Candidate Interview: Caitríona Keenan, VP Campaigns and Communications

Interview conducted by Pete Hodson, news editor, @PeteHodson

What’s your motivation for standing for VP Campaigns and Communications?

This year I led the girls [Queen’s Knights Cheerleaders] through a battle against Queen’s Sports who pretty much denied us sports club status even though we do what Americans consider one of the most dangerous sports. We weren’t getting the funding, I promised them that I would sort it out and I did. I launched a big campaign and got UTV, Sunday Life, Blast FM, Queen’s Radio and The Tab involved. I was determined that we were going to get sports club status and we did. A lot of petitioning and demonstrating around campus but we got there.

You’re not a student councillor. Do you consider this a problem, considering many standing are?

A lot of the other candidates maybe are (on student council), but I have skills that they don’t. I am very busy with the cheerleading team, we compete in Ireland, the UK and later this year in Spain for the European competitions. From that I’ve picked up a lot of people skills, rather than sitting on council I’m out there with the students working out what they want. I lead the biggest sports club at Queen’s – over 270 girls and boys. I’m working to do my best for them. I’m not just dealing with sport. I’m dealing with issues that they come to me with, personal issues. People come to me with a lot of issues, a lot of problems such as depression, which I’m really passionate about.

Why exactly VP Campaigns and Communications?

This year I’ve had to go through such a journey and it’s been absolutely crazy to get sports club status. We could do with a lot more funding for mental health. I worked at the Student Finance office late last year, it was absolutely shocking to find the number of students who just don’t know what financial support is out there for them. This year they were telling people about the Student Support Fund because no-one was applying for it. Students are crying out for money and support, and they just don’t know what money and support is there for them and the student officers need to do more to communicate that to them. I’ve had the experience which puts me in a strong position to help the student body. People that have been on council may think they’re ideal for the job, but that doesn’t mean a thing. I’m a strong leader. I’ve taken leadership roles in my stride.

What’s your plan of action if elected?

First and foremost student leaders are there for the student body regardless of political background, race or gender and I feel that I’m the perfect candidate to represent them. A lot of different people are involved in societies and political parties, but I’m the captain of the biggest sports club in Queen’s. We have international students and all political backgrounds and denominations. I want to represent them and not run the campaigns that I think are important. Every campaign has to be for the benefit of every student. Fair placements and more money and support for student nurses – that’s a big thing I want to address. I want to work with the VP C&S in order to get more sports made into clubs, that have been denied it. I’d like to make the Are Ye Well campaign bigger and better, to show the students that there is support for them. Half of those bits in my manifesto are things that have come to light over the past year from sports clubs, being approached by people.

What’s your stance on DEL cuts?

One of the first issues on my manifesto is the DEL cuts. They were a massive scare this year for students, they affect everything, they affect the SU, they affect sports clubs. It will be the first and foremost thing that I will be campaigning about because it affects every student. I don’t think this year that students really appreciated how big of an impact that would have had, so I think one of my tasks this year would be getting that out and getting students to realise what DEL cuts are. A lot of students didn’t understand what DEL stood for or what it meant, or what the cuts would entail.

Do you think there’s a lack of engagement with students?

At the start of the year I’d like to run a meet your VP campaign. A lot of students don’t know who they are, what they do. Get our faces out in campus; let the students know we’re here to help them and making us more accessible through social media. The prospect of being a first year and emailing someone you don’t know is daunting. I want to get out there and see what students want from their VP.

The position you’re running for is a two-horse race. Disappointed that you only have one rival?

You never really know what to expect. Take nothing for granted. I don’t assume anything. We’re two very different candidates so I think it’ll be interesting to see what comes of the election. I don’t come from a political background, which is why I think I’m the perfect candidate for this position as I don’t think there’s room for party-politics or personal politics. It has to be a really neutral place where the candidate represents the student body as a whole. I hope many people will identify with me because of that.

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