One of this year’s candidates sits down(electronically) with The Observer
me to The Observer’s new feature, The Big Interview. Our first ever interview subject is Jason Whelan, who ran for NUIMSU President recently. He may not have won, but Jason’s campaign was enthralling throughout. In this interview, I ask Jason some general questions we’d ask any candidate, and then some more specific to him. So, without further ado, we present Jason Whelan’s Big Interview:
How was the whole campaign experience for you?
Overall, my campaign experience was positive. I met lots of different types of people who had many different moral compasses, perspectives and ideas so, overall, I feel that I have been enriched by the experience and have gained a higher understanding of people in general.
Why did you decide to run in the first place?
I have been quite vocal in my criticism of the Union on many levels for many different reasons. This was a case of 'lets see if I can do better'. Also, I felt that I was the best man for the job, so I ran to help improve the College and community that has been very good to me.
What was the highlight of the campaign?
The highlight was something very simple. Pat Byrne, the eventual winner on the Ents race, was singing along with a few of his mates outside of John Hume. He forgot the words to a song, I prompted him and he asked me to finish. I sang 2 more songs with him and his mates playing guitar and I enjoyed it immensely.
The worst point?
The result. I felt that it was not a fair reflection on my policies or efforts, but there you go.
Do you feel you ran a good race?
I felt that I ran an honest race and tried to keep it about issues and tried to compare myself with other candidates and their ideas and policies. I finished last. The result suggests that I did not run the race I should have. But again, let's put it down to experience.
What would you have done differently?
I should have had a campaign team and a bit more razzmatazz. It seems to achieve better results. Also, I would get someone who was more accomplished on Office or Photoshop to design my posters for me. Mine lacked punch. Jellies, Softcore Porn, Art Projects and Stickers were used by my rivals, to give an example. People could point out my cards as being in the same vein, but I feel that they served more so as a compensation for the lack of a campaign team rather than a gimmick.
What did you think about the result?
Again, I don't feel that it was a fair reflection on my policies or my efforts.
What’s next for you?
I honestly don't know. Would I run again? Not sure. It depends on how well Aengus and his team does. Would I run for something in U.S.I. now that that is availible? Would be interesting. But, for now, I want to focus on finishing my degree and completing a couple of Post-Grads
You proudly declared at hustings that you were running your campaign “ on a shoestring”. How has it been attempting to compete with higher budgets? Do you believe that there should be a limitation on the budgets of these campaigns, in order to level the playing field and refocus these elections on the issues?
The straight answer is that I don't know how much the other candidates spent so I don't know what the story is there. All I will say is that I finished up on around €275 as an estimated cost. The amount of money is not really a factor, but how you spend it. Aengus's Smilie stickers, for example, would not have broke €30. Could I have spent it more wisely? Possibly. Should there be a limit? I think €350 should be more than adequet when wisely spent. Do I feel that my lack of cash hampered? Yes. But not nearly as much as my lack of man-power,
Your religious beliefs came to the fore during the course of the elections. Did you think it was fair of some to imply that your faith made you in any way less able to do the job?
I believe that religion is something that is fundamental to me like environmental issues are fundamental to Tara and Social Democracy is fundamental to Aengus. Religious institutions have taken a hammering over the last 10 years and, in most cases, in perfectly acceptible terms. I do feel a certain guilt by association was at play, but I think that between Boards.ie and Hustings, I addressed the question reasonably well.
In order to defend yourself from a slew of accusations, you bravely addressed your detractors on boards.ie. Do you feel you made a good account for yourself, and do you believe that it was unfair that it was you that appeared to draw the ire of the “internet vultures”?
To dismiss the people who used Boards or Facebook as 'Internet Vultures' during the elections is not a fair reflection on either site. Granted, they could have phrased things a little less agressively in some respects in my opinion, but I know a few of them outside of Boards and Facebook and with most of them hoping that Aengus would get it, I do feel that there was a certain level of playing the Devil's Advocate. But, to be honest, to suggest that I lost because of what happened on the internet would, again, be unfair
You were once apart of FEE (Free Education for Everyone). On leaving, you said that you left as you felt the fight against fees had been won and you had accomplished your goals? Do you not agree with the other campaigns that FEE have taken part in? In calling yourself a Socialist, are you not concerned with more issues in society than just your own self interest?
Okay. To clarify this, in the AOB section of the November Union Council, I made a motion, which was amended by a few F.E.E. members before going to the floor. I felt that U.C. should have sent a letter to the College expressing the dissatisfaction of students at Bertie Ahern getting his Doctorate from the college due to his voting history on Education. One of the amendments drew in his situation with the tribunal. The motion did not pass. I felt that I was representing myself. Members of F.E.E. felt that I was reperesenting F.E.E. in all aspects of my political activities. Hence, I left that night. I also have to say that, yes, I was a one issue pony and I felt that all had been accomplished with F.E.E. that could have been. So I left. I am still on good terms, I hope, with the lads and I like to think that I helped in getting them more involved in the Union as a whole. As regards the other campaigns, some of the stuff on Youtube has been a bit close to the bone but I agree with the principles. I agree with Maynooth joining U.S.I. and felt that the F.E.E. contribution to that campaign was positive. As regards the Socialist part of your question, the simple answer is, that is why I ran; to help everyone. I am not a member of a political party and have no political agenda. I just wanted to win the small victories on students behalf and a few of the big ones too.
At hustings, you appeared quite comfortable addressing a large crowd. Was this the first time you had done so, and do you think that this comfort is a quality that any future candidates would require?
It's not my first time. I think at Hustings, it is as important as the crowd that is in the room. If all that's there are campaign teams and mates of candidates, then you can fall assunder and the damage is limited. It becomes important when there are neutrals in the room to convince.
The Observer happened to see you getting into the spirit of things by joining a drumming circle in the Common Room for Green Week. Are you a big music fan? What kind of music to you listen to?
Yes I am. I love Motown, Disco, 50's Rock n' Roll and a bit of Pop. I like a bit of Hip-Hop, Rap and Gospel too. I like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald and the Commitments.
And finally, what’s your favourite small kitchen appliance?
Have you got someone you would like to see us interview? Would you like to be the next Big Interview yourself? Any submissions, requests or feedback is always welcome