Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) presidential candidate Ryan Carey, widely seen as the race’s most orthodox candidate, has admitted the union is suffering from a “lack of change” and argued it must break out of its “bubble”, in his most full-throated attack yet on the organisation.
It marks a change of tack for Carey, who has mainly sought to emphasise his experience throughout a race that pits him against a pair of candidates – Eoin Hand and Harry Williams – with no union background.
Today, in an interview on Trinity FM, Carey said he can relate to students who feel disengaged from the union, as he was not involved himself for his first two years of college. “I’ve really tried not just to be the ‘SU candidate’”, he said, before arguing he has worked to make his manifesto inclusive: “When I was writing my manifesto, I spent a lot of time talking to students who felt outside the union. I’ve really tried to be proactive.”
He also criticised this year’s sabbatical officers for not engaging enough with part-time officers, in a pitch that hinted he’s beginning to move away from emphasising his own role in TCDSU.
Carey was more willing to acknowledge the union’s problems today than on Tuesday night’s Council and Equality Hustings, arguing that previous presidents have spent too much time on campaigns to focus on “passion projects” rather than the issues that matter most to students.
Williams and Hand, two candidates who have come from outside TCDSU, have repeatedly criticised the union for not engaging well with students, and unsurprisingly argued again that it needs to do more.
Asked why voters should trust their claims more than those made in other years, Williams again pitched himself as an ordinary student who has witnessed first-hand the closed-off nature of the union. But pushed on whether he could truly relate to the experiences of health science students, Williams pushed back – twice in the interview he reverted to a line he has used several times now: “I don’t have all the answers.”
Hand was less critical of the union itself, but also emphasised his vision to cater for students “who don’t really care about the union”. Like Tuesday night’s hustings, it was clear that Hand had done his homework, as he explained how a student space in the Hamilton was ready to be built until the contractor pulled out. He used this as an example of how he intends to “hold College to account” – a point that may become interesting at tonight’s Media Hustings. Hand’s pragmatic streak was evident when he discussed the feasibility of cleaning microwaves used by hundreds of students: “I will clean them. I’m not an employer, I’m an employee of students.”
As the campaign progresses, it seems that none of the candidates will escape the burning question of USI membership – largely thanks to Williams, who has pledged to hold a referendum on the issue. Repeating his stance from Tuesday, Hand said leaving would be “dangerous”, and that when it comes to issues such as rapid HIV testing, “an SU in one college isn’t going to make the gov put more money into HIV Ireland”.
Williams built on his argument from Tuesday, pointing out that neither Take Back Trinity nor Aramark Off Our Campus were union-sanctioned movements, and they both ultimately proved successful. The conversation moved on before Carey could offer his two cents on the topic, but it will be interesting to see if he maintains his stance tonight as a convert who, like many students, once felt disillusioned by the SU but ultimately saw the light and now appreciates its role.