Name: Cian Aherne
Hometown: Killiney, Dublin
Course: Actuarial & Financial Studies
Differing from the other candidates, the basis of Cian Aherne putting himself forward for the role of Welfare and Equality Officer is firmly based on the belief that there is a need for change and that visibility and communication have not been strongly adhered to by this year’s officer.
Aherne is keen to emphasise that “the most important part of the position is to be seen, that people know that you’re there as a resource to be used. I don’t think that was emphasised enough this year. A lot of people I’ve talked to don’t know where the Welfare and Equality Officer is.”
The 20-year-old from south Dublin has held no previous positions in the UCD Students’ Union (SU), but is an active committee member of several student societies and also on this year’s Welfare Crew. Aherne believes his qualities showcase his readiness for the role. “[I’m] a compassionate leader, empathetic, a keen ear. I’m extremely driven and I care quite a lot about the welfare of the students of UCD.”
Aherne is very keen to stress his leadership qualities, feeling that there is a need for a visible leader who follows through on their promises and helps students engage in the SU. “They don’t see the officers in the SU holding up their promises and they don’t care because those that aren’t first years have been here a number of years and feel that they’ve failed to connect with their SU officers on a personal level.”
In creating a more socially inclusive and friendlier place for freshers, which is the building block in creating a more socially aware campus, Aherne wants to revamp the peer mentor system, along with attempting to extend the orientation process.
Refocusing the efforts of traditional week-long campaigns towards initiatives that are spread out over the course of a year is something that Aherne feels will increase students’ awareness of the work done by the Welfare and Equality Officer and the issues that need to be highlighted.
Aherne also feels he can follow through on a lot of his ideas by the first day of term. “I think, making sure a lot of the promises our Welfare and Equality Officer makes come into place come by the 1st of September, or the start of term [is important]. Making sure that they actually happen is quite important, I don’t think starting these campaigns after Christmas is doing anybody any good.”
Of the most pressing issue facing the role, Aherne sees the stigma surrounding mental health as something that needs to be broken down. He plans to draw from his own experiences and combine that with his public role in order to eradicate the negative barriers he sees still existing among students.
“If people know that someone in charge suffers from a similar thing, they won’t think it’s such a weird thing anymore. Once they discover that their friends suffer from it, their families suffer from it, it won’t be such a bad thing to talk about anymore.”
Physical health goes hand in hand with mental health and as such Aherne is campaigning to carry over an alternative healthy food option to be produced by the many vendors across campus. “It’s a simple matter of making them see that it will be a profit and a possible alternative for people.”
In dealing with the current residence rights issues, Aherne wishes to build a large Welfare crew next year combined with getting “more support from the student body in lobbying these issues, and I believe in strength in numbers. I think negotiations should take place and I believe I’m quite a good negotiator.”
When focusing on the content of his manifesto and the ideas and promises contained within, Aherne’s concedes that he has been unable to offer concrete plans or can’t make such promises, citing that as he has not been elected into the office he cannot offer fully laid out plans.
One such idea includes the Dublin Bike Scheme and new bus routes to UCD, which are matters that are out of his control and will require a significant amount of liaison with the DublinBikes contractors and bus companies themselves before any plans get the go ahead.
Transport is, however, a unique aspect of Aherne’s manifesto, and he does promise to lobby to improve such services. “I think it’s a really simple matter of negotiation because it has benefits for both parties. No there is no plan in place right now because I have no authority to do that.
I’m not quite sure of the process up to now, if [the DublinBikes scheme is] not already underway [on campus], then I don’t think I can get it done by the end of the year… I think there is a good financial benefit to DublinBikes. There’s 25,000 students in UCD, 3,000 on Residence, so I think that it would be financially beneficial for DublinBikes to do this.”
Another unique aspect of Aherne’s proposed plans includes a part-time job fair. The idea of a part-time job, however, is very different than the standard graduate fairs traditionally set up by UCD. Aherne sees the fair as promoting UCD students to employers and allowing them to “find the best person for a job and it should shorten the negotiation process.”
Aherne, in terms of equality wishes to differentiate between the ways in which male and female health is dealt with, along with what he sees as under representation in the SU. “It’s not that women are excluded… they’re not encouraged enough to run for these positions and I think that really needs to happen more.”
As stated in his manifesto, Aherne’s candidacy is based on a feeling that there is a need for change and that he cares about the welfare of UCD students. He is confident that his ideas outlined and his determination to see them come to fruition before September will see UCD students vote for him.
Opposing candidate profiles: