Mícheál Gallagher’s ideas and manifesto are laid out by Sinéad Williams

Experience is the reason that Micheál Gallagher feels he is the right person for the position of Welfare officer. The Social Science student has been involved in the Welfare Crew since his first year and currently serves as Welfare Crew secretary.

“I’m definitely the most experienced candidate for the job. I feel that the policies I’ve laid out in my manifesto bring a lot to the table.”

As one of this year’s Arts and Human Sciences PROs, discount Gallagher feels that he has done a good job: “I’m delighted with my year as Arts PRO.” He explains that he has been a member of every class Facebook page to monitor class reps and “make sure class reps are up to the top notch standards that students deserve.” He notes that he has only been unable to deliver one of his campaign promises from last year and this, seek he claims, order was down to cutbacks in services.

If elected, Gallagher says that one of his main priorities will be to expand the Student Assistance Fund. “There’s no doubt that next year is going to be one of the toughest years financially for students…what I’d really love to see is an expansion of the student support fund.” In particular, he would like to see the fund used to help cover the costs that students face in commuting to college.

Another main focus would be lobbying to ensure that grant payments are made on time. From September 2012, national grant payments are set to be centralised under the control of Dublin City Council. Gallagher feels that an important task for the next Welfare Officer will be to ensure that the new system delivers. “Ourselves and Trinity really do have a responsibility to make sure that we lobby Dublin City to make sure that the grant payments are out on time for everyone in the country.”

When asked about the proposed referendum on fees, Gallagher says that he would do whatever he was mandated to, but in his view, further options need to be explored. “My own personal position is the mandate isn’t working…I think we need to start looking into realistic options for financing.” He feels that UCD would benefit from remaining in the USI, as they help with national campaigns and “take a bit of pressure off the local teams.”

A referendum on the proposed new SU constitution is set to take place on the same days as the sabbatical elections. Gallagher is a proponent of this constitution despite claims from some on the No campaign that changing the position of Welfare Officer to Welfare and Equality Officer will not leave enough time for personal cases to be dealt with. “I’ll be voting yes…I know from my own personal work ethic there wouldn’t be an issue. Welfare and equality, if you plan your day right there’d be enough time for both.”

With regard to UCD residences, Gallagher is putting forward a policy for students who are uncomfortable with their accommodation for reasons or bullying or cultural differences. “At the moment residences doesn’t have a policy, you have to request a room transfer if you’re unhappy with your current accommodation.

It is important to have a policy where if you’re uncomfortable living with your housemates for religious or cultural reasons, or they’re full-on bullying you…you shouldn’t have to pay a €50 room transfer to move out of your room. Extenuating circumstances should be taken into account.” Such a policy would need work from day one if it was to be in place by September, says Gallagher.

Gallagher plans to organise a weekly “coming out hour” with the LGBT auditor. This would be a drop-in service where students could seek support and advice on sexuality and coming out. “A student might decide to come out at any time of the year and I think it’d be a great service to have in place.” He also plans to campaign against the stigma surrounding mental health.

The idea of seeking corporate sponsorship for Welfare is one that Gallagher agrees with. “It is very viable, especially for some of the publications I plan to bring in..

In terms of costing, sponsorship would be the best way to bring out these publications with minimal cost to the Union.” Costs could also be reduced in the area of printing, says Gallagher, by utilising social media. However, he would not welcome cuts to the Welfare budget. “I’d fight against any cuts from services. One of the core principles of the SU is that it’s there for students’ welfare.”

“[With] the proven experience and track record that I already have…it’s doubtless that I’m going to do a great job.”

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