Final year Social Policy & Sociology student Robyn O’Keeffe is running to be the Campaigns and Engagement Officer for the UCDSU in an uncontested race. She has previously been a class rep, Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences College Officer, Environmental Campaign Coordinator and FoodSoc auditor. The College Tribune sat down with O’Keeffe to discuss her campaign and manifesto.
With responsibility for engagement, if elected, the number of uncontested races in this year’s elections has been a source of disappointment and anger for many and something O’Keeffe will have to grapple with. When asked about this, she struggled to fully identify the source of the problem saying ‘it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the issue is.’ She pointed out the number of signatories a candidate required to be on the ballot may be too high and said the union needs to do a better job in ‘promoting the roles of the officers.’ While O’Keeffe clearly brought solutions to the table in addressing a lack of candidates, the wider engagement problem spoken about by other candidates was not addressed when discussing the problem of so few contested races this year.
A noticeable line in her manifesto states ‘We need to go back to the basics. We need better promotion, clearer communication, and full transparency from the Union.’ O’Keeffe is not afraid to call out where the Students’ Union is falling short and this line will resonate with many students who feel disenfranchised with the union that they rely on to be their voice. She wants to tap into the great resource that is class-reps for the union which she describes as ‘the backbone of the union.’ The effective utilisation of class-reps and the return to full, normal in-person operations is what O’Keeffe sees as the way to ‘get back to the basics.’
In terms of key campaign issues, O’Keeffe sets out the areas of gender equality, anti-racism, sustainability and housing. These topics are familiar sights on manifestos, particularly for the role of Campaigns and Engagement Officer. She places huge importance on sustainability, unsurprisingly given she is the current UCDSU Environmental Campaign Coordinator. This will be welcome news to many students who are also passionate about the issue. She wants to work with UCD Estates and UCD Green Campus to run workshops and courses to help students ‘reduce their energy use and wastage while living on campus.’ O’Keeffe cited a lack of engagement between the SU and Green Campus to bring the great ideas of Green Campus to fruition which she says ‘they have really great ideas, however, a lot of the time they are not executed.’
When it comes to the role of Campaigns and Engagement Officer, O’Keeffe admitted that while planning for her manifest she ‘tried to divide the priorities of both.’ She came to learn, however, that ‘to have strong engagement, you need to have successful campaigns’ and that ‘they work together quite well.’ Whether an O’Keeffe officership can help push both aspects simultaneously remains to be seen.
Conor Paterson – Co-Editor