Join us from 6pm for the Queen’s Radio Debate!
Debate chair Andy Carruthers introduces candidates Ciaran Gallagher and Katie Matthews.
Gallagher introduces himself as the candidate standing for cheaper pints, cannons and the abolition of morning classes.
Matthews introduces herself and explains her slogan: “Changing the F.A.C.E of your Students’ Union”.
Carruthers asks candidates what sets them apart from their opposition.
Gallagher: Anyone gifted with sight will be able to see what makes me different… I’m trying a drastic new approach having been around for a couple of years. I believe there’s justification in this campaign, this approach.
Question: The President is the SU’s chief spokesperson. Tell us about your public speaking experience.
Matthews: I was Head Girl at school, I’ve always given speeches. As an RA, I’ve given presentations, chaired meetings. Everyone gets nervous, but it just means you care about what you’re doing.
Gallagher: I was basically a class clown. I did some radio stuff before I went to Queen’s, was very heavily involved in RAG and was relied upon for my booming voice (on pub crawls, you need to show people who’s boss). I’m also in the Literific: it’s given me experience public speaking, but also with different world views.
Question: How would you feel fit to lead the VPs?
Matthews: I’ve always taken a leading role within teams, as team captain. It doesn’t matter who you’re working with. It’s about professionalism. You have to overcome personal qualms to deliver the best service.
Gallagher: Sometimes it seems as if sabbatical officers are following their own projects too independently. It doesn’t seem as co-operative as it could be. For example, I would like to work with the VP C&S to make a better RAG Week across the university. As Katie said earlier, I’d work with Welfare on “No Tolerance”, for vulnerable people.
Matthews: I wouldn’t necessarily say vulnerable people, just people who need more support.
Gallagher: Quite right.
Question: How do you see your relationship with liberation groups?
Matthews: It’s meant to be a student community. As a member of the SU, you deserve to have your voice heard. That’s the main ethos that runs throughout my campaign. A lot of people don’t realise how much university affects your future life, your confidence. Caoimhe [MacNeill, VP E&D] mentioned minority groups leading their own campaigns: it’s important to support them.
Gallagher: With regards to international students, disabled students etc… A lot of people, when they see a pirate, imagine a scoundrel. Pirates tend to have a great mix of races on their voyages, people who have eye patches, hooks etc. We’re a very involving lot. They also have women on their voyages – I’m a great fan of Elizabeth Swann. You also have to think, what hasn’t been tried? I think Taboo has been great, but that format doesn’t work for everyone. For example, if you tried it for different ethnicities, it might come off as racist, and quite rightly so. Try to find those formats that have not yet been tried.
Matthews: Caoimhe has done great work this year for liberation groups, under-represented groups. I’d like to combine fresh ideas with things that are already there.
Question: If significant refurbishment of the SU premises took place, what would you like to see included?
Matthews: I wouldn’t necessarily add anything, but develop what’s here. I think a reshuffle of what’s already in the Union would be beneficial, given issues of space.
Gallagher: I seriously think there is merit in installing cannons in the building. You never know when we might need military/ strategic advantage over the high hats in the University. Take it from me, people take you seriously when you have cannons. I’d also fly a Jolly Roger 365 days of the year. No compromise. When Queen’s gets money, we tend to build something. Of course we have to maintain and build, but we seem to do too much of it sometimes. I honestly am not terribly sure… there’s a lot of potential, but it might be best to put it to the students – as a way to engage people.
Matthews: A fantastic idea, at the end of the day it’s their Students’ Union.
Question: What will you do to get more students to engage?
Gallagher: This piratey campaign is supposed to do that. Some may argue it’s not the most ethical way of electioneering. But the time has come to face the fact that the majority of students don’t really bother to look into the politics of the Union. Which is a shame. The way to engage people… I think, get down to base with what people are like rather than what they want. I’d be lying if I said I knew completely. If I did maybe I’d be working here instead of just spending tonnes of money in the pub. This comes back to utilizing the VPs as much as possible. If you bring clubs and societies together as much as possible.
Matthews: Engagement is a buzzword. There’s been a lot around buzzwords in this election so far. But in my manifesto, I put active engagement. Actually going out and talking to students. I think it would be lovely for us – if elected – to go along to different club and society events, get involved as much as possible on the ground. For example, the Literific, it’d be great to have a President who went along to watch the debate. Another thing I’d like to see is new DJ nights and Open Mic nights in the Union. Another initiative: Spotlight on the Sabbaticals, an online monthly newsletter. Every single student deserves to know what is going on in the Union. Have a feedback forum for that as well. Focus Fortnights: a by-monthly theme that tackles issues relevant to students, different issues; mental health, employability, a platform for liberation groups.
Gallagher: One of the things I think is a great shame is that we don’t tend to celebrate the individual. There are so many active students that don’t get enough praise for what they do, celebrated or thanked. Of course, one of the questions is how do you do that. We have the social media that makes that available to us.
Question: What would you do to convince the VC to oppose a rise in the fee cap?
Matthews: It’s important to remember you are the voice of students, you have the power to lobby. The Union and the University have to be cohesive, they have to be working towards the same goal. Anything you decide has to be cohesive. They have to listen to what we want. But there has to be give and take as well.
