As voting continues in the QUBSU sabbatical elections, a number of enlightening points (beyond those stated in manifestos) arose from yesterday’s poorly attended Q & A session hosted by the debating society in the Space. With the antics of the current VP for Campaigns and Communications, James Murphy, a talking point in the past year, presidential candidate Shane Brogan resolved to take a tough line on underperforming execs, saying he would have “no qualms” about tabling a motion of no-confidence in at the SRC regardless of friendships. Brogan stated that “if you don’t do your job, you get kicked out.”
His opponent, the Law Society’s Seamas Og MacGiollaCheara, appears to have made a mooted rise in fees to 10k per year, and his promised efforts to fight such an imposition, the central part of his campaign platform. However, reliable sources revealed to The Gown that even the most cursory research would have revealed the Russell Group Universities’ new, more modest request of between 6 and 7k per year. Moreover, Seamas Og’s opposition to proposed 5% cuts in Union funding are an apparent misrepresentation; these 5% cuts are, according to current president Ciarnan Helferty, a standard rate across all government bodies in the wake of the current economic crisis.
In the race for the campaigns and communications post, extrovert Stephen Connolly made a bid for Obama-esque oratory, echoing Winston Churchill in his promise to “fight for you in the foyer...and in the snack bar”. He criticised opponents for deeming his proposals vague, saying, by way of retort that he “stands for solidarity, for every member of the student body.” Connolly, in a subsequent interview, was, however, unable to name a favoured form of student finance, a campaign tactic to tackle a proposed fees rise beyond platitudinous calls for solidarity, and seemed unsure of whether he was for or against fees in the first place. Fellow campaigns candidate Gareth McGreevey made much of his work as editor of the Law Society’s magazine, while promising to ensure students are aware of their financial support and entitelements. McGreevey did, however, appear quite light on campaigning ideas. People Before Profit candidate Paul Simpson was unable to attend.
Concerns were also raised about VP Community candidate Shane Boylan; there was no mention of his populist (and some might saw lowest common denominator) slogan of “Feck Fees”, or its relevance to the post of VP Community, in spite of said logo’s ubiquity on campus. Moreover, Boylan has been uncharacteristically quiet about his role as head of the QUB Sinn Fein cumman, with plans revealed to The Gown for bi-lingual signs in the Union also notably absent from his campaigning. Boylan’s vagueness over the community officer’s remit seemed apparent in his resolution to tackle poor student housing (a VP Welfare job). Boylan’s remark on whether he had read an essential review of RAG activities that he had “started it, got halfway through, and killed myself” rang hollow amongst many attendees in light of the recent suicide in Elms village, appearing crass and insensitive for a candidate for the post of “community.” By contrast, Laura Hawthorne, widely acknowledged as a high-performing exec this year, listed achievements in building solid relationships with residents’ groups and the Vintner’s Forum, while relating developments on the increased seed funding for RAG and work in progress on street lighting and a night bus for students attending the Union.
Interviewed after the event, prominent SRC member Damien Corriden raised his concerns with The Gown, stating that “across the board there has been a distinct lack of preparation...candidates don’t seem to be aware of alot of the fundamental issues affecting students.” Councillor Corriden was particularly concerned with the post of Education, with one candiate (Dan O’Boyle) absent and his sole opponent, the Law Society’s Barry Duffy, unable to answer any substantive questions from the floor. Corriden deemed the manifestos “full of platitudes and generalities”, believing that many candiates were running unserious campaigns simply “for the fun of it.” Current president Ciarnan Helferty, who has nominated Shane Brogan, Laura Hawthorne and Susan Kearney (for VP Welfare) added that “alot of the candidates aren’t taking it as seriously as they should...they are insulting the intelligence of alot of students.”