By Caoimhe Killeen
The beginning of an unprecedented run up to this year’s election season occurred at the Students’ Union election information evening, held virtually due to the ongoing pandemic.
Students’ Union President Pádraic Toomey, Education Officer Emma Sweeney and Welfare and Equality Officer Roisin Nic Lochlainn were joined by guest speakers, former Students’ Union President Phelim Kelly along with Claire Austick, who is Toomey’s predecessor and the current Vice President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
The three current full-time officers took the opportunity to recall why they ran for office last year, shortly before the pandemic hit.
For Emma, it was her work with the peer-volunteering scheme CÉIM that sparked her interest in student politics, having never being involved with the Students’ Union before being elected.
“I was never a class rep, but I worked really closely with a lot of my classmates to solve issues. And then I worked with CÉIM for a year, and I was still studying at the same time. But CÉIM really lit the fire for me to be like we really need student engagement, we really need to push student welfare and there’s so many issues that these students are bringing to me that I feel that I could solve and that I feel like that I could help them with.
“And it wasn’t just the CÉIM issues, it was more specific issues that I really enjoyed helping them with and that’s kind of where my passion lies with, trying to do the best I can for people and do the best I can for them.”
Like Emma, Róisín had never held a position in the SU before running for election. “When I came to college, I saw the hardships as I was one of those vulnerable students and it made me want to run for welfare and help those students.”
Clare Austick’s help as Welfare Officer when Róisín was in first year was cited as another reason for her deciding to run after some indecision on her part. “My friends really gave me a push and I just went for it, cause at the end of the day what’s the worst that can happen?”
Pádraic Toomey was the only officer who had prior SU experience, having held the position of Clubs’ Captain before being elected President last year. “I saw the problems that were going on in clubs and I guess that’s why I wanted to run and here I am now [as President]. I just saw problems that I wanted to get fixed.”
Social media campaigns could start during the information evening, but Pádraic advised that if candidates did so, they may not have enough content to keep them going until the actual election day in April. “Start when you want to when you think it’s the right time so that you can build up momentum and that you won’t run out of steam.”
“Also, you get exhausted of campaigning and I can only imagine how tiring an online campaign is going to be. It is very tiring, and it can be quite strenuous so you need to pace yourself or you will run out of steam” added Emma.
“It’s also good to post on your private social media pages to announce that you’re running”, advised Austick. “But I think it is important that if you do set up a Facebook page, you get your friends to invite people to share and not just like the page. So, try and make it as easy and accessible as possible.”
Given the restrictive nature of how students can campaign this year, social media was advised as the best way to campaign. “Use all the social media platforms that are available to you. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, WhatsApp group chat, everything. Email lectures asking if you can do a virtual shout out for five minutes before the start of class”, advised Roisin.
Voting this year will take place online, with an increase in voter turnout expected. “There’s no registration, so you can vote within twenty seconds and can carry on with the rest of your day. So, it’s very important you message everyone the link on the day to tell them to please vote. We will probably see an actual increase in voting because of this”, added Pádraic.
Council Chair nominations open at 10am on the 8th of April and close at 5pm on Thursday 15th April. The election will be held at the last SU Council meeting of the year at 6pm on Monday 26th of April. Nominations for full time offer positions open on 7th April at 10am and close at 5pm on 14th April, with part time officer nominations opening on the 14th April at 10am and closing at 5pm on the 21st of April. Election day falls on Thursday 22nd April for full time officer positions from 10am to 8pm, while part time officer elections run on Thursday 29th April, from 10am to 8pm.