Liveblog: Candidates’ Question Time


Hello and welcome to the Gown’s liveblog!


Presidential candidate opening speeches:

Ciaran Gallagher: I shall be brief, as I haven’t written anything. That is not to suggest I’m not an organised person. As pirates were. Some people have said I’m farcical. That isn’t true. A vote for me is a vote to support drastic change. Proposes cannons so Union has “military and strategic advantages” over University in case of fee hikes. I’ll sit down and let the serious candidates speak.


Martin Lilly: Over the course of the last year I’ve really enjoyed my time and experience here. I will campaign vigorously on the main issues… ie: students’ employability skills. My aim is to ensure students achieve their full potential here. I’m here to campaign for serious issues, taking a friendly and personable approach.

Katie Matthews: My campaign slogan is changing the face of your Union. For me it’s not just putting buzzwords out – it’s getting out there, getting involved with students. It’s extremely important to incorporate everyone, to come together, to move the University forward.


Question: What are the key issues facing students?

Gallagher: The Union only has as much power as it has engagement. Some of the liberation groups need to be heard even louder. I take part in some of those groups. I still see prejudice against LGBT members, against international students.

Lilly: In the current economic climate, one of the main issues is finance. I know this because working as a VP, you get a lot of different queries regarding hardship funds etc. I would ensure all students know the support mechanisms available. It’s time the SU creates a more accessible environment.

Matthews: Welfare. If you are not okay in the first place, how are you meant to operate at university? I see this every day as an RA. All aspects of the student experience come under the umbrella of welfare.


Question: Only 9 people have stood for election. Does this mean the SU is unaccountable and stagnant?

Lilly: It’s disappointing. I don’t think the SU is unaccountable. Over the next few days we’ll see a vigorous campaign from my team, and I’m sure the other candidates.

Matthews: It is obviously unfortunate that there weren’t more people to come forward. I don’t think it’s fair to be taken away from the people who did come forward. It’s not their fault. I don’t think the SU’s unaccountable, but whoever is elected does need to be held to account.

Gallagher: It ties into what I was saying: we are obviously underengaged, or people don’t see the point, which is sad: it limits what we can change. Those of us who are active in the Union can be a bit cliquey. I wouldn’t say stagnant. I wouldn’t say activism is dead, but it needs oxygen.

Question: How would you see your relationship with liberation groups?

Matthews: I think it’s fantastic, the groups need to be represented. If I was elected, I feel it’d be important to create a platform and a safe space, I’d work closely with VP E&D. It’s an entire culture shift. There needs to be openness of communication, complete support.

Gallagher: Every hand in my crew has fair say. Contrary to popular opinion, pirates did act in more or less democracy. It’s one of the most important issues. I became a feminist when I did my Bachelors. LGBT… I thought we would be past all-gay bashing by now, but I’m sorry to say I’ve seen it in this very building. We need to really push a campaign of no tolerance.

Lilly: In Northern Ireland in the last twenty or so years, in relation to the Troubles, but also homophobia. Things have changed. It’s up to us to spearhead that change, to focus on how to get rid of all the stigmas that are attached. If elected, I would create a forum with liberation groups to ensure their voice is heard on a regular basis.

Question: What are your views on the current industrial action by University staff/ prospect of a marking boycott?

Gallagher: They were there for us to help us fight off fees. We should be there for them. It’s worrying when you look into the pay, what lecturers and those at a “higher tier” are getting.

Lilly: In it’s current state of play, I support strikes. In terms of the second part of the question, it’s important to remember I’m representing students, and not staff members. In it’s current form I’m for it, but I’m hesitant, if things progress and more students are impacted I’d urge a reconsideration.

Matthews: I’m in agreement. They’ve supported us so we should support them. But if it involves cancelling classes, we should look to move lessons, while still supporting the strikes.

Question: If significant refurbishment of the SU was to take place, what would you like to be included in the SU?

Lilly: It’s important to centralise resources, ie, those in the SGC. It’s important, when a student walks into the building, that everything’s available to them. To give students a more accessible and easy experience.

Matthews: Definitely Boojum. No not really. Logistically it’s a space issue. As long as we can direct them towards the SGC that’s fantastic. I’d move the sabb. offices downstairs to increase accessibility.

Gallagher: I think there is serious, serious need for cannons. You never, never know when things might go wrong with the University. On a more serious note, we could maybe devote the money to something else. When we get money, we build something. Maybe we could do something else.

Question: As President, how would you feel suitable to lead the other VPs?

Matthews: A level of professionalism comes in. You’re there to do your job, lead your team. When you’re in a position of leadership, you’re there to represent people.

Gallagher: I do intend to base my presidency on a kleptocratic fashion, in line with the piracy that goes on. That isn’t to say undemocratic. I’m hard but fair. I could call them all first mates… or maybe quarter masters, and have the VP of the month as my first mate.

Lilly: The President should be seen as a leader, someone VPs can talk to about any issue. The President is in a position of authority, which has to be used in the right way. I’d bring a tough but fair approach to the job. To enact positive change, you need a President who isn’t afraid to take a decision.

