Freshers’ Week kicks off next week on campus and all the UCD political party societies will be setting up their stalls to recruit new members. And as always there will be fierce competition to see who comes out as the biggest party society among them. Politics editor Oisín MacCann sat down with each political society chair to see what they had planned for the year ahead.
Young Fine Gael:
Captaining the ship as chair this year for Young Fine Gael is Vivienne Phelan, a 4th year Vet student who is confident YFG can retain their title as UCD’s largest political society. While speaking to Ms. Phelan, she outlined the events, plan and drive that she feels will be enough to retain this top spot. The main aim of the year is to support local representatives and Fine Gael structures in the UCD area. Their welcome night is on Thursday the 22nd at which point new members can get a feel for what other, more experienced members have made out of their time in YFG. Last year the society was rocked by multiple EGM’s and saw the committee come very close to collapse, but Vivienne was confident things would be different this year. “Everybody on our officer board knows their job and is eager to get the year started. We’re very excited to see so many new students come in and that will be our motivation for keeping our spot as the biggest political society on campus”.
Prediction: Overall, things are looking bright for the well-organised YFG this year in UCD, but they still face stiff competition so it won’t come easy.
Ógra Fianna Fáil
Ógra Fianna Fáil’s Kevin Barry Cumann (KBC) are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year which will be their chance to highlight the success of keeping a constant presence on campus and could see them make significant gains in membership. Last year Fianna Fáil kicked off the year with their notorious hot whiskey night, a traditional Fresher’s Week event where new KBC members get to drink hot whiskey, eat pizza and meet other new members. Cormac Tighe, history MA student and auditor driving the KBC is confident that they’ll have a good year, with trips to the Dáil, guest speakers and other excursions planned the line-up looks promising. Tighe also touched on the importance of activism as a way to engage new members. He said how “keeping an active presence across UCD is one of the key things that has led to the success of KBC over the past sixty years, and we want to keep that going this year.” Yet when pressed on what type of political activism or specific campaigns he intends on running with Ógra Fianna Fáil he could not offer a response.
Prediction: Has great potential to capitalise on their 60th anniversary and on the back of a strong general election performance. They’ll challenge Young Fine Gael for the top spot, but still seem to lack substance for grassroot campaigning that usually attracts students.
Sinn Féin Republican Youth
Last year Sinn Féin Republican Youth were the new kids on the block in UCD, after their society was disbanded by the Societies Council five years ago. After catching up with auditor Lucy Connor she insisted that the momentum of strong elections both North and South, in conjunction with high quality guest speakers will be enough for them to retain their space as the second biggest political society. “This year we can confirm that as well as having many demonstrations and nights out planned we’ll also have guests like Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, Mary-Lou McDonald TD, Jim Wells MLA, Minister Chris Hazard and much more” she said.
Prediction: Sinn Fein Republican Youth have shown strong energy and drive to become one of the bigger political societies on campus in their first year with official recognition. But this year they will face serious competition from fellow republican party Ógra Fianna Fáil and the latest new society the Soc Dems.
After suffering an annihilating general election defeat last February, Labour have been struggling to rebuild, but Liam Van Der Spek chair of UCD Labour has a plan. He aims to focus on specific campaigns around LGBTQ+ rights and on the ‘RepealThe8th’ and feels that Labour Youth is a space where young people go back to old school campaigning and that that is where they will be able to rebuild. By way of events, Van Der Spek was reassured that the Labour Mojito Night will be going ahead again this year during Fresher’s Week after its success last year. Events for the year planned include multiple trips to Dun Laoghaire County Council, Leinster House and more. Mr. Van Der Spek stated that on top of this a wide array of guest speakers will be coming in to address the society, but failed to name one when questioned.
Prediction: Labour Youth will be struggling for survival in UCD this year, and will most likely be overtaken by the Social Democrats who are now an official society and will be in the Fresher’s Tent this year.
UCD Social Democrats
The Social Democrats are the newest political party to enter into UCD campus politics, gaining recognition as a society at the end of last year. Their interim chair, Jack Power felt the new society could really make some ground in UCD. “There’s a lot of potential for a genuine and credible centre-left party to engage students in UCD. We’ll be prioritising campus campaigns on the recent hikes in on-campus rental accommodation by UCD, the underfunding of student services, and other key issues for students like Repealing the 8th amendment.” He continued to say he’s already linked up with the UCD for Choice abortion rights group to lay the groundwork for joint campaigns. “Politics on campus has been quiet in UCD for the last few years, so we’ll try to change that and look to mobilise students on issues affecting them.”
Prediction: The Soc Dems might make a name for themselves in UCD if they follow through and run some good vocal campaigns. But as a party that’s only a year old and is still setting itself up, they may find it hard to get an active society off the ground at the same time.
Oisin McCanna | Politics Editor