The College Tribune spoke to Míde Nic Fhionnlaoich, the sole candidate for Welfare Sabbatical Officer in the 2022 UCDSU elections. The Connemara native is a Stage 4 law and social justice student and the current SU Mental Health Coordinator. Nic Fhionnlaoich is motivated to run because she has seen first-hand “how life has gotten so much harder for students in UCD” and she “wants to do something to help that”.

Míde’s manifesto focuses on four main points: student empowerment, mental health, housing, and sexual health.

When asked how she believes her time as Mental Health Coordinator will be beneficial if elected Welfare Officer, Míde explained: “I’ve gotten the chance to feed into a lot of the mental health policy stuff that we’ve been doing behind the scenes…I’ve been looped into exactly what’s going on boards and committees [and] what’s going on with the mental health strategy, as well as that have seen the struggles that students have been going through.” 

Speaking on the pipeline in recent years from welfare officer to SU president Nic Fhionnlaoich remarked “I think the reason that we’ve seen previous welfare officers for the past two years go on to run for president largely comes from the fact that you’re looking at the biggest issues in UCD for students and the ones people would likely want to run on a platform for as president.”

When asked if she aspires to become president herself next year Míde clarified “I’ll have to get elected as welfare officer first! It’s something I wouldn’t necessarily rule out but definitely wouldn’t be something that I’d have like the idea. I think I want to be a welfare officer, to be a welfare officer and I think to have that in your head going into it is a bit cynical.”

Photo Credit: Hugh Dooley

This year, five of six sabbatical officer roles are uncontested, when asked what she will do to ensure that there are multiple candidates for welfare officer next year Míde said “I do think it should be top of the agenda of any officer in the union to look for a replacement. There’s no point in being a very good welfare officer, or a very good anything if there’s no one coming after you to continue that work because a lot of the stuff in UCD takes a number of years to build upon and if we don’t have that continuity we have nothing.” She continued “Welfare is a tough role and everyone knows it but at the same time if you do your research if you go into it knowing what to expect you can do it and you don’t have to be an ‘SU hack’ or have years of experience with the union you just need to care.”

Finally, Nic Fhionnlaoich was asked about her opinion on the UCDSU re-joining the USI “I think the USI offers us a lot of opportunities when it comes to having access to government [and] having access to avenues of lobbying that we currently have to work extremely hard to get or don’t get at all. They’re not without their flaws, I think they have a serious engagement issue, but they have access to rooms that we don’t and while they do have all these issues we can’t make them more effective from the outside but we’re still hamstrung by their ineffectiveness from the outside.”

Emma Hanrahan – Deputy News Editor