Following a majority ‘Re-open Nominations’ vote prevailing in the UCD Students’ Union executive elections, the upcoming By-Elections are seeing significantly more contested races and candidates on the ballot.

The Welfare Officer role is now facing a contested race between Míde Nic Fhionnlaoich, a final year Law with Social Justice student and the current Mental Health Campaigns Co-Ordinator, and Daragh Kane-O’Toole, a final year Economics and Sociology student and the current Disability Campaigns Co-Ordinator. Both candidates were on the ballot for the Executive Elections and now are back with Nic Fhionnlaoich running for Welfare again and Kane-O’Toole opting for Welfare in the upcoming By-Elections after having lost to Martha Ní Riada in the Education Officer race.

Below is the College Tribune’s interview with Kane-O’Toole.

1. Why are you running for the role of Welfare Officer in the By-Elections? 

I am running for the UCDSU Welfare role in the By-Elections because I have seen students’ conditions get worse every year in particular mental health services and something needs to be done. I believe I can help improve life for UCD students by being available and active on casework while also trying to make a bigger impact on campaigns and events that promote welfare. The Welfare Officer does lots of meaningful work as a first point of contact with students in distress but does not do enough to help students to maintain their own welfare. Through the points around cooking, budgeting lessons and peer to peer mental health support as examples I want students to feel more able to support themselves and maintain a higher standard of living.

2. Do you think you are better suited to the role of Welfare Officer or Education Officer as you first ran in the Education race. 

I believe I offer more to the Welfare role as originally when considering running for the any position I felt overwhelmed at the thought of welfare as it includes so much but when considering re-running I realised the appeal that brought me to the SU and to the Education role originally was helping students.

This can be found in many different ways, in education, it was casework and committees and for me now in welfare its casework and events promoting welfare. The education remit is more limiting as educational policy requires UCD involvement to make change. The Welfare role outside of casework can have more freedom to innovate to improve students’ wellbeing. I think I am better suited to parts of each role,for education my degree has taught me alot about policy which would no doubt have stood to me and for Welfare, my time in Philsoc and other volunteering has taught me a lot about creating safe spaces for dialogue and solutions along with more freedom to innovate new ways of achieving better student engagement and welfare. 

3. What is different in your campaign for the upcoming by-elections from the executive elections? 

In this campaign, I am focusing on trying to run a more personal and student-led solutions campaign as the students of UCD declared they don’t believe in the traditional campaigns so I am trying to show that I am happy to change and deliver more than just lobbying. Lobbying UCD is an important activity but if the SU is to remain relevant it cannot be the only activity as it has been in the past few years, To regain confidence the SU must take matters of student welfare into its own hands and seek to deliver solutions to the best of its abilities.

4. What is the strongest part about your manifesto, in your own opinion?

My manifesto focuses on things that can be done regardless of what happens on committees and doesn’t rely on UCD management wanting to help. I believe this has been an issue that many in the SU have failed to acknowledge for the last number of years. 

5. What skills do you think you have that will transpose well into the role of Welfare Officer? 

I believe the strongest skill I have that is relevant to the role of welfare is community work. I have since my first experience one of volunteering had roles where you are required to engage people who are indifferent. Designing lesson plans in Citywise(local community centre) and event planning(Philsoc and disability campaigns coordinator).

I believe I am a strong active listener and that is of key importance to the role of people to seek help and to feel heard. I am a creative person and to try and resolve complex societal issues requires new ideas as the old solutions are failing and I am happy to try new things. 

6. What do you think sets you apart from your opponent in the race? 

My opponent promises nothing different to what welfare officers every year have offered and the means to achieve them is lobbying, a method that has struggled to achieve much in my time in UCD. I am actively seeking to challenge the Traditional SU movement as I have done from the inside for so long. 

7. Could you please provide a short, roughly 75-word bio and summary of the main parts of your manifesto.

Hi,Im Darragh and I am a 21 year old student with Narcolepsy on full SUSI from a single parent household in Jobstown. I’ve worked hard to get here and will work hard for you if you’ll let me.

My main points are 

  • Making food more accessible and edible 
  • Expanding shag week and empowering people against sexual violence
  • Community focused mental health with peer to peer services and a community dog.
  • Including students through celebration of all religions,lobby for neurodiverse assessment and budgeting lessons. 

Mahnoor Choudhry – Co-Editor