Another year comes to an end and as ever we open with a story about the UCD Ball, however this time it’s not to go through the list of one hit pop stars and underwhelming dance acts booked, but rather to face the sad reality that for so long UCDSU weren’t willing to accept: “UCD Students’ Union regrettably confirm that despite their best efforts to hold an end of year ball on campus, they have not been successful”. The announcement will undoubtedly come to little shock for the SU’s critics, who for months have been pointing to the inescapable fact that this wasn’t something that was going to happen.
Once the focal point of end of year festivities, the UCD Ball hasn’t been held in UCD since the Summer of 2012, meaning that most students currently attending the college have never gotten the chance to experience drinking overpriced Miller from a small plastic cup on a wet, cold patch of grass while listening to whoever was playing the Trinity Ball that night. Rather, since 2012 the event had taken place in the 02 Arena (now called the 3 Arena). The explanation given at the time was fairly clear; the guards didn’t want it taking place in UCD for safety reasons. As SU President for the 2012-2013 academic Rachel Breslin was quoted as saying in this paper at that time, “the gardaí have been very co-operative but had objections to an on campus event, which were put forward in person and in writing”. Fairly straightforward stuff, the gardaí were uncomfortable allowing the event to go ahead, apparently the fact that drunken and disorientated students would be hovering near the dangerous flyover was an understandable and major concern, and so said no to the event.
And so, the UCD Ball moved to the O2 arena. By all accounts, this proved to be a logistical nightmare for the Ents crew (the entertainment wing of the SU), as people were now being bussed around the city to different locations instead of staying in the same contained area. On top of that, ticket sales were quite poor while costs were high. Several reasons could be given for this phenomenon, such as a general disinterest towards the SU within the student body, the claims from UCDSU that the act booked to headline was an absolutely earth-shakingly massive deal (when half the campus had never heard of them) or the fact that the event, like most SU gigs, generally only catered to a very select number of musical tastes.
However the SU has chosen to focus on the venue as the source of the problem. This in itself could well be true, as the former festival atmosphere of UCD was replaced with a rather empty, cavernous feeling event that took away the open-air “magic” of the olden days, as rubber wellies and the wafting scent of summer were replaced with uncomfortable heels and an impersonal feeling that led those involved to feel like they weren’t at anything special.
And so, after two years of falling attendances and unsustainable costs, a hero did emerge who would bring his people’s ball back to its promised land. “Getting the ball back on campus is #1 for me” last year’s sole presidential candidate Feargal Hynes assured students. Hynes made the Ball the centre of his campaign, claiming that he was certain that the ball could be brought back to campus with him as SU President. He was further vindicated in this assertion that this needed to happen by a UCDSU commissioned report that advised that the ball be moved back to campus as its venue was a “unique selling point” and that it would not be prudent to continue to throw money into what was essentially an off-campus black hole. Despite the stream of questions on how this could be done, especially from the Union’s detractors, Hynes was not to be deterred.
Unfortunately for Hynes, his campaign’s cornerstone goal has not been successful. The ball will still not go ahead on campus, for the same reason it moved off campus in the first place. The local guards are simply far too uncomfortable with drunken revellers wandering around a residential area with a very prominent flyover, as it poses a clear public safety risk. Hynes has released a statement assuring students that the team involved did absolutely everything they could to assure the safety of those attending and in the surrounding area to the guards. However, what should have been clear to them from the get go was that this was not going to be a battle they could ever win. During the SU elections earlier this year, one presidential candidate said that they felt there was a pre-existing bias towards students from some members of the local force and that this was the true reason for the ball not going forward. While this is impossible to confirm, if it is indeed true then this should back up the argument that this was not going to have a happy ending.
The SU have announced that they will be holding smaller events coming up to the end of term, but these will almost certainly not have nearly the same impact that the UCD Ball has had at the end of every year. The student body will have to wait another year to see if Marcus O’Halloran can come up with a scenario that satisfies both the Ents crew and the guards, or whether this may be the sign of a permanent end to “Ireland’s Biggest Private Party”.