Candidate Interview: Caoímhe Mac Neill, SU President

Interview conducted by Kylie Noble, editor, @Noble_Kylie

Why do you want to be President?

I want to be President because I think I’ll be the best person for the job, quite frankly! I’ve been VP Equality and Diversity for two years now, which has been amazing, but it’s also been challenging to see all the problems faced by students, both on an individual level and what they’re facing as a whole. There’s cuts being made across the board that are detrimental to students. I feel that I have the experience and the knowledge to really tackle that, and to empower students to stand up for themselves, and to make people see that we’re not going to be taken for granted. We’re not an easy cut to be made.
Also, I love Queen’s, just the sense of community that the Students’ Union has. It’s for everybody, not just people on council or in clubs and societies, it’s for everyone.

What do you think needs to change?hannah

I think engagement is something we definitely need to improve on. I think there’s been a lot done this year with the likes of the SU Popups, and engagement has definitely increased. We need to build on that and get out there. If I’m President next year we’re not going to be sat behind desks and wait for students to come to us, we’ll be out engaging with students. That’s my favourite part of the job, talking to people on campus and attending events.
What are your top three issues?

First, if I’m elected I’ll continue the Popups, they were incredible. I’d want to build on that, and also bring them up to the Ashby and School of Architecture. To complement that I’d have ‘Sabbatical Surgeries,’ fortnightly sessions where all seven of us go somewhere like the Enterprise Unit, where students can come and chat to us. It’s the chance to raise any issues they want to raise, but are maybe afraid of finding the office, they know a time when they can call in. It just makes us more visible and approachable.
Also, student poverty is an issue that’s been highlighted this year, which I’ve been aware of, having worked with student carers and international students. But it’s something that affects all students. I want to bring a café to the SU with not-for-profit food available, as well as a common room area where students can bring a packed lunch. You can’t take a packed lunch into Clements, but you could bring your own there.

Then the assembly elections. That’s going to be a massive thing for students. I want the student agenda to be a serious one that MLAs don’t take for granted. The student vote is a massive vote. I want to mobilise students with voter registration drives, loads of things to empower students. We need to be aware that the fees battle isn’t over. At the last general election the SU called for a massive campaign for the cap to be maintained – and it was. Students are a force to be reckoned with and we’re not going to be screwed over by the government.

At a recent council meeting, you expressed frustration at the objection of ‘Ireland’ being used over ‘Northern Ireland.’ Some unionist councillors didn’t take well to this. With the Sinn Féin referendum, do you feel that unionists feel less welcome in the SU, and if so, how do you feel you could deal with that?

First, I’d like to clarify that I wasn’t trying to demean their objection. There was people from both sides making their argument on the names used. I had no intention of offending anybody. I was trying to refer to the island of Ireland. We refer to the
regions – the South, Dublin, Border-Midlands-Western, and the Northern Region. So whenever I bring the motion to congress they’ll and understand I’m talking about all the members USI have. I probably didn’t explain it very well, but it wasn’t political.

It would sadden me to think that people do feel excluded from the Union. I talked to a number of campaigners during the neutrality referendum about my experiences of feeling isolated from the Union, and I would never want any other student to feel that. I would like to think that, if I become President, students can bring their concerns to me or bring it up in council. That’s what it’s there for – to hold sabbatical officers to account if they’re being isolating to any student or group. The ‘engagement’ section of my manifesto states that every student is a member of their union, and the thought that any student feels isolated from the SU isn’t one I’d like to entertain.

If elected, you would be the first female President in over a decade. How did this impact your decision to run?

It’s definitely influenced my decision to run. I think it’s disgraceful that the last ten Presidents have been men. I’m not saying they’ve not been fit for the job, but there’s definitely something to be said, especially when we’ve seen some great female candidates missing out on the presidency. I know of women sabbatical officers who wouldn’t run because they knew of other men that were running, which astounds me.

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.

One thought on “Candidate Interview: Caoímhe Mac Neill, SU President

  1. Yes, Caoihme really cares about Unionist students. She showed this by running on the same ticket as Sean Fearon and Oisin Hassan. The 2 people that tried to bring a sectarian divide to our student body. Go her!


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