By Paddy Henry
You can’t win them all, and the cutthroat nature of politics, even in the student guise, was evident over the course of election week in NUI Galway.
From tent sleepouts to graffitied whiteboards and canine canvasses, the campaign threw up its own unique charm only to be seen on an NUI Galway campus.
And with nine candidates in the race, excluding the beloved RON (who has attracted his own loyal cohort of supporters over the years), and only 3 positions up for grabs, disappointment was an inevitability for the defeated six.
Padraic Toomey’s barnstorming victory in the Presidential election saw the end of the road for Denis Mortell’s grassroots campaign. Having started entirely from scratch, and no prior experience of the inner-workings of the SU Executive, Mortell’s message, pledging to be the voice at the front for the people at the back, appealed to those disengaged by the Union over recent years.
The final year Arts student got a respectable vote out, taking 20% of first preferences, and spoke of his pride in managing to increase engagement among the electorate, “I helped in rising the total votes up by 1,000 since last year and for two days of the campaign I didn’t sell myself, I just wanted to get people interested in voting. Community connection was something I wanted as a President and it’s something I wanted in my campaign”, he said.
Head held high, Denis referred back to his key campaign message and thanking his supporters and congratulating the newly elected officers on their electoral success, “My slogan was to be the voice at the front for the people eat the back and want to say the biggest and more heartfelt thank you to everyone who trusted me to be their president. I still think I would have been the best person for that. I wish everybody who got elected the best of luck in their next year”.
Another candidate who can take nothing but positives from her election campaign is Ellen O’Donoghue. The contest for Welfare and Equality enthralled spectators, university politicos gripped by the feisty rivalry between Róisín Nic Lochlainn and Simeon Burke. Ellen was stuck in a nightmare scenario where her two election rivals left her without even a glimpse of the limelight, but outside of the spotlight, the Donegal woman flourished with a strong team of canvassers and the presence of Lady the kitten towards the end of the campaign week – meaning the third year Journalism with English and Gaeilge student pushed her main election rival Nic Lochlainn all the way.
Speaking to SIN after her elimination, O’Donoghue hinted that her electoral shortcomings this time around may not signal the end of her involvement in student politics, and remained hopeful that some of her policies may still be implemented by the incumbent; “Unfortunately it just wasn’t my day but if Clare Austick can lose her first election and end up as president of the SU then I can too! This definitely isn’t the end of my involvement in SU politics”, she said.
“I’m really happy with the turnout of votes, hopefully this is the beginning of a new era of student engagement. Hopefully some of the important policies I highlighted throughout my campaign will still be implemented by Róisín, who I’d also like to congratulate on her election”.
O’Donoghue also praised her team for the hard work they put in over the course of the campaign and spoke of her pride in how she conducted herself throughout the campaign, “I would just like to thank my campaign team and friends for being amazing. I’d also like to congratulate Padraic and Emma for being elected. Thank you also to all of the people who voted for me on the day, your support was amazing and I am forever grateful. All candidates had great campaigns and I’m so proud of myself for the clean, honest campaign I ran. I’m also glad that I got people talking about important everyday issues in the University that face students and hopefully that conversation continues”.
Scott Green was Emma Sweeney’s closest competitor in the race for the role of Education Officer, taking home 30% of the vote. They ran on a platform of greater student staff collaboration and making the college more accessible through developments in the library such as a 24-hour study space and a sensory room. The outgoing SU Council Chairperson congratulated both of their competitors on their campaigns, “I’ll start by taking a second to congratulate Emma, of course, she ran a wonderful campaign and she’s a more than deserving winner. I’d also like to congratulate Kenny as well; we can sometimes forget those who don’t win but it would be remiss of me to not mention him”, they said.
They continued, “I have to thank my campaign team, from people who canvassed, to those who joined me on residence runs, my social media people, my photographer, translator and even the odd one or two that made me memes without even being asked. It wouldn’t have been half the campaign it was without them and I mean that very sincerely. To anyone who trusted me enough to give me their first preference, thank you so much. It fills me with immense confidence, and to every preference I got after that thank you too”, they added.