Interview conducted by Liam Cassidy, news editor, @casdee
Given your current position as VP Community, why have you chosen to run for VP Welfare?
I’ve always been interested in welfare, but it really came to light when I was at training down South with USI (Union of Students in Ireland) and as I am the only VP Community in Ireland, I always worked with the Welfare groups during training. Being surrounded by such inspirational and passionate people gave me a vision for what Queen’s could do. I feel we’ve lost our ambition and our drive in recent years and we’re only seen for doing ‘Are Ye Well?’ and giving out tea and coffee. I really want to change that. Welfare is a role where you can do so many things and campaigns, and now students are becoming more vulnerable due to cuts, I really want to help those students.
You mention financial cuts, and it is clear from your manifesto and what you have said that you wish to establish more campaigns as VP Welfare; do you see any issues with funding?
Funding is a major issue for the Union. The officers this year had no budgets for campaigns, and that is a major issue. I hope next year’s President will address that to management that we need money to do things, if I can’t carry out campaigns, what’s the point? I like to think we’ve been very resourceful this year already, with SU Pop-Ups, Hey Neighbour and Pushing Boundaries, we’ve found ways around it [funding issues]. Budgeting is always an issue, but it’s something I’ve fought for this year and will continue to fight for next year.
Are your aims achievable even with the challenge of funding?
I know I have a lot of campaigns planned, and I know it’ll be a lot of work. But, I believe they are tangible goals and we can achieve them if we all work together.
Do you think your experience as VP Community gives you an advantage in this election campaign?
I would say yes, because this year with DEL cuts the officer board have been at the forefront of that campaign and it would provide a bit of continuity [if I were elected] because we know what’s going on. I can speak for myself and for Hannah [Niblock, current VP Education and running partner] that we have been very vocal in our opposition to these [cuts] and we will continue to do that. We will not be taken advantage of because we know how it committees work and how to be heard.
You mention your campaign with Hannah Niblock, how did that come about?
In my opinion Welfare and Education go hand-in-hand, they’re intertwined – it didn’t make sense not to run with Hannah because our campaigns will work together and we will work together on disciplinary and appeals procedures. Hannah and I are very good friends outside the office as well so we work well together and provide drive for each other.
There is the chance that a lot of the current sabbatical officers will be re-elected, would that be something you look forward to?
Yeah the four of us [Caoímhe McNeill, Niall McKenna and Hannah] have all been here, and so it would provide continuity, and I think that continuity would be fabulous actually. But fresh faces are always welcome, I’ll work with anyone and the point is we are here for students, that’s it. We’ll get the job done.
Why should students vote for you?
I’m incredibly passionate and I think that has shown this year. I have such a vision for the Union, I’ve been to other institutions and I’ve seen what they do and I know that welfare is such an important issue and that it needs to come to the forefront of what we do. Student welfare is paramount, and I feel I am the right person to drive that and to establish fun campaigns to get students to think about these issues.