Candidates Question Time (Hustings) Live Blog

[liveblog] 1.26 – We’re just waiting on Candidates Question Time kicking off. Plenty of buzz in The Speakeasy today.

1.35 – The memo said that these debates would kick off at 1.15pm ‘sharp’ – ūüė¶

1.37 – We’re raring to go!

1.39 – Someone’s testing a microphone. Excitement!

1.39 – Candidates for the Presidential election have been called to the stage.

1.41 – Dominic Doherty gets a nice chorus of ‘Yeo!’ when he asks if everyone can hear him. He reminds us that polling begins tomorrow at 7am.

1.42 -There will be seven segments to this debate. Many questions have been submitted in advance, but questions can be submitted on paper during the debate. Each candidate will have a one minute summary. Any question that is not addressed today will be dealt with on tomorrow’s Facebook debate at 11am.

1.44 – Niall McShane wishes good luck to all other candidates and hopes that on Thursday evening, everyone will still be on speaking terms. McShane emphasises his two years experience as VP Clubs and Societies says he wants to focus on employability, engagement for the student body for all 22, no 23,000 students. I want opportunities to be available for all students. The third priority is finance for the student body. McShane lists all of his running mates.

1.43 – Candidates will give a two minute introduction. We’ll work in alphabetical order. Niall McShane for President is up first.

1.47 – Paul Walsh states that in his first year he wasn’t involved but in second year he jumped in feet first. He speaks of contemporary policies and engagement with student body and QUB’s engagement with the city, Stormont and Belfast. Graduates need jobs, but students also need jobs here, this process needs to be streamlined. He emphasises the importance of information to final year students.

1.49 – Chelsea Worth is speaking now. She says that it’s nice to run against friends. She says she’s lead Peer Mentor for the School of English, Chair of QR and until last week, head of news. Her main policy is to extend the 26 wifi hotspots, but it doesn’t include all points. Worth points out that she can’t access it within her school. Transport is a priority for Worth, there was transport laid on from the Union on return to Elms in her first year, and she would love to roll this out across the whole year. Transport home for students is a priority, there will always be people who want to go home, making it cheaper and more direct. Transport home from the library is also important.

1.52 – How do you feel that the student Union President has performed this year, what would you do differently? – One minute each to respond.

1.54 – Paul Walsh says that O’Neill has done a good job, but that we need to focus more on contemporary issues. Worth says that in her experience of canvassing so far, there isn’t a high level of awareness, and this is an issue that we need to focus on. McShane states that he wants to bring the executive to the student body.

1.54 – Universities need more funding to deliver top quality education. In recession there are funding shortfalls, how can higher education be funded without higher tuition fees?

1.57 – Chelsea worth suggests companies sponsoring studentships. McShane would not advocate higher tuition fees but maintaining and improving quality of education is important. Walsh says defending the NI fee cap was one of the best thing that the SU has ever done. In increasing the research is key, lobbying Stormont is important, increasing fees is everything that the SU is against. Private sectors see the benefits to approaching QUB.

1.57 – During your time in office, there may arise a fundamental difference arises between the University and the Union, how would you manage such conflict?

– McShane says that he will use his experience to his advantage. He sees the Union as a friend to the university to suggest changes. If needs be we will campaign, work with NUS-USI and makes sure that the Union is student focussed. Walsh says the SU and EMC should work with the University as much as possible. We need to keep things open, keep things clear and it really does do wonders. Chelsea says that it depends on what the conflict is, advocates referendum approach for policy changes.

2.00 – Name one area that you feel that the Students Union is currently failing in.

2.02 – Walsh says that obviously not all 24,000 students can be reached, but visibility and engagement is key. It’s not good enough at the moment. SU officers should be reachable, should be seen on campus rather than in the office. Chelsea Worth says that the most people involved tend to spend a lot of time in the Union, medics and nursing students should be catered to more. McShane says that historically there has been a failing to engage the student body, he plans to work with the rest of his team members, particularly VP¬† C&C, student focussed campaigns run throughout the year. He’d rather see this rolled out to all students rather than a few. There’s a new website underway. There needs to be a new engagement strategy.

2.03 – Are teams of candidates running together a good thing for democracy or does this alienate individual students from running?

