To an outsider looking in, this year’s race for communications and marketing officer of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) is a difficult one to decipher. With an extensive resume of society experience in both candidates’ back pockets – along with many policies that verge on indistinguishable – it may appear to many that Philly Holmes and Hiram Harrington are cut from the same cloth.
Tuesday night’s hustings did little to disprove this theory. Holmes and Harrington – although both well equipped with strong manifesto points on accessibility and inclusivity – struggled to set themselves apart.
The pair are on comfortable footing when it comes to creating a more accessible and engaged union, but the most striking aspect of this race has been the dearth of debate on the issue of marketing and sales. It’s not prominent on either candidates’ manifesto, and it’s not something that has received much discussion at all so far.
Although neither candidate has floundered, neither has triumphed either. Holmes, at times, has impressed with answers that are well thought-out and extensive, though he’s occasionally looked rigid. Harrington has often approached questioning in a more laid-back and affable manner – sometimes to the point of insouciance.
Their rapport is evident. Holmes and Harrington both clearly have a great deal of respect for one another and, perhaps because of this, neither seems particularly inclined to go after the other. Last night, for instance, Holmes complimented a “strong answer” from Harrington, and both have been open about their history of society involvement together. It’s a pleasant change from the often adversarial nature of elections, but it is arguably allowing the pair to remain in their comfort zone.
Although neither candidate has floundered, neither has triumphed either
Ultimately, it could be that TCDSU is the loser in the bonhomie between Harrington and Holmes. While it appears Holmes may have a slight edge in terms of canvassing – his trademark green t-shirts seem to have a greater presence on campus than Harrington’s red – questions remain unanswered about how exactly he plans to tackle a job that incumbent Muireann Kane has flagged as the job’s most important: bringing in money.
Meanwhile, Harrington – who has cut an unconventionally likeable figure at times, with candid descriptions of their issues with mental health – also seems more focused on tackling engagement through social media than sourcing vital union revenue.
Both are also very eager to emphasise the importance of making sure TCDSU’s sponsorship is ethical and locally sourced. But ultimately, it’s hard to imagine small Dublin businesses giving as much to the union as Coca-Cola – and neither has been forced yet to address this contradiction.
This year’s battle for communications and marketing Officer is undoubtedly compelling. With manifestos that in places show they a genuine passion for engagement and accessibility, both are quite impressive in ways, and both have a demonstrable zeal for the ins and outs of student politics. But neither has shown much in the way of interest – or concrete plans – for ensuring TCDSU continues to bring in advertising and sponsorship revenue.
And as much as their affable relationship has provided a safety net to Harrington and Holmes – neither has yet attempted to unseat the other – the similarity of their pitch has often left them standing on each other’s toes. At some point, you’ve got to imagine they’ll start shoving each other aside in the pitch for votes – and it might be marketing and money that drives a wedge between them.