Sabbatical Officer at UCC Students' Union
Ciara Kealy for Vice President for the Southern Region
Hi everyone, my name is Ciara Kealy and I’m running in this years USI Elections for the role of Vice President for the Southern Region.
Last March I was lucky enough to be elected as the Deputy President and Campaigns Officer for UCC Students’ Union. Throughout this year I have made sure that I didn’t squander this opportunity by throwing myself into my work and trying to engage as much as possible with the USI. Among other things, I ran for a position in USI’s Campaigns Strategy Committee and got a seat, I attended SUT and SUT+, I received Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training and I was lucky enough to attend Cyprus for the 39th European Students’ Convention.
This year both myself and my team faced many challenges, however we came together to fight injustice to students and that’s what I promise to keep on doing should I be elected as your Vice President for the Southern Region.
We faced battling a €200 increase in the capitation fee before we even began our roles. I co-organised an occupation by the President’s Office to battle this decision, and after months of talks with the University, the money was refunded to students. More recently, we staged another occupation, this time on the Quad protesting the increase in UCC Campus Accommodation. We demanded that the decision to increase rent by 3% is reversed and that the board commit to a three year rent freeze.
We know that student hardship is such a pressing issue affecting more and more students every year so in all my work this year, as part of UCCSU, I have never stopped thinking about the individual student and how every decision could impact that student. I will continue to fight every single day to ensure that access to education isn’t dependent on your financial situation.
Ensuring the student voice is both represented and heard is imperative to me. I’ve spoken up about student issues, and successes, in UCC and now I would like the chance to speak up and represent students in the Southern Region. Howwever, I don’t want to only be a vote for these students. I want to make sure that these students can find their own voice and shout alongside me.
I truly believe that my experience, my passion and my drive makes me the best candidate for this role. If elected I promise to be a voice for those who cannot currently stand up and fight back. I promise to be a voice for the students who are being locked out of education. I promise to be a support for you, your students and the South.
Le grá, Ciara
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Hello! My name is Fergal Twomey and I’m a candidate for the position of Academic Affairs VP for the USI. I was born and grew up in Kilcorney, near Millstreet, Co. Cork. I hold a Bachelor’s in Chemistry from UCC and I’m currently studying in an MSc programme at NUI Galway. My views on education were influenced by a period of time I spent at the Life Centre aged 10-12, which is a voluntary organisation that utilises a 1-on-1 teaching system for students who have encountered difficulties in mainstream education. This shaped my perspective on education as a shared process, which be should promote the interests and needs of community, enabling the diversity and wealth of experience found between people to become an asset rather than a problem. I’m also keenly aware of the need for strong advocacy for economically disenfranchised and neurodivergent students.
While a student at UCC and NUIG, I’ve been heavily involved in emancipatory politics. I played a role in the formation of Connolly Youth Societies in both universities, and I’ve worked alongside my organisation (the Connolly Youth Movement) to stage housing occupations against the housing crisis and the spread of homelessness. I’ve contributed to the CYM’s programme policy on Education and my current work is centred around International Affairs – this gives me a insight into engagement with key educational partners abroad through the exchange of ideas and methods of practice which would prove invaluable to the work of Academic Affairs vice-presidency. In addition to this, I have first-hand trade union experience from shadowing Noel Murphy, the secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union.
My experience of education, and the experience of my generation more broadly, has been deeply political, and radical solutions are needed to arrest the trend of underfunding and monetisation of institutions through on emphasis on community resilience and resourcefulness. If the state is failing to provide access to the personal development required by a modern society, the responsibility falls on students to chart their own course. The idea of the academy needs to be rethought so that education can be an empowering experience for all. A community-driven and community-led experience where confronting social issues is at the heart of education.
My policies include:
- Working with campaigns officer for development of rent strikes and class walkouts to highlight social issues and demand the democratisation of decision-making in universities.
