Profile and analysis by Gavan Reilly
There are two ways of interpreting the fact that Paul Lynam is uncontested for the position of SU President: either he is an impressive and undefeatable candidate, or that interest in leading the SU has hit a new low.
In this case, both these reasons hold a degree of truth. Lynam is certainly an impressive candidate with significant experience in the world of student politics: two years ago he served as Eastern Area Officer with the Union of Students in Ireland, while last year he returned to UCD as Education Vice-President with the students’ union here. This year he has returned to his Social Science degree, but the Dundrum man feels he has “more to give… I think I’m the best person for the job. I think two years ago I’d have considered my performance as Education Officer as quite satisfactory.”
Having experienced life on the inside in both UCDSU and in other Dublin-based SUs during his time with USI, as President Lynam would bring considerable experience to the table – he is certainly better qualified than most to point out UCDSU’s strengths and failings. He says that UCD’s sabbatical officers “are there for students better than most [other unions]”, while acknowledging that “because of the sheer size of the college, I think we’re not as well-known or as approachable as in other colleges… [but] if I come down to the corridor and I want to know where my Welfare Officer is, my preference would be: in his office. You have to get the balance right.”
Lynam speaks strongly of incumbent President, Gary Redmond, whom Lynam describes as “a very good friend… I stand by not only voting for him, but campaigning for him”, but says that he would have liked this year’s union to have been more active in campaigns. “Last year Dan [O’Neill, last year’s Campaigns Officer] ran seven or eight campaigns in terms of rallies at the lake. I’d like to have seen more of that.”
Lynam hopes to take charge of a Union as one of three uncontested full-time officers – but the sole presidential candidate disagrees with the idea that uncontested elections are a sign of waning interest. “In terms of the Ents candidate, Jonny Cosgrove’s CV for the position is second to none. It’s not that nobody wants to be Ents Officer, it’s that first of all, nobody thinks they could beat him, and most people would think he’s the best person for the job. Scottie’s one of the best Welfare Officers we’ve seen since I’ve been in college, and I’d be surprised if he was ever opposed.”
And as for his own election? “I’m humbled that nobody has come forward to challenge me – however, I would take no votes for granted… There are only three people in the university who have more experience than me: [former SU Presidents] Barry Colfer, Gary Redmond and Aodhán [Ó Deá].”
With statements like these, and the fact that Lynam consistently refers to the sabbatical corridor as a “we” rather than a “they” – giving the sense that he’s so assured of election, he considers himself already in office, and his forthright manner is confirmed by the fact that he interrupts the Observer’s interviewers 50 times in his 75-minute interview – it would be fair to conclude that the Union has still been unable to shed its image as a insiders’ clique. Lynam is keen to point out, however, that this isn’t something he’s particularly intent on tackling. “In terms of dispelling a belief that might never go away, that it’s a clique or not – is it one of my priorities? No. My priority is making sure your grant comes on time.”
Lynam promises to run a tight ship, as exemplified by his proposed policy on dealing with vice-presidents who disagree with Union policies. “We are one team and I would be the team captain. Take Miss UCD – if Council supported Miss UCD, then no vice-president – no vice-president – will speak against it.”
Lynam’s manifesto is an ambitious one, hoping to guarantee promises currently in the Union pipeline. Though he acknowledges that most of his goals will be dependant on the SU’s financial situation after this year’s UCD Ball, Paul Lynam is a strong candidate with the experience needed to lead an SU of UCD’s size.