Sunday, April 18, 2010

UCD Student to head USI 2010/11

For the first time since 1994, a UCD student has won the top seat of USI when the university's S.U President Gary Redmond beat current Equality Officer Linda Kelly by a margin of three votes (109-107) at this years USI National Congress, held in Galway last month. While NUI Maynooth were unable to cast votes, a delegation including members of this years and next years Exec were present and in this Observers opinion, may provide a valuable new voice when they obtain voting rights in the next college year.

Redmonds election may provide a shake up in the USI of late and stoke old fears of an overly UCD influenced USI which has the most populous campus, boasting over 20,000 students. On the other hand, the inclusion of NUIM next year may provide a substantial swing vote with between 12 and 15 delegates being able to vote for the 7,000 students it represents.

During the referendum campaign, the few who canvassed against a YES vote warned of a UCD influenced USI, their scaremongering, while irrelevant at the time, may become a possibility. But how influential can one campus be in a union which includes almost every college and university in the country? While those Universities still outside USI may see Redmonds election as a deterrent to joining, would their inclusion, along with our own, not act as a further dilutent to the voting block of UCD?

While Redmonds leadership may bring USI away from the close links it currently has with Trade Unions and issues that don't overly concern Irelands students, the inclusion of the likes of DCU and UL (before the end of this term to have full voting rights), would further democracise USI and make the step towards reforming the organisiation to continue the strides it has made for student welfare in Ireland over the last fifty years.

For the other posts, Trinity's SU President Cónán O'Bróin was elected Deputy-President, while UCC SU's Welfare Officer Rebecca Murphy was elected to the national equivalent post. In the elections for LGBT ad Welfare Officer, R.O.N won against all candidates.

Your thoughts on these elections and the possible new direction of USI are more than welcome.
Contact via the usual means.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

We've Moved to Wordpress!

Following much (deserved) laughter at our old format on Blogger, we have moved on to bigger and better things!

We're now at:

The folks at Blogger were good to us, but we're preferring this format for some things we have planned coming soon.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Rainbow Parade and Musical Deckchairs in the Dáil

New Observer contributer Karen Meara with her thoughts on yesterday's NUIM LGBT Gay Pride Parade and cabinet reshuffle

Today, two things likely to be of particular interest to Observer readers happened. The LGBT’s gay pride parade* took place on the North Campus, and our education system got a new minister.

Most students, however, probably didn’t know about either of these events. Particularly the first one. A few smokers may have lowered their cigarettes for a moment or two and stared as a flag practically bigger than the crowd behind it marched proudly past John Hume and the Arts Block, but in the main the pride parade went largely unobserved. Unlike in previous pride weeks, which (if memory serves correctly) were a lot, well, louder and prouder, this year’s pride crept around the North Campus at about half past twelve, when most students would have been in lectures.

Apart from the smallish proportion of the LBGT society who turned out for the event, many of the usual suspects could be spotted among the marchers. Our president-elect, Aengus O Maolain was there with a contingent of Labour Youth and the ever-present Labour Youth banner. Perhaps the most interesting and encouraging support came from a former St. Pat’s rep and our current Pat’s Rep elect (recently elected to the co-presidency of the LGBT). Also in the ranks were one or two FEE-heads, a couple of the Amnesty-crew, a few jugglers and a number of stragglers who all looked a bit uncertain about whether or not they should join in with the rendition of “if you’re gay and you know it clap your hands”. In total only about 30 people (and probably less) were walking, and this on a campus which allegedly has one of the largest proportions of gay students in Ireland.**

After completing an almost-circuit of the North Campus, the parade eventually ended outside student union buildings, where it hung around for a few pictures and a chat before dispersing. Overall it was a pleasant, but low key event. A combination of little publicity and recent turmoil in the upper echelons of the LGBT may go some way towards explaining the relatively small turn-out today. Committee members have reputedly been dropping like flies, with no fewer than four changes of co-president in the last 6 months alone. It is somewhat unsurprising, then, that pride week so far has been such an understated affair. It would have been nice to see the parade march straight through the heart of the south campus, twice around the church and into Pugin Hall to dine with the seminarians. Next year, perhaps.