Gallagher: This is where the cannons come in. We could well see an increase in the number of applicants from a greater diversity of backgrounds than Northern Ireland because it’s lower than the rest of the UK. If you have that influx of diversity, high-achieving individuals, how could the University not benefit from that, boost us up the rankings? I’m a peaceful guy, so I would go for that. The other option is cannons. A few years ago we created a strike, we could do it again.
Question: Some election promises seem ill-conceived. Have you fully researched your promises?
Gallagher: I don’t see how people could think cannons wouldn’t have any impact on a national basis. Can you imagine the headlines? I am talking about cannons, I’m talking about Garth Brooks… I’ve removed myself from this because I believe most students aren’t in a position to care about this, they don’t know enough. I’m not in a position to say much serious about this.
Matthews: Obviously it’s been said on social media some of my ideas are naive. For example the cocktail bar. It could be fun, but there’s also a business side to that. It seems to be very cosmopolitan (pardon the pun), it’s a very in thing. We could even trial it for a semester. The money you’re bringing in is reinvested in the students. Also, the Queen’s Ball, people have said Jason [O’Neill, former President] tried that and it didn’t happen. My take is, just because it failed once, didn’t mean it’s going to fail again. We use our own resources for the Ulster Bank Festival. If we can’t have it inside, bring it into the SU. If Trinity can do it, why can’t we?
Question: What are your views on industrial action?
Matthews: At the end of the day, it’s a two way relationship. If lecturers weren’t here, we wouldn’t be here. But if we could possibly move classes around, move them around.
Gallagher: It’s the one serious point in my manifesto. I totally agree with what Katie just said. Yes, they helped us when we were in need, so let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot. It’s much easier to just move around classes. If we are exceptional, then let’s thank and allow a better pay for those who make it so. These people do the very noble job of education, pushing forward society. Let’s realise and remember it.
Question: In the run up to the European elections, what question should students ask politicians seeking their votes?
Gallagher: What would be relevant to students would be of interest here… We find ourselves currently as the members of the UK who are increasingly standing out against the rest of the UK, the majority of the EU in general, for example on the gay marriage issue. I would like to know what they would be willing to do… in what way can we bring Northern Ireland into the modern day.
Matthews: I think it’s important for students to know how any decisions made will impact our future, not just us now, but us in the graduate job market, as we progress in life. It’s important for students to engage in that – maybe the SU could do something with it, offer information, offer a little link. It could try and encourage involvement not just with SU politics, but politics in general.
Gallagher: I’d ask them about trade routes, too.
Question: Why do you believe only nine candidates have put themselves forward for election?
Matthews: I think it might be a confidence thing. A lot of people have fantastic views, but it’s a very difficult decision to put yourself forward. It’s extremely unfortunate, but I don’t think anyone can be penalised or discredited for coming forward. Anyone who’s elected will look into ways to change it next year. It’s about tackling apathy. It needs to be something that is tackled, that is made a priority. People need to feel confident.
Gallagher: One thing people don’t realise is that seven of the candidates are fresh, have never run for office before. The media is concentrating a lot on the marketing campaign. I think some blame lies there, but it’s been exaggerated. This year on council, we have an influx of first years, who might run in years to come. I have to say, one thing that occurs to me is that many of us know the existence of this recycled ticket that has gone on for years. It’s a machine of pooled funds and well networked individuals that gets almost inherited like a dynasty. It’s very hard to overcome that at all. That has probably put off people, I’d imagine.
Question: Should the SU continue to offer drinks promos?
Gallagher: I’m not convinced at all that this is the result of late opening bars, drink promos. The suggestions to those arguments are feeble at best. It’s quite possibly to do with our social perception of alcohol problems, whether that’s alcoholism or binge drinking. We celebrate massive drunkenness. It would be great to step a bit back, maybe you could compromise on shot ladders, that might be a bit too far, but I don’t think what the SU currently does is that bad.
Matthews: I see a lot of drink-related problems as an RA, injured students or those who end up in hospital. My manifesto mentions a cocktail bar, which isn’t endorsing drinking but the commercial activity of the Union. I don’t think promos are a bad thing, but if you are going to have them, the Union and wider society has to have a culture shift. It’s about respecting your limits, and other people’s. It’s important to have a safety net. It’s important to be educated about your limits. It’s about prevention, not correction, getting the information out there in the first place, so students don’t feel the need to give into peer pressure.
Gallagher: To return to shot ladders, there’s nothing wrong with them if they’re shared. One thing that turned my appreciation of alcohol around is when I started craft brewing. Trying different things apart from the usual rubbish lager, different cultures of alcohol will give an appreciation… why not try bring other kinds of alcohol in?
Matthews: It’s really important to get involved, to discourage apathy, encourage involvement. If you don’t vote, nothing is going to change. Make your voice heard. I would encourage you to vote for me. Get involved with the social media campaign.
Gallagher: The reason I’ve gone for this campaign is because I’m convinced their is a justified reason for this silly, gimmick stuff. It engages people on a base level – we’ve tried almost everything else. Let’s get students back into the loop, let’s get them engaged, involved. The Union should be fun. Let’s make it fun. That’s the way to engage people. Vote for Captain Gallagher. Go onto Facebook. We Arrrr Exceptional.