- Minimum wage payment on campus must end and workplaces must be opened up mandatory union membership / branches / organising
- Agitate around little or no pay for students placements. (nurses for example, research assistants, pharmacists and so on)
- Connect the USI with students on the ground by holding consultative meetings and making the student movement truly participatory.
- End of university partnerships with vulture funds such as Blackstone.
- Adversarial representation – treatment of the student body a trade union whose wages and conditions are to be fought for like any other.
- I want to galvanise student action based around a student tenants’ union with the Campaigns Officer.
Vice President for Campaigns
Hi everyone! My name is Aodhán Donnelly and I’m running for VP Campaigns. Throughout my time in college, I have been involved in activism, both as a student and as a part of broader campaigns. During my time in Trinity, I’ve realised that I have a true passion for activism, and this has become the most meaningful aspect of my college experience for me. As I am in my fourth year studying Chemistry, my time as an undergraduate student is nearly over, but I feel that I still have more work to do in student activism. This is why I am running for VP Campaigns.
Student activism is more important now than ever. For example, the recent victories in LGBTQ and abortion rights in the north were causes in which students played a pivotal role. Protests are sparking up across the country in multiple colleges against rent increases on campuses, a symptom of the ever-worsening housing crisis. I wish to be a solid voice for student activism within the USI, forge stronger links between the USI and students’ unions on campaigns and engage with student activists on the ground in order to assist them in whatever way possible in campaigning for the issues that matter to them.
During my time in college, I have amassed a great deal of experience in the areas of activism and campaigns. During my second year, I was involved in organizing protests for the Take Back Trinity movement, which included the occupation of the Dining Hall and the Book of Kells. We showed College that a proposed 450 euro fee to sit supplemental exams was absolutely unacceptable, and we were ultimately successful in getting College to scrap the fee. Of all the campaigns I’ve been involved in, this one is dearest to my heart because it showed me that students united together will never be defeated!
Another campaign that really helped me develop as an activist was the successful campaign for an SU referendum in Trinity which mandated that the SU support the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign as well as run a yearly Anti-Apartheid Week in solidarity with the Palestinian people, which was then shortly followed by USI doing the same at congress later that year. It is important that we use our voices to stand up for people like the Palestinians who are so often neglected, and the support the students gave to BDS was an inspiring act of solidarity.
In addition to these campaigns, I have also:
- Been an active member of the Cut the Rent campaign in Trinity
- Participated in protest actions as part of Take Back the City and the Raise the Roof rallies
- Canvassed for the Repeal campaign
- Attended the first ever march for choice rally in the north
- Brought a successful motion to the SU council mandating that TCDSU give full support to the student strike for climate
I look forward to being a staunch advocate for student campaigns across this island! Beir bua!
Vice President for Welfare
My name is Clare Austick and I am delighted to be running for the position of Vice President for Welfare on the Union of Students in Ireland Executive Team. I’m from Galway and studied Science here. I’ve been involved in the student movement for a number of years; as a class representative twice, a part-time Equality Officer, the Vice President for Welfare & Equality last year and the current President of NUI Galway Students’ Union.
I have seen how the student movement continually evolves and adapts in order to implement meaningful change to improve the student experience. The role of the Vice President for Welfare is an incredibly important one, both on a national and local level. The Vice President for Welfare is about supporting students by running awareness campaigns and themed weeks, representing the student voice on national committees and lobbying for better support structures, while also providing guidance and assistance to local unions and welfare officers in the work that they do to ensure you get the best welfare support possible.
Reflecting on the many roles I have held and looking back on my journey in the student movement, has confirmed my desire to help others and want to make a positive contribution to society. In order for us to improve our ways of doing things in the welfare remit, we need to change the negative mindsets and attitudes people hold around mental health, consent, substance use and misuse and other relevant issues. We need to be mindful of the daily interactions, relationships, challenges and individual circumstances students experience to truly understand the complexities of holistic wellbeing.
As USI is the national representative body I want to ensure your input and engagement contributes to the advancement of the welfare agenda. I would like to hear your thoughts and ideas on the direction and priorities for the Vice President for Welfare to ensure you feel part of your national union and that you help shape the welfare agenda that impacts so positively on so many students.