– Worth says that tickets and independents both have advantages. When there are more ticketed candidates than independents, and not a great balance, it can be alienating. But this year, I think a lot more people are engaged and interested because of the two tickets running together. McShane is confident that turn out will rise this year. There’s a lot of students across campus he hopes to engage with. In SU all over, people run together as teams. Walsh says that alienation is interesting, SU council elections turn out rose, but candidacy fell for sabbatical officers. Walsh says that his ticket is democratic as there is a good spread of representation.

– Whatever is mandated to us, we need to work on. We know that there are issues that aren’t fully focused on, we will stand up to that. Walsh, representing students at a local and national level is key. We’ve got NUS, USI and NUS-USI, we’ve also got Stormont. Our attendance at student conferences is absolutely key. I’d like to increase our engagement with conferences, with out representatives bringing something back for us to work on. Worth says that once again, this comes back to students. We need students behind us. Everyone needs to be involved, we should go out of our way to have a presence wherever possible. We should do our best to represent every student’s opinion at all levels.

– Doherty apologies that all questions can’t be answered. Closing statements now.

Walsh says that he’ll keep it short, QUB has been the best years of his life, he wants everyone to have the best years of their life here. Worth says that she will be very good to represent students across her full term, she genuinely cares. McShane emphasises that he’s got a mix of experience and fresh ideas. He plans to campaign and emphasises that Backin’Students are the best team for the job.

– 2.12pm – Candidates for the position of VP Campaigns and Communications are called to the stage – Connor Daly, Orry Robinson and Naomi Davis.

– Connor Daly opening address – Former editor of the Gown Trust, member of the Gown Trust and former editor of the Verdict. Last year, SU Council election turnout was at an all time low, there was no SU mag. I know from experience what needs to be done. I’ve relauched the SU Mag with a student led team. I headed the campaign for SU Council voting turnout which increased 205%. I’ve got a lot of face to face time around Elms etc. I’ve been working on the new website. Long term sustainability is key.

– Naomi Davis opening address – Has been involved on the GB Buddy scheme, ISHA. Will campaign got more cash machines, social reps at Elms. Hopes to enjoy today’s question time.

– Orry Robinson – You may recognise me from my posters. SSCC rep, a student councillor and former business manager for the Gown. Robinson sees his transformation to uninvolved to involved as an advantage, he recognises what will get people engaged. We’ve failed on many campaigns, such as EMA, on communication I have explained how I plan to implement all of my policies. SUTV is not fit for purpose, nor is Student Stuff. My policy explains how we can amend this. There we go.

– What qualities set you apart from the other candidates? – Davis wants to changes to the library, a second hand book shop. I’m running as an independent candidate, I’m just focusing on my campaign. Robinson says that he understands from his own experience that media and officers are not engaging students. We need to be more visible. In terms of policy, I want to set up a student gallery to involve more students. SUTV can engage more students and should. Daly has experience, he’s approachable, he’s creative and innovative. he’s worked with various societies including LGBT and has gone on walkabouts to engage students. I’ve looked into the feasibility of getting an SU app. I want projects to be sustainable. Consistency is so important. App will be designed by students in a competition.

– How do you intend to increase face to face engagement with the student population?

-Robinson – the best way is to go out to talk to students as soon as they arrive. If all events are online, they just don’t work. Daly says that he’s working on a long term engagement strategy. If re elected he hopes that SU – School relations will turn out. Emphasises again the increase in SU Council elections. We need more engagement on the ground. Davis.

– The hard copy edition of the Gown has just arrived, so we missed the last question, I’m afraid. It was on the rise of large tickets for election, and the fall in candidates from last years 21 to 17. Daly sees this as a new era for student politics, Robinson sees the fall in candidates as a fault resulting from the lack of campaigning. Plans to utilise SUTV. Davis says that independents feel intimidated at the moment.

– A question on how candidates plan to utilise SUTV. Davis wants to make SUTV as big as the Gown. Robinson says he intends to run a huge recruitment drive. Student Stuff will be utilised for this. He’d love to see clubs and societies campaigning through SUTV. Daly says that Student Stuff was in his manifesto last year. Student Stuff is an important part of his manifesto, his term runs until July. Student Stuff is past its sell by date. In terms of SUTV, he wants a peacemeal approach, similar to the SU Mag that is sustainable.

– Do you believe that campaigning activities outside the law are ever excusable?

– Robinson, this is a shady area. Personally, he sees outside the law as never acceptable. If there is a divisive issue, he sees that they can represent students without condoning any illegal activity. Daly says that this is a point on how you run a campaign, it’s the VP’s job to set an example, obeying the law is important. It is our job to work on behalf of students but I wouldn’t advocate operating outside the law. Davis firmly believes that any campaign outside the law is totally inexcusable. Campaigns should be positive, fair and get the message across.

