By Caoimhe Killeen and Paddy Henry
Over three thousand NUI Galway students took to the polls on April 22nd to elect their new full-time officers for the upcoming Students’ Union Executive of 2021-22.
The elections, which were held virtually this year for the first time, saw increased voter turnout through the online voting system.
Sitting Vice-President for Welfare and Equality, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, Second year History and Globalisation Studies student, Cora Clarke, and former Convenor of the School of Business, Public Policy and Law, Clodagh McGivern, were elected to the positions of President, Welfare and Equality and Education Officer respectively.
Nic Lochlainn won out in a crowded field featuring James Pope, Joe Mee and arch-rival Simeon Burke, but swept to victory with 1,877 votes from a valid poll of 3,681, just exceeding the quota of 1,842 on the first count.
Speaking to SIN, Nic Lochlainn thanked her supporters and pledged to get straight to work on working on the issues that matter most to students;
“I want to thank everybody that came out and voted for me, and it’s absolutely fantastic to see an increasingly engaged campus. We had record turnouts this year and turnout went up last year too. I’m really looking forward to implementing what I set out to do in my manifesto and working with students on issues that matter most to them. We’ve seen students left behind during the pandemic and it’s important that we stand up for students next year. We have a fantastic, women led team this year with Clodagh and Cora and I think we’re well placed to continue standing up for students like we have done this year”
In her race, Clarke received 1,816 votes which equated to 54% over the overall vote, exceeding the quota of 1,674 on the first count and finishing ahead of her rivals Erin Mac an tSaoir and Conor McWalters.
Clarke’s manifesto focused on a wide range of topics from sexual health and consent, students with disabilities, diversity and inclusion as well as handling dropping out and the transition back to campus.
When speaking to SIN for the election special, Clarke placed a huge emphasis on mental health through promising to work on tackling student burnout, increasing awareness around male suicide prevention, comprehensive training for the Student Health Unit on diagnosing people with ASD, ADHD and ADD, drug testing kits and non-judgmental education on drugs and alcohol.
“Firstly, I want to thank everyone who voted for me and supported me throughout this entire experience and to congratulate everyone who ran, it takes so much to put yourself forward so everyone should be super proud!” stated Clarke on her victory.
Clarke also extended her congratulations to her fellow incoming officers McGivern and Nic Lochlainn before promising to do her best to support the student body in the coming academic year and making it the best year that it can be for students.
She also promised a fair reallocation of funds, following the levy referendum result which voted to give more money to clubs and societies on campus by cutting the amount payable to the Kingfisher Sports Centre, but at the expense of the Áras na Mac Léinn fund and the Student Project Fund which are set to face cuts.
“In relation to the levy referendum passing, Róisín, Clodagh and I will be working together to make sure the reallocation of funding benefits students as much as possible, and I look forward to getting as much input after exams as I can from the student body.”
Clarke also stated her desire to get stuck in on training for the Welfare and Equality role after her exams, and that she will be most focused on a transition back to on-campus learning when taking up office.
“After exams, I can’t wait to begin training and dive straight into the job during summer to start working on the many issues we face! I imagine by that point; we will begin preparing to transition to on-campus learning…I would say that issue will be the most pressing one when I begin.”
In the Education officer race, McGivern received 1,684 votes from a valid poll of 3,284, exceeding the quota of 1,643 on the first count.
Her manifesto focused on introducing a reading week, a 48-hour cancellation policy for labs and lectures, an earlier release of exam timetables for students, securing paid placement for student nurses and midwives, a direct employment of an education accessor for NUI Galway, “Back to Education” classes for mature students, and working towards elective modules in Irish.
McGivern thanked all of the students who voted for her and promised to do “her absolute best for every student in NUIG.”
She also promised to talk through manifesto ideas from her opponents Neasa Gorrell and Conall McCallig to try and incorporate some of their manifesto ideas and find a balance.
“I know that there are many students that voted for Conall and Neasa, as their manifestos resonated with them, so I hope in future once my term starts to set up a Zoom or meet up with the other candidates and hear from them and talk through their manifestos” stated McGivern.
“I always want to thank them for being such good sports throughout the whole campaign, and I wish them all the best in their future endeavours. I’m really looking forward to starting on July 1st, and I can’t wait to see what we achieve with amazing people like Róisín and Cora working alongside me as well as the part-timers who are soon to be elected!”
Implementing a reading week into the academic year is the first priority from McGivern’s manifesto that she hopes to tackle when she takes office, as it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.
“I am going to try my absolute hardest with this, as I understand how exhausting it is for students to be on a laptop for so long every day, and with blended learning being a possibility next year, I feel that it is necessary. After that, it’s a big thing for me to make education equal, fair and accessible to all.”
Outgoing Education Officer Emma Sweeney also stated it was fantastic to see an all-female Executive for 2021/22 elected for the upcoming academic year.
“It’s fantastic to have three women elected to run the Students’ Union for 2021/22”, stated Sweeney. “They have great plans for the Students’ Union and the University for the year ahead.
“All the election candidates and their teams ran fantastic, engaging campaigns which were reflected in the record voter turnout. Even though our students might not be on campus they are still invested in how their Students’ Union represents them.” she finished.