Question: Should the SU continue to offer drinks promos?

Lilly: Being an SU, it’s contentious. You’re trying to balance the interests of students and run a commercial business. It’s sometimes hard to achieve that balance. I don’t know what the right answer. If an SU encourages responsible drinking and a safe place to drink… you’ve got to be realistic, we’re in a competitive market.

Matthews: If we’re not bringing in money, we can’t reinvest that. I don’t necessarily think promos are a bad thing, but there needs to be a safety net. We need to educate students, have resources so that God forbid anything does happen, they can access that net. The key is prevention, not correction.

Gallagher: One of my policies is cheaper pints of grog. I’m not convinced making drinks more expensive would solve problems. Different cultures handle it differently. When I was on a voyage in New Zealand, the blame lies with the bartender. The way to look at this is in terms of the culture of drinking. Commericality isn’t really anything to do with it.

Question: What matters need to be taken to prevent a monopoly created by the ticket system?

Matthews: If tickets are there for the right reason they’re not necessarily a bad thing. But it would be fantastic to give independents the confidence to come forward.

Gallagher: You can’t really criticise tickets without criticising democracy itself. When you have seven people running against independents, you’re up against pulling funds, friends. It’s especially hard when you’re up against disenchanted, disenfranchised students.

Lilly: Running as a ticket with seven people, I’m not going to make any apologies. Working with the other VPs and picking out six other candidates took a lot of effort, I think it was the right thing to do. I make no qualms about running as a ticket. If I didn’t think people were up to scratch I would have run as a four or five. You can’t make a scapegoat out of tickets.

Closing speeches

Matthews: Thanks for coming along and listening. I would encourage you to go on and read all the manifestos, to make an informed decision. Because it will affect you. If everybody did vote, the system would look different. It’s about how you want to move the Union forward.

Lilly: I’d like to thank the other two candidates, wish them all the best. You’ve heard what I have to offer, I’ve experience for making things the best they can be for Queen’s students. Being here for over four years, I’ve a lot of knowledge, I care for the issues that students face.

Gallagher: I’ve lived on campus since I was about 12 years old. I remember me and my brothers getting kicked out of Elms for trying to steal a mattress. Please don’t dismiss me because I wear a funny hat. What do you do with a drunken sailor? You vote him into office.


Colin Stevenson

Opening speech: I’m from a small town outside Lurgan, a final year accountancy student. I did Study USA last year. In my first year I went to Turkey for six weeks to teach English. I learnt about these through Queen’s. A key facet of my manifesto is to increase employability prospects for students.

Question: In the run-up to the forthcoming European elections, what questions should students be asking politicians?

Students need to ask politicians what they’re doing for students, to make sure politicians are aware that students have a large voice, that needs to be heard in the general economy. We’re a mass population that needs to be heard.

Question: How would you get more students to engage in the SU?

For employability, I go to lectures (I’m sure a lot of people do), so if we can get shout-outs, get people behind things in the Union to talk about events, get out there, get involved, increase participation. If you’re behind your project, you can get lots of people behind it.

Question: Your views on the current industrial action?

I’m here to represent students. If the marking boycott does happen, it’s not beneficial to students. I’m here for students, I want to make sure the strikes don’t get out of hand.

Question: Why have only nine people put themselves forward for election?

It wasn’t out there. People may have felt it’s not for them. But it’s a great opportunity to represent students. They should have been out there more in lectures. It could have been marketed better.

Question: How do you intend to fix the broken state of student democracy at QUB?

I don’t feel it’s broken. Anyone had the opportunity to run in elections. To the people that feel that it is: you can get out there, have a say.

Question: Plans for SU Mag?

The current VP C&C is trying to get the Mag running as a student-led project. I’d get behind it as much as I can, I think it will be succesful and popular.


Question: What are the challenges facing students?

In my manifesto I talk about employability, you need to have an added dimension in addition to your academics.

Summary: I’d really appreciate it if everyone read my manifesto. I’m really passionate about the Union and want to get involved with the priority issues students face, I’d do my best to represent them.


Niall McKenna is absent.


Chloe Patterson

Opening speech: This year I was elected to Charity Officer for Law Society, you’ve got to bring the members together. My work with charity has opened my eyes. Colin and I are from the same area, it’ a unique area. Coming from a background of divided communities has given me the drive to change. Queen’s is a brilliant place to do that.


Question: What new initiatives have you got planned?

I’d really like to continue “Mind Your Mood”. The information gathered on mental health this year should be utilized next year. Coming from the Law Society, I’d like to do work on human trafficking.

Question: What will you do to get more students to engage?

I’d really like to focus on volunteering, the likes of Volunteer Week. Push for awareness, go into lectures. Emulate what the Union’s done and build on it, have events across the campus.

Question: Should students who misbehave off campus ever be expelled?

As VP you’d have to deal with outside community. From a Law student’s perspective, if you break the law, you break the law. The key issue is not to punish… the University’s launched an alcohol awareness campaign which could be rolled out.