I fully understand the many and challenging issues encountered by students on a daily basis. I have gained invaluable experience in NUI Galway Students’ Union over the last 5 years and I am fully committed and ready to take on national responsibilities to drive forward meaningful change. I care deeply about your wellbeing, I am dedicated to supporting you and I will ensure that your best interests are at the core of everything we do.
Vice President for Welfare
My name is Ruairí Weiner and I am a current student in Maynooth University. I have served two terms as President of MU Mental Health Society and I am currently a part-time officer in Maynooth Students’ Union. I am not a student politician, rather I am a student activist, and it is my activism, integrity, and determination to break the barriers to education that I hope to bring to the USI. In the past few years the barriers to education have grown and structural issues have emerged which are ravaging student mental health. These are due to government neglect and austerity which has disproportionately been placed upon students because those in power thought they could get away with it. Now is a turning point. Now is the time and the opportune moment to lobby full force on the next government to reverse the gross austerity and the growing crisis in higher education. We must seize the moment and lobby harder and more effectively than ever before to break the barriers to education. My priorities are clear, I know what to lobby for to tackle the structural issues which are ravaging student welfare and to radically improve the position of 100,000s of students.
Students need access to mental health services on or near campus. A fully resourced team that can cater to all their needs. This must happen by the next budget.
Housing needs to be delivered based on students’ need, not private profit, and the state must take responsibility for this. Construction of affordable purpose built student accommodation on or near campuses which is accessible to students with disabilities must start in big numbers this year.
Students’ sexual health must be a continued priority of the state. I will increase lobbying for access to sexual health services on campus, sound implementation on the higher education consent framework, and availability of PrEP to students.
In terms of student finance we need urgent restoration of SUSI grants to pre-2011 levels, reduction the adjacency criteria, an immediate reduction of the student contribution as a step towards removal of fees, increases to the student assistance fund, restoration and review of postgraduate grants, and an increase in the PhD stipend to be more in line with a living wage.
Transgender students need access to affordable and adequate healthcare here in Ireland. Transgender and nonbinary issues and terminology need to be understood, normalised, and promoted in student organisations.
Welfare needs of students with disabilities must be met in all HEIs so they may have as enjoyable a college experience as all students should. Accommodation must be accessible and affordable as should all normal college activities.
We need an approach to drugs that is evidence based and informative. We need to lobby to decriminalise the narrative and bring it into a welfare space. We need to talk about the reality od student drug use and what information and support is helpful.
For a committed and tenacious lobbyist in USI, active on these issues, vote for Ruairí Weiner.
Vice President for the Dublin Region
My name is Megan O’Neill and I m running to be your next Vice President for the Dublin Region in USI. I am the current Vice President for Welfare & Equality in TU Dublin Students’ Union Tallaght Campus. I was honoured to be elected for two years in both the former IT Tallaght SU and TU Dublin SU.
I believe I am the right candidate for the position as I am passionate driven and an experienced individual.During my time as both a student and elected officer I have seen the power of the student movement in two monumental referendums, this led me to want to make a real difference in students lives. I have always been a compassionate person and a friend who is willing to help those as best I can. I have seen the many adversities students face in terms of accommodation, sufficient facilities, a lack of health services on campus and most importantly being listened to and take seriously.
I believe I can be a strong voice and make sure student issues are front and centre during a crucial time we are currently in with the newly appointed government.
I promise to lobby for better, support officers for better and strive only to accept better for the Dublin region.
I look forward to seeing you all over the coming weeks and at congress and if you have any questions at all please contact me I’d be happy to chat to you all!
Vice President for Equality & Citizenship
Hello everyone, I’m Marie and I am the current Vice President for the Border, Midlands and Western region. Prior to this, I was the President of St. Angela’s College, Sligo Students’ Union and the Vice President for Welfare and Equality.