– Closing Statements. Daly emphasises council elections, SU Mag and SUTV. In the remainder of his term he wants to look at Student Stuff. This year has been about laying foundations. Student led projects are what is important. Naomi Davis wants to emphasise SUTV, and her plan to liase with everyone possible. She wants to shake up student services and urges anyone who likes what they see to vote for her. Robinson says that the best approach for a positive change is to get some new approaches. He urges everyone to vote for Student Action.

– Candidates for VP Clubs and Societies are called to the stage. Opening statements first. Jonny Gallagher and Martin Lilly.

– Gallagher says that he has the experience, motivation and ideas. He’s been on the executive for three societies, including acting president of one. He says that he can see what needs to be changed and what can be built upon. His best times at QUB have been with clubs and societies. He sees weaknesses that need to be addressed. There is a lack of coherent support, the financial system is an absolute mess. Students put free time in, and in return they’re getting shoddy support. A weakness is lack of feedback. You don’t get anything telling you why you have received the grant that you have. I’ll sort these problems out.

– Martin Lilly has had a deep involvement in clubs and societies, he says that Gallagher has mentioned some issues that he will always work for. He will encourage active student involvement. Any new student should have an easy as possible experience if they want to get involved. Societies increase and funding struggles. I want to get an accredited award for committee members for the volunteer work that they do.

– What leadership qualities do you possess?

– Lilly has sat on GAA committees for three years. He’s currently vice chair. Last year, in America he was involved in lots of societies there. Gallagher says that he has been acting president of a society in a difficult situation.

– Both candidates emphasise that the late receipt of grants is not acceptable.

– The finance office and the general system is quite outdated. How do you plan to make the system more user friendly?

– Lilly emphasises that he wants to implement an online system to lay out everything that committees need to know. He will make it more user friendly. Gallagher refers to his manifesto, he has proposed an online finances system. He wants committees to be able to access their finances anywhere. He wants it to be clear, concise and online.

– If you could change one thing about the Freshers’ Fair, what would it be?

– Gallagher says that the Fair operates well. It can be crowded, but the sign ups make it worth it. He says that it would be advantageous to get to work earlier. Lilly says that he’d love to see a ‘try it’ system so that people can test various activities.

– Given the positive impact that club and society members have on the community, how would you make it easier for them to carry out their duties?

– Lilly understands that it can be difficult, but that knowledge is key. Volunteering can go on CVs, employers are looking for experience these days. Gallagher says that his manifesto addresses this. All clubs and societies will get a hard copy and an online information pack. He doesn’t want anyone to chase anyone round the Union seeking information. The Executive members of clubs and societies are not small business owners, they’re students. We shouldn’t put pressures on them.

– Gallagher’s closing statement says that he focuses on executives, they are the ones that make the difference. They need to be well supported. Executives know best, we shouldn’t dictate what clubs and societies want, rather than listen. Lilly emphasises his heavy experience and that he has a lot of ideas, his main aim to promote participation. Wishes his opponent the best of luck in his campaign and his desire to have a pint after the close of elections.

– Candidates for the position of VP Community to the stage. Jenny Lau and Sarah-Louise Baird.

– Opening address from Baird. This years president of the Law Soc. She’s been heavily involved in campaigning such as Mind Yer Mate. If elected, I’ll use my experience volunteering with minority groups. I do a lot of volunteering with Women’s Aid. I want to focus on outreach. I want to work with the Volunteer Academy and to give accreditation. Regarding the QUB Community, we should expand on the already great programs that Aidan (Hughes) has already put in place such as the QUB Apprentice.

– Jenny Lau emphasises that she is running because . She has been in Belfast for two years and it’s been great. Settling into a new community is daunting but exciting. I put my amazing experience down to my heavy involvement. I’ve been fortunate but a lot of people have really struggled to understand Belfast, the accent and the city. I want to make this an inclusive student body. I want to reach out to as many students as possible.

– What are your top three priorities if elected?

– Lau says that she wants to build an inclusive student community, it’s really important to identify with QUB. I’m looking forward to working with VP E&D. Also, better coordination of charitable events and commitment to campaigns for environment etc. Baird wants to expand on work this year. Primarily outreach projects, students helping others is really important. I want to focus on the QUB community to run lots of interschool events. And finally, I want to promote education, we have a duty to educate secondary school pupils entering the university environment.