The second and, on a national scale at least, more significant event of the day took the form of a cabinet reshuffle. The words Dáil, deckchairs and Titanic spring to mind. Of particular note for students, Batt O’Keeffe and Mary Coughlan swapped seats. Batt O’Keeffe moved to the Ministry of Trade, Enterprise and Innovation (formerly Employment, but with 400,000 out of work it was an embarrassing misnomer – unfortunately seizing the initiative and changing the name is probably the most innovative move we can expect from this department. A more truthful name change would have been to call it the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Unemployment-which-we-have-no-intention-of-sorting-out), while Coughlan moved to Education and Skills (formerly Education and Science). This would generally be seen as a demotion for Coughlan, except she is to remain as Táiniste. We can only hope that one of the bits of the McCarthy Report which made absolutely no sense to Minister Coughlan was the one suggesting the re-introduction of college fees.

More worryingly though, Cowen made his intention to cling on to power until 2012 very clear. Revolution, anyone?

-Karen Meara

*for those of you not in the know, LGBT means Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender.
** it is difficult to establish exact figures, for somewhat obvious reasons.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Union Divided- Inside the Union Council

While many members of this University fail to heed much interest in the various aspects of the everyday running of the Students Union, a number of politicos more commonly known as Class Reps take it upon themselves to meet every month for free tea, coffee and sambos and discuss, debate and vote on issues that concern Maynooth students. This months meeting took place the Tuesday before break and from what this Observer has heard, it was a rather explosive one.

The meeting had already taken a rough start with the failure of the Exec to provide the promised lunch, which I am sure many of the reps only bother to show up for. Some may say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but when the lunch fails to manifest itself, hungry bellies were in no mood to sit through the rigmaroles of the meetings formalities and a report on apparently how great “the Gathering” was.

While the usual aspects of the Council meeting went without incident, The minutes, The Presidents report etc, it was an agenda item proposing that NUIM S.U sign the Cairo Declaration that ensued what spectators say was a vicious and nasty debate. Now as I am sure what many of you are thinking now, as did I when I heard the name “Cairo declaration” , the phrase “what the fuck is the Cairo declaration” comes to mind. I had to Googleize it myself and it is basically a declaration in support of the people of Gaza who find themselves suppressed by the Israeli government on a daily basis. I will leave it up to you readers to investigate as a full explanation of its contents would take too long.

The reason the Cairo Declaration made its way to the floor was that the proposer wanted our S.U to add its name on behalf of its members in support of what is a humanitarian effort to end apartheid in Gaza. A fairly straight forward answer you may think, I certainly did. I was wrong and horrified to hear that people were opposed to signing it on that grounds that we as a union were being too political? Excuse me, It’s a Union.... A UNION!!!!! If its a T.Y project you want to be a member of, go organize a food drive or something.

The argument that was being spouted against the motion was that of a constitutional one and NUIM were not allowed to take part or support such political motions. This Observer took it upon himself to check this out and as expected found this argument to be RI-FUCKING-DICULOUS!!!!! The article in which this argument was based on was that of Article 16 which says in 16.2 that “The Union may not affiliate to any political party” followed by “The Union may not affiliate to any national organization that goes against its aims and objectives”. Now where does signing a humanitarian declaration against apartheid mean becoming part of a political party?

A further argument put forward was that it may offend Jewish students and interfering with their rights. I searched the names of people who have signed online and one of the first I saw was in fact a Holocaust survivor! Hmmmmm she seemed really offended. The statement made by our Welfare Officer was a pathetic one and when you think about it rather misconceived as yes there may be Jewish students at NUIM but does that make them Israeli? It’s like saying, I’m Catholic so i am offended by people criticizing Italy because Catholics live there too! Would Muslim students be offended by us not signing it?

