George Merrin is a fourth-year biochemistry student and former Science Society auditor running for the role of Welfare Officer. Merrin was a lot of experience that he believes he can bring to the job, from working with the Red Cross, two years as a Class Rep and raising €36,000 for Children’s Crulim Hospital by organising SciSoc’s annual Charity Cycle to Galway.
Mental Health is a hugely important manifesto point to Merrin. In particular, he wants to address extenuating circumstances and the lack of guidance for those applying with mental health-related issues. “Mental health is such a grey area in terms of what classifies you as being actually in need of help.” Though the process of Extenuation Circumstances may be difficult to change, it’s an idea that Merrin feels strongly about. As for Mental Health Week, Merrin thinks the success of the Repeal jumpers could be used to promote mental health, for example, t-shirts reading “you can talk to me” or “it’s ok not to be ok.”
SHAG Week is another big issue for the Welfare Officer. Merrin hopes to finally return the event to its former glory as a full week event, rather than it’s current form as a number of events spread throughout the semesters. He would also like to have each day of the week themed, for example, Monday for LGBTQ+ related events, Tuesday for Sexual health and Disability awareness and so on. Merrin would love to explore the more complex aspects of consent specifically, in relation to alcohol and drugs and victim blaming.
There are a number of small initiatives that Merrin talks about under the category of Healthy UCD. Merrin likes the idea of organising lunchtime walks around campus as a way to advocate exercise, being outdoors and socialising without alcohol. He would like to increase the advertisement and availability of diet specific foods, such as coeliac, vegan and halal, across campus. The union’s mandate on Halal food will expire next year and when asked, Merrin said he would consider putting forward a more extensive food related mandate if needed. Another problem that Merrin would hope to solve as Welfare Officer is the removal of sugary drinks from campus, “I think that’s a great initiative, but I have one issue with it which is specifically relating to Diabetic students… if their blood sugar is low there is nowhere on campus where they can get sugary drinks, which is the quickest way to restore blood glucose level.”
Merrin has been putting a lot of emphasis on reproductive health during his campaign. As Welfare Officer, he would endeavour to “have sanitary products available in most of the main bathrooms of each building, I’d have them in both male and female because you don’t know who is going to need what in what bathroom.” He would also like the Union to start promoting and providing menstrual cups – the period product that costs less, reduces waste and decreases chances of toxic shock syndrome from tampons. He would also like to see the Union increase the variety of contraceptives available to students to include the likes of dental dams and latex free condoms.
Merrin took part in a photoshoot for Katie Ascough’s Campaign against her impeachment and this had raised concerns about his stance on abortion, but Merrin was happy to clear the air. “I have always been pro-choice, the reason why I campaigned initially for Katie Ascough not to be impeached was because I was friendly with her. As more information came out about what had happened, I stepped away from the campaign completely… If someone has a crisis pregnancy, I will give them all of the information available with absolutely no hesitation.”
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor