UCD Students’ Union Education Officer Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin has withdrawn his candidacy for the position of Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Education Officer, after a UCDSU Council meeting mandated UCD reps to vote against him at this week’s USI elections. The move follows allegations made against Ó Súilleabháin’s performance as Education Officer this year, and as Chair of the Science Day organising committee last year.
The USI elections take place at the organisation’s Annual Congress, which takes place this week in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. At the time of going to print, however, it was unclear whether Ó Súilleabháin’s withdrawl had been formally recognised by USI’s Elections Committee.
UCDSU decided to oppose Ó Súilleabháin’s candidacy at its special USI Hustings meeting of SU Council last Tuesday, which saw past, present and future SU sabbatical officers questioning Ó Súilleabháin’s capabilities as an officer at a national level. In a private ballot of Council members, 58 members expressed their desire to vote ‘re-open nominations’ (RON) for the USI position, while just seven wanted UCD’s Congress delegates to vote in Ó Súilleabháin’s favour.
Former UCDSU President and current USI Irish Language officer, Aodhán Ó Deá, condemned Ó Súilleabháin’s lack of initiative in dealing with promises made in his election manifesto last year, including a pledge to hold late clinics at least once a week, keeping an online calendar through which appointments could be made, and guaranteeing to stop cutbacks in library hours.
UCDSU Welfare Officer, Scott Ahearn, raised issue against Ó Súilleabháin’s ongoing refusal to speak to SU Campaigns & Communications Vice-President, Paddy Ryan, who stated that he too could not support the candidacy, adding that “there are better candidates out there.” Meanwhile, Ó Súilleabháin’s successor as SU Education Officer, James Williamson, questioned whether Ó Súilleabháin had the ability to communicate at a national level, to all SU Education Officers in the country, when “he was incapable of organising a Science Day committee of twenty.”
Ó Súilleabháin asserted that he had fulfilled “90 per cent of the promises made” on his manifesto and insisted he stood by his achievements this year, saying he was “running on his record” for the USI position.
Ó Súilleabháin said he had enjoyed “fantastic support” from other colleges across Ireland, having secured the votes of Congress delegates from other large unions including those of NUI Galway, UCC and Trinity College. However, both NUIG and UCC were believed to be reconsidering their support for Ó Súilleabháin in the wake of UCDSU’s decision not to endorse him.
The vote also followed an anonymous RON campaign which had been set up on the social networking site Facebook, which listed Ó Súilleabháin’s alleged shortcomings as a current member of the SU Executive, as well as in his roles as Science Day Chairperson last year and also as a Residential Assistant this year. Ó Súilleabháin told The University Observer that he was ‘’disappointed at the anonymity’’ and insisted that the material on the site was libellous.
The University Observer understands that a motion of no confidence against Ó Súilleabháin is to be put forward to a further meeting of SU Council in the coming weeks. A number of class reps in Science were believed to be drafting a motion to be put forward at the time of print. According to Williamson – who succeeded Ó Súilleabháin as chair of the Science Day organizing committee – the idea had been discussed among Council members, but that no formal action had been taken at the time, and that he could neither confirm nor deny any plans.