This argument went unresolved, and while it did pass for the Union to sign it, it has been sent to the Guardianship to see if it can be ratified or not. It does however bring a bigger question to the fore which has gone neglected by the Exec and Council. How political should the Union be? Well I say very. Student Movements have been a the vanguard of political and most importantly humanitarian movements for centuries so why should NUIM remain out in the cold? Would we have neglected to show our support against the Apartheid regime in South Africa or civil rights movements in both America and closer to home in Northern Ireland?

This argument used by Fianna Fail members of Union Council and members who want an easy ride in life that Union Council can’t make decisions should cease immediately and grow themselves a pair of balls. The failure to show support for striking staff earlier last term goes against our own aims and objectives highlighted in the often misquoted Constitution. Article 2.3 “to keep students informed of developments within the Union and the University, and of national issues of student interest”. Would this not be in our interest to keep those that teach us provided with the necessary equipment and working conditions? Not supporting the strike was saying, “Yes we’ll have an inferior education please”.

If we are going to be taken seriously as a social group of this country who are against cut backs and not just a bunch of time wasting free loaders, we need to be willing to stand up and be counted, not just on national issues but on ones of a wider humanitarian one. Bring back the spirit of ’68, where the student voice was a loud, proud and vocal one, not like the timid squeak of today which is being trampled on by those who call us “young people”.

If you wish to read more on or sign the Cairo Declaration visit:

Likewise, if you wish to view our Constitution follow the link at the bottom of this page:

Your debate, reaction and correspondence is always welcome and encouraged at:

Till then,


The Big Interview: Aengus Ó Maoláin

El Presidente chats with The Observer

This week's Big Interview is just that, as we have been granted among the first interviews with NUI Maynooth's President-elect, Aengus Ó Maoláin. Having won the election convincingly, we sit down (metaphorically) with Aengus, and talk success, Lefties, and....Van Halen?!

How was the whole campaign experience for you?

It was brilliant. I have never had a more demanding and enjoyable month than this February. My campaign manager and I had every hour of the day time-tabled out in the most detail I've ever lived by and the last ten days were insane, 19 hours a day, with specific tasks every half an hour, from when to take my flu meds to which class I had to address next and where.

That probably makes it sound terrible but while all of that was happening I got to meet hundreds if not thousands of wonderful people and listen to what they wanted from their SU, share a joke, even just a casual conversation about Leinster's chances this season. The day after the count I was like a lost puppy, with no idea what to do, and adjusting back to normal life will probably take a while, but I have had a fantastic experience, that will stand to me for the rest of my life.

Why did you decide to run in the first place?

The first person to ask me about running for the SU was a girl in my class called Fran and I think I laughed in her face, I didn't think I had the requisite personality or the arrogance to go for the job. But in the months after that first conversation people started talking to me more seriously about it. Then there was the ICTU day of action, and the Bertie protest and a few serious talks with friends, and people started mentioning my name without my knowledge. I knew we needed a strong leader in the SU, and I knew I wanted a left-wing voice, but only by the end of the first semester did I think that it might be me.

By December one person in particular was texting me daily with sentiments like 'do what people do in marathons' and I finally had to say to everyone, I'll think about it over Christmas and let you know in the new year. When I finally sat down on Stephen's Day I thought about it for about two seconds and just said, 'sure why not?' I made a few phone calls and talked to my family and girlfriend and next thing I knew we were planning a campaign.

What was the highlight of the campaign?

There are so many, having the craic with an Irish lecturer during a lecture address, the day the smiley-face stickers arrived, the first big night in Brady's when I was mobbed like a celebrity, seeing my pile of votes on count-day... Overall the kindness and love I was shown by all my friends, old and new, over the course of the entire campaign.

The worst point?

I think the worst point had to be the meeting when Sarah, Ronan and I finalised the manifesto in three hours, and were going quietly insane. We laugh about it now, but we honestly tried to solve the parking problem in two minutes at one stage. Another low point was just before Hustings when my flu meds had me kind of stoned and I honestly thought I wasn't going to make it through the speech!

Do you feel you ran a good race?

I do, I think I threw everything I had into this campaign and had a fantastic team to help me out. Most importantly for me, all five candidates managed to keep the campaign completely positive and clean, unlike some of the other races.

What would you have done differently?

I probably could have spent a bit more time studying...

What did you think about the result?

Absolutely shocked. From the moment the polls closed to the moment I saw the initial count I was convinced I had lost, maybe it was a defence mechanism, but I honestly had no idea I would win, let alone on the first count. To be honest it still hasn't really sunk in, and I keep expecting a phone call telling me the whole thing has to be done again, or that there was some horrible error, but until then, I'm laughing!

What's next for you?

Well I've got four months before I take office, and I have a pretty huge thesis to get done, so as well as going to all the USI things with Brian, I'll be mainly concentrating on that. I've also got commitments with the Chamber Choir and NUIM Labour which will keep my free time pretty packed. I'm already looking forward to the first day in the office and getting the first point checked off my manifesto. I hope to sit down with Gav, Tara, Shelly and Jason at some stage in the next few weeks and get some of their manifesto ideas worked out as well.

As the campaign favourite from the very beginning, were you confident that you would win? Did any of the other candidates give you a scare throughout the course of the election?

Sigh, every time someone called me 'the favourite' a chill went up my spine. I had high hopes that I would win, but never once took it for granted. Every time I thought about staying in bed a few minutes longer, I just thought about the prize and how much I wanted to win. As for the other candidates, its safe to say they all gave me a scare at one stage or another. Shelly's campaign team were really strong and passionate, and made genuine personal connections in a way that wasn't in my strategy. Tara had green week which was really scary, as I though it was a massive boost for her campaign. Gav's team were dedicated and high-visibility and Jason was always a threat, with the constant reminders of his 'surprises' and his tendency to monopolise the time of my canvassers. Maybe it was my own insecurity speaking, but I never once believed I had it in the bag.

It has been suggested that you and some other contestants for the other Union positions considered yourself the "dream team." How much of a dream is the team that got elected? How well do you think you would have worked with the Exec if none of your running mates had been elected? Or if yourself had not been elected would the likes of Rob have worked with Jason or Gavin?

Ok, first off I should explain how this "dream team" thing came about. Initially it was suggested that Rob, Declan, James Boyle and myself would make a dream team as we all post on that then morphed into a presumed ticket which I at no point endorsed. Of the seven candidates for the other two sabbats I was good friends with five of them before the campaign and became mates with the remaining two during. I knew Rob and James best obviously but I never backed either of them publicly. In fact the only candidate I canvassed for was Shmick Hughes as he was running unopposed for St. Pat's Rep. So, I have issues with this 'running mates' question.

How would I have worked with the exec if none of my mates had been elected, just fine thanks! And if it had gone the other way I trust in the professionalism and integrity of all the candidates for every position to work under whoever the voters chose as President.

I feel sorry for James, as I know he would have made an excellent VP Welfare, but so would Lydia, Mark and Mary, and I get on very well with Liz as it is so I have no problems in that regard.

Although you have been supportive in the run up to the USI referendum, you were slightly allusive to whether you supported it or not at hustings and during your campaign. Was this out of not wanting to split your vote or for fear that it would not pass?

I am delighted Maynooth has rejoined USI, and I voted in favour of that. I could have been more partial on this issue, but I decided early on to take no sides in any other election or referendum, and that extended to the USI referendum as well. No tactics, no fears, just good politics, sorry!

Did you think USI would win in such a landslide?

