Interviewed by Sorcha O’Connor
Why are you running for election?
Over the past four years in college I’ve been heavily involved in class rep duties, student union duties, being involved in societies and I believe that this role is perfect, that I can completely fulfil it. I think it’s something I can hugely contribute in and people can rely on me.
What key skills/personality traits should an SU President have?
I think the number one thing is approachable. We’re in a college where there is huge diversity, over 120 nationalities I think in the college, and especially coming from a course like Medicine, I think there is over 40 nationalities represented in the course alone. Being approachable – regardless of your views, of your political views, of your sexuality, whatever it may be, that you are able to talk to the President if you see them in Smokeys, or if you see them in their office. That is the number one trait to have.
Describe what you think being SU president is about.
Again being approachable but also being able to lead and take initiative. The SU President has a wide range of responsibilities, be it sitting on boards, speaking to students one on one, being able to come up with something new or maybe bold, and bringing something new to the table that students haven’t seen before and I think that I will definitely be able to do that.
Outline your main objectives if you are elected.
My main objectives – the first one is increase community engagement. I’ve been heavily involved in charitable work with organisations and over the past four years I’ve raised over €120,000 from new charity events that I started myself. I identify an issue, see what I can do about it, and then I follow through with it. To give an example, my family had a brief experience with cancer. I was like, “Right, what can I do about this?” I started a shave or dye myself and I brought it to the college, and to date it has made over €8,000.
Last year I was availing of the counselling service and I thought how can I help other people in this situation? I identified Jigsaw as being a brilliant charity and ran an event and raised €12,000 for them. So year upon year, I’m building upon charitable events and it feels like the Students’ Union can definitely have a greater impact on the local community in Galway. These are the initiatives that the Students’ Union should be taking – definitely not going back to the days of RAG week, but definitely having a better impact on the community as a whole through charitable events.
Another part of my objectives is the student meal planning service. We all know it can be hard living away from home and you’re out alone. I’m advocating a student meal planning service where basically you subscribe to it with a wide range in cost, between €25 to 55 depending what meal plan you chose. The food will be delivered to you on a Sunday night and in it will be all the ingredients that will last you from Monday till the Friday with recipe tutorials and you’ll also have access to online tutorials. Firstly it eliminates food wastage; we’ve all been there when we buy the five chicken fillets and we say I’m definitely going to eat these but then by the end of the week they’re not cooked. You’re eating healthily and learning basic life skills, it ties in with the college’s sustainability initiative. I think it will be a valuable service and I think it will impact students more – the Students’ Union do a lot of work behind the scenes and people might not appreciate that. By having a service that would be used on a weekly basis, I think the students would really appreciate that and it is something they we are doing to help students in their day to day lives.
My last main point is the Green Star Campaign. It relates back to the mental health initiative that I came up with, basically reducing the stigma around mental health. When I had to go see a counselling service, I think I walked past the counselling service four or five times, I didn’t exactly know what I was looking for or where it was on campus.
My initiative was initially to put up signs pointing to counselling services or the health unit. But at the same time you want to give people their privacy, as they are availing of a health service. My plan would be that people would become accustomed to what is the green star. A green star would indicate that there is a mental health service close by, so there’d be green stars and signals left and right to point you in the direction so at the same time, somebody seeing someone going into a building with a green star beside it won’t initially think it’s a mental health service but at the same time it makes people aware of that’s where they are.
What are the key points of your manifesto?
I’m also promoting the Irish language. That part of NUI Galway needs to be nourished. All my posters, all my brochures are all in Irish and all my social media presence is all through Irish and I will always work with Oifigeach na Gaeilge to really pushed that.
Also to reduce the burden on students repeating. Repeating exams is a huge burden mentally and I don’t think there should be a financial burden along with that, especially at the time. I am calling firstly for a fee back to the €195 that it was and also to promote that fees can be paid after the exams; people could focus on their exams first and then move on.
Also I’ll be working with the USI to oppose the student loan scheme. One thing that I did was house to house calls or ‘student residence runs’. On that point, it’s one thing for the Students’ Union to be above the hub working like a well-oiled machine but lecture shout outs are really important when you’re trying to get campaigns off the ground and get people interested. I’d be doing those things at least once a month because you might bypass an issue until you’re talking to someone and they say, “That needs to be done”.
Also the bus service for nursing and health sciences students. If you’re in nursing or some of the other health sciences courses, you’re on placement from November of First Year onwards. You’re a first year and these aren’t placements when you go in at ten and leave at five – you’re in at seven in the morning during the winter months. Most of these, primarily girls, are going across town and Quincentenary bridge at half six in the morning and I don’t think that is right. A bus service wouldn’t be much to ask and I think it would make a huge difference.
More microwaves and water fountains will help reduce waste. If the college really wants to push this NUI Galway sustainability initiative then I’m hoping that they’d work with us. Make sure these are all available, especially on the north campus – in Aras Moyola there’s no microwaves and I think one water fountain.
Postgraduates, they are making the biggest sacrifices and taking the biggest financial hit. I would abolish the repeat fee. If exams don’t go their way, chances are it isn’t their own fault.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Best of luck to all the other candidates – they’re all great and have their own unique style, so I wish them all the best of luck.