Summary: Thank you all for listening, coming out. Something I didn’t get to touch upon is that I’m here to look after your concerns outside University, as well as in. I’d like to have an open door policy.


Hannah Niblock

Opening Speech: Thanks for coming. The rest of the guys on “Breaking Thru”, a lot of us were disappointed people didn’t stand against us. I think we can see today that this election is by no means dead. RON is very much lurking round the SU. We’ll be kept on our toes. I’ve been here for six years, and it’s very dear to my heart. I’ve a lot of experience at Queen’s, I’ve come across a lot of different problems educationally. I feel I’d do a good job. I’ve cross school experience. I’m well equipped to deal with problems, I have a broad outlook.

Question: How would you improve the SSCC system?

It’s the one place that everyone comes together and speaks about educational issues, so it’s vital. It’s come from a place of non-existence to being good. We need to take it to another level. One issue people have is that, if you don’t deal with the issue at the start of the year, nothing happens. It’s developed a lot, and I think it can go a long way.

Question: Do you think the current system for dealing with extenuating circumstances is fair?

That’s a hard question: at the minute all the different pieces of the puzzle are in place. Students need personal care and help getting through the system, not to be left on their own. The reality is sometimes, it appears unfair when things happen to you. We need to support questions through that.

Question: What are your views on the current industrial action?

It’s obviously a burning issue. I’m in support of any person seeking fair legal pay. We’ve an excellent education, staff members should be represented. I’m here to support students, I make no apology for that. I’d have to meet representatives of the Unions, but we’d have to put a motion before Council and see what the student view is.

Question: Would you provide a uniform system for schools, or a variable one as each school has different needs?

I know every school’s different. The support system’s very important, and it needs to be done right. We should develop the SSCC to make it more responsive.

Question: After looking to set up a peer mentoring scheme, would you be able to provide me support?

I set up the existing peer mentoring network in History. I have a lot of experience in that, I’d have to educate myself on it but I’d definitely be keen to help you.

Summary: Thanks for coming along. I’d just encourage you all to vote. That’s what I’d like to see come out of this. RON’s a great guy but he won’t do much for you. I prefer Ron Burgundy to Ron Weasley. I wonder what his policies would be: no women? To Ciaran Gallagher: do you realise piracy’s illegal? Thanks, I’m really enjoying the election process so far, particularly the Captain.


Caoímhe MacNéill

Opening speech: Here we are again, a year later. I’ve had an amazing year as VP E&D. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions and experiences. One of my proudest moments was Pink Training, Europe’s largest LGBT+ training. If elected,  I want to make a more integrated Freshers’ period, especially with postgraduate students, through events in the Union, tours in the local area, knowing where the nearest Tesco is, buses out to Ikea etc. Also I’d work with mature students, who are definitely up for the craic but don’t just want the same nights out as 18 year olds. I’d work with liberation groups. Finally: women in leadership. We need more women in leadership to be more representative.

Question: What are the key issues facing students?

Every student’s different. With my remit, I realised the same issues don’t apply to all groups of students. I know this basically from talking to students.

Question: If elected, what would you do to ensure delegates are sent to NUS liberation conference?

I’m working to expand the budget to send students to NUS liberation conferences. I’d love to see more funding, so students can represent our university at a national level.

Question: What students are the hardest to reach and what can be done for them?
I don’t like the use of the phrase “hard to reach”. They’re just not catered for as well. Working groups is how I’d increase engagement with these groups. I want to engage more with them, not actually run the campaigns but give them a forum.

Question: How would you improve the International Buddy Scheme?

There’s a great buzz around it, but there’s room for improvement with everything. We could make it run throughout the year. So it is fine as it is, we’ve never had a problem recruiting students, but we could have more regular meetups.

Summary: Please get out and vote. The key to democracy is voting. If you’re not satisfied, the option to vote RON is there.  I want to take the opportunity to wish all candidates good luck. Look after yourselves: get a good night’s sleep tonight!


Patrick Sally

Opening speech: The reason I’m running is to engage more students with the Union. My experience is that some schools aren’t as engaged as they could be. I’d like to increase postgraduate involvement. I know there is an option to RON. If any of you are not happy, feel free to do so, but my fear is who is going to stand against me.

Question: What are your views on the imposition of a “zero tolerance” sexual harassment policy?

I would definitely want to put that in place.

Question: How would you raise awareness of the SU Advice Centre?

You could run a campaign, promote it during Freshers’ so new students are made aware. You could also target schools in general, to advise their students that if they are in need they can use the advice centre.

Question: What are your views on the current industrial action?

I think the industrial action isn’t fair on students. If I was elected, I wouldn’t support the strikes to be honest.

Question: Do you feel female students would feel able to approach you as VP Welfare?

Yeah, I do. I don’t see why they wouldn’t. I’ll be operating an open door policy.

Summary: I really want to make a difference to the Union, and I think I can. Through Study USA I have a comparison to university life, I think it would help improve the experience here. Please get out there and get voting. I will be very happy if you choose me for VP Welfare.

And that’s that! Thanks for following the Gown’s liveblog of Question Time: join us tomorrow for the start of polling.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s