Ciara Donohue is a third-year General Nursing student from Bray running to be your next SU Welfare Officer. She is currently the SU Mental Health Campaigns Coordinator as of January; further leadership and committee experience comes from her roles as Class Representative, two-time Secretary of UCD LGBTQ+, Peer Mentor, and Orientation Guide. A significant part of Donohue’s platform is constructed upon ideals of continuation and revival of current and past campaigns, as seen in her points on campaigns, housing, and engagement.

Donohue defines two bodies of experience that led her to pursue the Welfare Officer role. First, her understanding of the responsibilities required of those in leadership; she claims that her current role as SU Mental Health Campaigns Coordinator has permitted her an invaluable perspective into the SU, as well as a connection to current and former officers.

Second, Donohue’s experience within General Nursing has gone far to shape her emotional resilience: “I’ve done 41 weeks of clinical placement at the moment. You see people from all walks of life, all different backgrounds. You see people on the best and worst days of their lives. I feel like that is really applicable to welfare because you deal with so much casework.”

The latter experience has provided her with a well-formed understanding of achieving education off-campus, and the hardships that come with it. Modelled off the pre-existing “Dignity and Respect” system, offered to students on placement at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Donohue promises to extend these systems of support to those in internships and Erasmus positions. This would translate to a series of information sessions in which students would be informed of their rights during these roles. She did not compare this model to the current support offered to internship and Erasmus students.

When asked as to how the SU is perceived by the student body, Donohue recognizes the challenging nature of trying to raise awareness for an organization like that of the SU— she admitted that, when she was a first year who was yet to be involved in the SU, she would have been unable to name the president or the responsibilities of the union.

Donohue hopes to aid this lack of connection through increased engagement during the start of semesters; she stresses the importance of lecture addressing by SU officers as well as more consistent and comprehensive social media displays.

“I think the work that is displayed through our social media, it can be perceived more, ‘we have all these events’, and not just, ‘we are a student union, we are here for your needs’.”

Donohue also mentioned her goal to relaunch the guide given out to all students during Fresher’s Week. When asked for clarification as to how one would relaunch a guide which was never taken away, she altered her original stance of “relaunching” by stating she would “ensure it would get done […] continue doing it.”

A key point within Donohue’s manifesto is her attention directed towards UCD’s counselling services. She recognizes the “frustration” within the student experience when dealing with the extortionate prices and waiting lists for a service which is subpar; Donohue cited the International Accreditation of Counselling Services standard of 1 therapist for every 1,000 students, a standard which UCD (with a staff of 14) can only aspire to reach. She did not provide a clear plan as to how she will convince the university to make such a large increase in hiring and training other than her petitioning for it.

On housing, Donohue noted how she had been speaking to former SU Welfare Officer Míde Nic Fhionnlaoich about relaunching the Digs Drive. For those not familiar, the Digs Drive serves to connect students in need of housing with approved homeowners looking to rent out a room. If your determiner of success is students with places to sleep, the previous drive in 2022 was able to conjure a few hundred beds for students in need.

Donohue countered concerns that the SU shouldn’t be promoting for digs accommodation, stating that the Drive is merely a short-term answer in the challenging goal to house students; she promised to also push for the development of more on-campus accommodation. Furthermore, Donohue’s manifesto promises to advocate for digs legislation, continuing the current work of the SU President and Welfare Officer. This legislation would hopefully provide students in digs with the same security and safety to those renting.

Donohue’s outlook on helping students find housing greatly differs from that of her competitor Jacob Miller’s self-declared “confrontational” model, marked by its promised rent strikes and occupations of university property. While she does recognize the success of payment strikes (referencing the Medicine Graduate Entry fee strike) and she does admit it could be fruitful, Donohue feels she would need to inform all concerned students of the serious risk of eviction before she would even feel comfortable in organizing a strike, let alone incorporating it into her platform as a candidate.

Donohue says that the main thing that sets her apart from her competition is her grasp of housing as well as her own experience on placement.

Ben Floyd – News Reporter