I am asking for you to place your trust in me to be your Vice President for Equality and Citizenship. If elected, I want to work with student groups and lobby for increased access to healthcare and the implementation of an informed consent model for healthcare for the transgender community. After repealing the 8th amendment, there are still a number of counties in Ireland without access abortion services and I want to lobby to change this and lobby for the universal access to contraception.
This year I had the pleasure to be the lead organiser for the Power of Disability forum, this year’s conference had a strong focus on empowerment and was student led and I want to ensure students have a space to come together and feel empowered to run for leadership positions. I want to make USI accessible for students and support SUs in making their events and campaigns accessible. I want to continue the fantastic work which has been done in the past year and I want to provide support documents and training for SUs to run events and campaigns.
I want to support international students by lobbying the Department of Justice to reform the process for visas for international students which is currently very restrictive and support mature students in making USI events inclusive.
I want to continue the development of Pink Training and support Students’ Unions further prior and after the training event and help with the development of their own campaigns and events on campuses. With the success of the U=U campaign I will lobby to extend the service capacity of the PrEP programme.
As a regional officer this year I spent my year speaking with students directly. I want to continue this if elected through engaging with grassroot organisations and ensure that the voice of these groups is heard at a national level by developing the equality network.
Throughout this year Students’ Unions across the country are battling to protect the rights of those who are within Ireland’s cruel and unjust direct provision system. I want to work with students in direct provision, SUs and representative organisations to prevent students within the University of Sanctuary schemes and those in the education system from receiving deportation orders.
Young people are leading the movement for climate action and I want to continue the work which USI has been doing on sustainability and continue to strive for more from our Government and our Colleges.
I believe a good leader should give a voice to those who are voiceless and I want to ensure the voice of students on the ground is heard. I look forward to chatting with you during Congress and don’t hesitate to ask me questions on my manifesto.
Vice President for the Dublin Region
My name is Dean Murphy and I am the current Vice President of the National College of Ireland Students’ Union. Over the last five years I have been heavily involved in the student movement, I started off as a class rep in my first year of college and then went on to be a student leader for four years. While being a student leader I was also the Entertainments Officer within the Students’ Union for two years, I then went on to be elected as the Vice President for Welfare, Equality and Part-time students.
Over the past five years I have seen the power of the student voice and the influence it can have. I have also seen the challenges that are faced by students all over the country which ignites a fire within me, pushes me forward and makes me want to support and fight for students all over Ireland. I want to continue being part of the student movement that is engaged, focused and results driven.
I have the dedication, experience, determination and overall drive to take the right steps forward in order to achieve results for students all over the Dublin region and across the Emerald Isle.
Some of my main points in which I aim to be more proactive and achieve results in are visibility, support, engagement and accessibility, accommodation and public transport, unity, connection and communication. I feel that these aspects will really intertwine themselves within each Students’ Union and will increase the connectivity and unification of the Dublin region which is my main goal among others.
I hope you take the time to vote me your number one for your next Vice President for the Dublin region in the Union of Students in Ireland.
Clíodhna Ní Dhufaigh
Leas Uachtarán don Ghaeilge
Creidim go fiachmhar gur cuireadh ar an saol seo mé leis an nGaeilge a labhairt agus a chur chun cinn. Táim paiseanta, tiomanta agus díograiseach do chur chun cinn na Gaeilge agus ba mhaith liom an paisean céanna a tharraingt isteach go AMLÉ.
Mar Leas-Uachtarán don Ghaeilge i mbliana chruthaigh mé feachtais, d’eagraigh mé imeachtaí agus rinne mé fograíocht ar son AMLÉ leis an teanga a dhéanamh níos inrochtana do dhaoine, go háirithe dóibh siúd a raibh drochthaithí acu léi ar scoil. Tá níos mó i gceist leis an nGaeilge seachas an Ardteist agus ba mhaith liom go mbeadh sé seo níos soiléire do dhaoine nuair a théann siad isteach sa Choláiste.