I did, the No campaign was very weak and the one significant piece of No campaigning was horrible and transparent. Maybe I thought it would be more like 60 / 40 but the FEE lads and USI themselves put in the hard work on the ground that their opponents did not.

On their twitter page Labour Youth posted "NUIM students' union election sees 4 of our members elected. In a college where we had no branch a year ago, this is a terrific day!" What is you belief on associating student politics with party politics?

The reason students are so often overlooked by National politicians is that they refuse to involve themselves in national politics. I believe that if we, as students, want to get ourselves listened to we must vote, we must get involved with parties, and we must join parties. I will be very strong on this point, I am a member of the Labour Party, and I joined that party because they have the policies that are closest to my own beliefs. At no stage did I consider myself 'the Labour candidate' nor should I have done, but I am proudly a member of Labour and am flattered that my party are proud of my branch!

Do not for a second doubt that I will protest against Labour with all my heart as SU President though, if they go against our beliefs as students of Maynooth.

And what do you say to those who elected you, not the Labour Party and believe they have just inadvertently elected a party they don't follow?

I would say this, you have elected a dedicated activist from the left who will work tirelessly on your behalf. From the first of July on I am first and foremost the President of Maynooth SU. I will be encouraging our other elected members to comport themselves likewise.

Many people see your election and the majority of left wing candidates being elected as a positive while others as an extreme negative. What's your opinion on this and do you see it as an overall swing in national opinion on our public representatives?

I think the majority of lefties on the exec is a good thing personally, but am pleased to see at least one FFer get elected as a good argument is worth hours of personal thought. I have had some fabulous arguments with Joe Byrne which have helped cement my own views, and the more opinions at a table the better the eventual decision. However, many of the members of my own team and supporters came from every possible part of the political spectrum, even after my election one person warned me that he will disagree with me from time to time, and I welcome that. Ultimately the SU is run by Union Council and it is they that set the direction of Union policy.

Does this election represent a national swing to the left? I don't believe so, I think people voted for the best candidates for the job, not for their political leanings.

As President will you be taking an active and vocal role in the fight against Fees? Do you see this as a winnable battle, or one of the many sacrifices need to be made in order to control the economy? And if so is the fight just for public opinion?

Yes of course I will. University fees are sadly a reality already, and it is a primary objective to ensure that the University obey the legislation which allows them spend a proportion of the registration fee so long as student groups are consulted. To date this has not happened. I completely oppose any rise in the fee and will demand a full say in how the University spends your money.

The economy is suffering because thousands of graduates are leaving the country instead of investing in the country by getting a job and paying tax here. If, for example, the government allowed graduates fill vacant teaching jobs, instead of standing in a dole queue, we would not be wasting the investment in free education. Charging fees for University is a ridiculous solution to our economic woes, it says "let's get out of the recession by having a less attractive work force for foreign investors." So no, I don't give any time to the argument that free education is a luxury we can do without.

This year has been regarded by some as "the year of the Left" for NUIM politics, with a number of campaigns being successful. Who do you see as the main organisers of this and why now in Maynooth when it is regarded for being a conservative college? What have you and Labour Youth done in this historic year that can be attributed?

I believe the reason for the Left's successes this year has been the unprecedented level of co-operation between the various hews of red around campus. I took the view early in the year to involve NUIM LY in the Social Solidarity Network and assist FEE when we agreed, which turned out to be almost all the time. We took a leading role in both the Bertie Ahern campaign and the ICTU Day of Action by using our union contacts and friends in the media and by using our own not insignificant membership and visibility on campus to bulk up already extant campaigns.

I wrote an article for the print in November where I pointed out a few major problems which people were ignoring, and encouraged FEE and other groups to focus on the major national problems as well as unique Maynooth issues. I hope that had some impact, but I believe the strength of LY's input into the major campaigns was due to our interest in lending what little credibility we had, where people might have ignored a Workers Solidarity Movement protest, a Labour banner drew a little more interest.

