BY TARA McEVOY
Competition is thriving on campus this week as seventeen candidates launch their campaigns for
sabbatical office. As names of applicants were released on Monday, spectators noted a drop in the number of those running for office compared with the level of interest expressed last year – 4 down since 2012’s turnout of 21.
The applicants are as follows: Niall McShane, Paul Walsh and Chelsea Worth for President; Connor Daly, Naomi Davis and Orry Robinson for VP Campaigns and Communications; Jonny Gallagher and Martin Lilly for VP Clubs and Societies; Sarah-Louise Baird and Jenny Lau for VP Community; Eoin Deeney and Fergal McFerran for VP Education; Caoimhe McNeill and Nicole McShane for VP Equality and Diversity; and Lynsey Ellis, Tiernan McAteer and Shane Melaugh for VP Welfare.
The 2013 elections will mark the first time two 7-candidate strong tickets have run in direct opposition to each other, with three independent candidates (Davis, Melaugh and Worth) making up the final tally. #BackinStudents (headed by current VP Clubs and Societies Niall McShane) was the first ticket to be announced, and will include Daly, Lilly, Baird, Deeney, McNeill and McAteer. Meanwhile Student Action shall be headed by Walsh, encompassing Robinson, Gallagher, Lau, McFerran, McShane and Ellis.
Both tickets, their individual members and all three independent candidates have already launched their online campaigns, reaching out via Facebook and Twitter to attempt to win over potential voters. Yet it hasn’t all been plain sailing – with the release of official campaign videos, the rumour mill was well and truly sent into overdrive.
#BackinStudents courted particular controversy with their clip, landing current sabbatical officers Jason O’Neill (President), Aidan Hughes (VP Community) and Joanne O’Neill (VP Welfare) in hot water as the aforementioned pledged their support for the team on camera.
Jason O’Neill defended his decision and that of his fellow sabbatical officers, stating, “I’m happy as the president to endorse a candidate, I think it’s only right and proper. It would be wrong of me to remain neutral about the future of the Union. I saw it as a natural progression to support Niall and Connor”.
( This article has been amended as Aidan Hughes contacted the Gown on behalf of himself and Joanne O’Neill shortly after this article was originally posted to state that he felt that he and Joanne had been misrepresented. )
Joanne O’Neill contacted the Gown, via email after the publication of this article, “I would like to comment that no other ticket approached myself. The VP Welfare candidate on the #Backin’Students ticket had requested to meet with me on a few occasions to find out more about the remit of VP Welfare. I was more than happy to provide him with this information and would have been equally as happy to meet with other potential candidates.” Aidan Hughes contacted the Gown giving his consent for Joanne O’Neill to comment on his behalf. O’Neill added, “Aidan commented on speaking with Sarah Louise and discussing her manifesto. He felt she was pro-active and dedicated. He commented that they shared similar views but would also bring something new and different to the role.”
The appearance of current sabbatical officers in the campaign video provoked the ire of – amongst others – Rebecca Sheldon (President of the Politics Society), along with a number of the society’s members. Speaking to the Gown, Sheldon stated,
“While it isn’t enshrined in regulation, it is commonly accepted as good practice for incumbents who are not re-running to keep their personal preference of candidate private”.
She added, “I think Jason, Aidan and Joanne did make a mistake in making this announcement before all the candidates had published their manifestos. The SU Sabbatical Officers should be promoting an election based on policy, rather than anything else. It isn’t possible to make a decision on policy if you don’t know what all the policies are”.
Despite this minor controversy, the ticket still boast 160 Facebook ‘likes’ on their page, ‘Backin Students’, compared to 287 for the ‘Vote for Student Action’ page. The campaign pages of Davis and Melaugh lay claim to 38 and 40 likes respectively. Independent presidential candidate Chelsea Worth has yet to release a campaign page, although she does have a group with 207 members.
The conclusion to the race is far from fargone, however – as campaigning will only truly begin in earnest following a training session for candidates tonight at 5.15pm. This session will mark candidates’ receipt of their printed materials – no doubt beginning a week of frantic flyering and postering. Online polling won’t officially begin until 7:00am on Tuesday 5 March.
@TheGownQUB will be live tweeting the process of postering this evening, and obviously, we will be reporting via our website and Facebook too. Stay tuned, folks!
Watch the video for #Backin’Students here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yZi9sCzdFf0
Watch the video for Student Action here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FM5Z2ZL2lBE
The Independent candidates have not released any campaign videos.