Is cuma mura bhfuil ardchaighdeán Gaeilge agat, murab as an nGaeltacht thú nó murar fhreastal tú ar Ghaelscoil. Is linne ar fad an Ghaeilge agus ba cheart dúinn a bheith bródúil as í a úsáid in aon bhealach gur féidir agus as í a chothú.
Táim ag iarraidh leanúint leis an obair atá déanta agam i mbliana agus an Ghaeilge a láidirú laistigh den eagraíocht agus le bhur dtacaíocht, is féidir linn é seo a bhaint amach.
There’s is nothing I love more than speaking and promoting the Irish language. I am passionate, driven and dedicated to Irish and I would like to bring this passion into USI.
As Leas-Uachtarán don Ghaeilge this year I have worked hard to incorporate Irish in campaigns, events, and promotion work done by USI to make the language more accessible to people, especially those who had a bad experience in school. There is more to Irish than the Leaving Cert and I want to make this more of a reality to people as they come into college.
It shouldn’t matter whether you have a high standard, whether you’re from the Gaeltacht or whether you went to a Gaelscoil. Irish belongs to us all and we should be proud to use it in any way we can and to protect it.
I want to continue the hard work I have done this year in strengthening Irish within USI and with your support this is something we can achieve.
Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs
Lil’ Intro for ya
Hello there, my name is Adam Clarke. I’m a Post-Graduate student currently finishing my degree in Digital Marketing in IT Carlow, I’m the Post-Grad officer for IT Carlow and I’m currently running to be the next Vice-President for Post-Graduate Affairs within USI.
I’m very passionate about student affairs, having previously served as the President of the mighty CCSU which is now in the capable hands of the delightful Adam Kane. I’ve learned that while there is a lot of overlap in the post-grad and under-grad experience, the post-grad experience is a relatively unique one that poses its own challenges.
Bit of what I wanna do
A key issue I’ve noticed in my discussions with other post-grad students is the ongoing issue of employment of post-grad students by universities, I myself have been in a difficult position as a part-time tutor where I haven’t been compensated for my prep-time. I did my preparation outside of work/study hours, but this isn’t a luxury many other teaching post-grads have. One student I spoke to as Post-Grad Officer told me they had part-time lecturers who would begin their classes by doing their prep then and there in front of the class. I was shocked to hear this as students that had paid for a Master’s degree were not receiving their promised education, and those that were teaching them weren’t able to achieve their deliverables due to not being fairly compensated for their work.
I firmly believe that education is not only a human right, but a necessity. One that is currently sorely under-funded within Ireland. We currently have the highest education costs in Europe, this is unacceptable, and I intend to engage in all campaigns highlighting the need for education, as proper funding will be a massive benefit to many struggling post-graduate students across all fields. If those teaching are being paid fairly for their work, then those being taught benefit as well.
Post-Grad students have massive workloads, whether they’re doing a taught or research Masters, or a PhD. It is hard to find time for anything else, including in engaging in the student experience. Responsibilities like work and family can severely limit the time post-grads have outside of their studies, leading them to be unaware of the resources available within their Student Services and Students’ Union. I believe that an important aspect of my role will be establishing and maintaining contact with post-graduate officers across the country, and helping them to establish working groups that give post-graduate students a platform to discuss their experiences, and expand their own networks to combat the isolation that is often attributed with the post-graduate experience.
Be my friend! (please)
If you’d like to speak to me at any point leading up to Congress, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’d heartily welcome the opportunity to discuss my manifesto with anyone interested in post-graduate affairs. See you soon!
Vice President for the Border, Midlands and Western Region
Who I am
My name is Gary Tobin and I am currently running for Vice – President of the Border Midlands and Western Region in the Union of Students in Ireland.
Born and Bred in the beautiful region that can only be Co. Longford, I had the privilege of living in a beautiful part of the countryside and was heavily involved in local community groups from an early stage, helping me develop an interest in group dynamics and the importance of participation.
