well shouting in lecture theatres, de Brún’s goals need more thought. It seems as if de Brún has assumed that most students will see his ideas as good ones, and has not anticipated criticism.
A thoughtful politics and philosophy student from Manchester, Colm Maguire wants to personalise the Students’ Union, but is this merely motivated out of a timid inability to address students en masse?
Maguire talks with some academic confidence. His hushed speech is peppered with a Mancunian accent. He’s no loudmouth lad, and has thoroughly considered why he wants to be a sabbatical officer.
Maguire notes that the Students’ Union has almost 20,000 members behind it, and then says “strength in numbers is what makes the Students’ Union worthwhile.” He is simultaneously aware that “members feel detached from the Union,” but remains confident this can change with intimate communication.
Maguire reveals some creativity on this topic: “Currently, our communications strategy is emails and posters but… you get emails everyday and there’s posters all over campus. I think a more personal touch is needed.” What this is and whether it’s realistic remains questionable.
Maguire is keen to highlight the volume of Union members as a deciding factor in his work, if elected, on national campaigns. He sees UCDSU to be “in a position to help others who are less fortunate” and thinks wider projects are worthwhile because of his “social conscience”.
Though Maguire means well, he cannot reply to criticism that suggests campaigns like advocating gay marriage would leave him without time to fight tuition fees. His reply is weak: “We would help students in particular minorities… [but] if there’s an issue which is more student-related we’d concentrate on that.”
Another aspect voters should fairly consider is whether a Briton like Colm – whose key campaigning experience, as evident in the photograph on the back of his manifesto, is marching against the British National Party – would effectively represent Irish students. Maguire himself admits “I can’t speak Irish…that is probably [my] largest weakness,” but points out how – like his predecessors – he “would give the Irish language officer full confidence over Seachtain na Gaeilge,” a campaign he fully supports.
While he may have put more thought into his campaign than de Brún, it seems Maguire would operate best in one-on-one meetings rather than standing, Dan O’Neill-style, on a soapbox.
An issue de Brún will face in his proposed lecture addressing and res visits is time constraints. Another is driving students crazy. Will students who live on campus appreciate a politician knocking on their door every month? De Brún needs to see that some students will be too busy finishing an essay due the next morning, or immersed in Scrubs, to find an SU presence immediately welcome. De Brún might not be invited into living rooms or thanked for trying to initiate debate on how to improve campus living.
If people do invite him in and get chatting, de Brún will soon stutter should anyone oppose his initiatives. He’ll offer some quick quip to get him off the hook, or simply revert to ‘campaign weeks are crap, year-long events are much better,’ merely raising his tone should you ask for reasons why this is so.
Maguire, alternatively, mightn’t be audible if he addresses a lecture. Front-row students who do catch his whispers may be shocked to learn their registration fee is supporting a fund he established to aid Egyptian farmers or some-such worthwhile but irrelevant cause.
You might feel sorry for this kind-hearted man, who says he would resign from the SU if his office was mandated to campaign for the re-introduction of third-level fees, but this is probably not a good reason to vote him into office.
Neither candidate will make an ideal Campaigns & Communications Officer: de Brún has the brawn but lacks the campaining finesse, while Maguire is too meek and might be more effective if he could ignore his moral high ground. RON may fare better than normal in this race.