However, the struggle is not over and for the next 16 months I encourage everyone to get me doing what I said I would, and if anyone has any problems I can help with send me an email and I'll get on it happily.

As a Music student, what music are you listening to now? Have you had a campaign theme song and what victory music did you play on Thursday night?

Right now I'm listening to Viderunt Omnes by Perotin, but just before that I was listening to Jump by Van Halen, and before that Nothing but a Casablanca Cold Turtle Slide Show Dinner by Jeff Neve. So, my taste in music is pretty varied!

I don't think we had a theme song but I Got the Power by Snap was one proposal we considered for a while! Yellow Submarine with the words changed to 'yellow smiley face' got an outing during election day. At the party on Thursday I started out by playing Come Together by the Beatles with Rock Soc in O'Neill's and probably finished with The Red Flag sung at top volume by the lefties in Sarah's flat!

And finally, what's your favourite small kitchen appliance?

By far the hardest question so far. I'm going to go with my portable coffee mug.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the ground in Maynooth

Observer reader David Ryan was printed in DCU's newspaper this week, giving his thoughts on the on the ground rection to the USI referendum. You can read the article online, along with another USI piece here:


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Less Chalk, More Talk. Election Reform for NUIM

While this years Election was by far the most engaging in a long time, it still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of efficiency and fair play. In order to ensure increased engagement with the democratic electoral process by students, next year's Exec should seriously consider making some changes to both candidates campaigning and in the fairness of the counting process.

Campaigning, while it brings a certain amount of renewed vibrancy to the average college day, over a few weeks can certainly become annoying to the average student. Having the same leaflets constantly shoved in your direction over and over certainly pushes most sane people over the edge. For candidates, it costs large amount of money in photocopying and their efforts in distribution only end up in the bin, and not a recycling one at that. In the age of Green awareness and the hopes of creating a carbon neutral university, the excess and waste of campaign literature should be looked at. Perhaps an area where each can leave a ready supply of literature for those that want it would help limit the waste, and the amount of times you have to say "I got one already".

Poster policy is another issue that needs to be looked at. While the Student Union did well to erect temporary boards for the election, the amount of posters per candidate (as with leaflets) should be restricted and distributed evenly. The policing of these posters would be made easier by this, as The Observer has heard of numerous tales of poster taking by electoral opponents. perhaps the introduction of the public stocks would be a reasonable way of dealing with caught offenders.

A system that has worked well in other Irish Universities has been that the Student Union itself provides the campaign literature and posters for a fee of X amount. Each candidate could then be granted access to an expert in designing software within campus and get a suitable poster for his/her needs. This eliminates controversial posters and guarantees that everything going out there is stamped and given the OK. Most importantly it takes away the aspect of who ever has the most cash to spend wins.

Regarded by many as the most annoying of this years election gimmicks was by a long mile the gross amount of Chalk used to graffiti the campus, in what would later be described as "The Chalk War". In my opinion, our fine university resembled a shoddy British inner-city comprehensive and I do not wish to revisit this image next year. In my opinion the rain didn't come soon enough!

On a more personal level, I was quite taken aback by the restriction of who could be allowed into the counting venue on the day of the tallys. While I have every faith in that it was a fair and just count, in the name of democracy and transparency, individual onlookers must be allowed in if they wish. While I understand a certain noise level may distract counters, it is certainly a necessary sacrifice that EVERYONE is allowed in. I, and many others were quite taken aback by our refusal to the Venue.
[We also received several emails complaining about this very issue- Ed.]

If a more cost effective, fairer campaign can be ran and the count made public, I am sure a greater participation by the student body will continue. If we push that students vote for their own benefit and not for the benefit of someone who wants a job next year, we can truely make the Student Union a more fairer and credible one. I hope that the Exec elect take these issues into consideration for the next year and that an increased participation by the growing Student Body is encouraged above everything else.

Yours hopefully,