These experiences coupled with a curiosity in alternative forms of education and the concept of adventure, led me to enroll in GMIT’s Mayo Campus where I studied a BA in Outdoor Education & Leisure. It was here that I learned among other things, the importance of “self” in relation to others, our unique environments and how all three interact with each other.
Having studied Outdoor Education, I have relevant experience in facilitation, leadership, group dynamics and management, communication and experiential learning as well as critical and reflective thinking.
Having spent two years as a single sabbatical officer on a satellite campus, I have valuable experience working on the ground engaging with students in close communities from the bottom up.
I have also been part of a full time team across a multi campus framework. An experience which I believe gives me the best perspective I can have when working with numerous campuses, their officers and students who are all unique in their own way. Both collectively and individually.
As a single sabbat on Mayo Campus, I also have a grounding in the fundamentals of a number of areas relevant to students, while specializing in areas specific to my campus such as welfare and sustainability.
Areas of focus
Some key area which I hope to work with you on include but are not restricted to:
With the accommodation and homeless crises ever on the rise, it is important that we as a student movement continue to work and apply pressure on the government collectively across all regions as well as member organizations in order to turn the tide of the crises.
With the BMW role seeing brilliant work this past year in terms of part time officer training, I hope to build upon this initiative, further upskilling officers in their facilitation and developing strategies for nurturing a positive relationship when working with students and other officers on satellite campuses.
Coming from a wide multi campus institution where communication is key and with experience in mediation and facilitation, I hope to work closely with MO’s as more and more institutes enter the merger process to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.
Should you elect me to BMW, I promise to do my best to work alongside the officers of this movement to craft the best student experience we can muster. I look forward to seeing you at congress. Gary
Vice President for Campaigns
My name is Craig McHugh, I’m 23 years old and I am the current VP for Dublin Region in USI. This congress, I am asking for your support to elect me the new USI Vice President for Campaigns.
Student activism isn’t a hobby for me; it’s what has driven me for over 6 years now since I began work with ISSU in 2014. It has shaped my view of the world, politically , economically and socially. I am someone who understands the systems in which we live under and who yields power in such systems. I know that as a movement we must challenge these systems now more than ever.
Right now, we are in a battle. A battle between private interests and the common good. It’s a battle between right and wrong. Between a rent freeze with reductions and a further hike in rents. It’s a battle that only we, the student movement can truly be trusted to fight on the right side of. It is up to us, right now on this occasion, in this year, to stop asking for better and start demanding it.
It’s time we changed tact. Letters of outrage are no longer the totality of a campaign rather the warning sign to our targets that things are about to kick off. I believe in direct actions, I believe in sleep outs, I believe in blockades, I believe in rent strikes. I believe in edging things up a notch. In 2020-21 , if the campaigns strategy committee wants a large scale demonstration in October – we’ll have one; but I tell you this– gone are the days where that’s the only day of the year the government hears us banging outside their offices.
In saying this, I am pragmatic. I know what works and I know what needs to be tried. In my time as VP Dublin and as both a sabbat and PTO in DCUSU I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. What gets students out on the streets. What wins politicians over.
We can wait no longer. The Irish government and the higher education sector at large will hear us. They will hear us in committee rooms. They will hear us in meetings. They will hear us in submission papers. They will hear us in damning reports. And if they ignore us, they will not be able to get away from us – on the streets.
My specific plans include – an increased focus on direct action, a longer term national demo plan to equip SUs with the plans to maximise their turnout, a campaign called JoinAUnionary to encourage union membership, an entire campaign dedicated to ending the commodification of education, a concerted effort on tackling precarious work and low pay and ultimately – campaigns that are impact-focused.
This is not a one person role; this is about a movement and the direction it takes. Either we allow ourselves and those who follow us to become merely annoyed and vexed cash cows or we stand up and demand a future.
Demand an end to the contribution charge, to shockingly poor student supports, to marketisation, to long waits for essential supports. Demand education as a public good. Elect me to lead on how we push these demands.
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Congress, a chara,