– What one event or activity do you think you could organise to bring together all sections of the Queen’s Community?

– Lau mentions her Green Innovation scheme, it would be a forward looking idea. Baird mentions that there shouldn’t be one individual event that I should organise, it should be a continual effort. The QUB Apprentice engages a number of schools. We need to respond to what students want.

– Should every student who sets off a fire alarm in Elms village be reported to the police, given that this is a criminal offence?

– Baird says that this is a criminal offence. There is a need to engage the student and to represent their needs, while disciplining them as appropriate. Lau reiterates that this action should be taken seriously, however, students sometimes do silly things and should have a chance to rectify their actions. I think that if a student continues to cause problems then the matters should be taken to the police.

– What measures would you take to enshrine a sense of environmental awareness in all students?

– Lau says that this is an issue that’s important to her. There are ideas that you can implement to help. She’d like to see more ethically sourced and vegetarian foods in the SU. She’d push for double sided printing as the default option. Recycling can always be improved upon. Baird says that this is an area that can be improved on, she will bring this home to students using her proposed ‘Message of the Month’. Messages should go to all schools, to all students.

– Closing statements. Baird would urge everyone to vote for herself and the rest of the Backin’Students team. They’re all committed and they’re the best for the role. I want to reach out, increase employability and experiences. I want to increase the amount of education that we can deliver to the student body and the wider community. Lau says that the aims of the position are very close to her heart. An inclusive student community is so important, because she cares, she can deliver. We need to move forward. Urges everyone to vote for Student Action.

– Candidates for VP Education take the stage. Eoin Deeney and Fergal McFerran.

– Opening Address. Deeney – He says he has been involved in Law Soc, the SSCC and other bodies. Through his time and experience as an undergrad and postgrad, he realises the issues that are important to every student. Employability, lack of resources, lack of education. I’d like to make an impact on everyone’s experience.

– Fergal McFerran – I’m running because I changed my course, it was positive engagement that made me want to run for this position. I’m a school rep and a student councillor, I’ve sat on various committees, I’m the secretary for RAG and I sit on the trustee board for NUS-USI. McFerran urges everyone to vote for Student Action.

– McFerran’s vision is one where schools work together. There are issues that are very specific to one school. I promise that if elected I will work to bridge the gap between support and advice services. I want to oversee the implementation of the new personal tutor system. Deeney, employability, a more interactive career service. It would have more of an impact if it comes into school an into timetables. I want to see a key skills program. I would also like to extend services and provisions such as library space and study space. Finally, I’d like to increase representation. Course reps should have a careers element to their remit.

– What do candidates propose to do about the current ambiguous University regulations in terms of students, exams and provisions for students with disabilities?

– Deeney – Information and making information available at the earliest possible point. It should be flagged at the earliest point that a student has special requirements. This should be in the school rep remit. McFerran – VPs have to make sure that schools, key services and students are communicate properly.

– Many modules are now tailored to suit the needs of employers at the expensive of heavily detailed academic interest/research. Would you consider establishing focus groups to democratically tailor education?

– McFerran – I’m an advocate of a student focused approach. Getting what you want out of education is important. QUB need to ensure that feedback is taken on. Deeney – Limits have to be placed on how much credence is paid to focus groups. Curriculum is set by academic staff. Students need to be listened to, but there are limits.

– What issues should next year’s students officers be addressing?

– Deeney – Employability is so important. We need to increase the employability of QUB students.. McFerran says that as a Russell Group university, QUB students are in a good position. We should be lobbying to address the problems elsewhere.

– How do you feel the current post holder has performed?

– McFerran gives credit to Nuala McAdams, saying that she is one of the strongest officers that he’s seen. McFerran wants to bring a balance of change and continuity. He urges people to read his manifesto. Deeney – Time restraints have gone against Nuala McAdams with what she has tried to achieve. There’s time for a fresh direction. Feedback policy needs to be addressed, many students have expressed distain for the system.

– Closing addresses. Deeney – An experienced UG and PG student. Well placed to suit educational needs of all students. Urges everyone to vote for Backin’Students. McFerran – My work rate and the dedication that I have given to life at QUB stands by me, emphasises his attendance at committees etc illustrates his commitment. Believes that he deserves the post because students deserve the best.

– Candidates for Equality and Diversity take the stage. Nicole McShane and Caoibhe McNeill.

– Opening Statements – Caoimhe McNeill – Stresses her involvement in student council, her main priority is to make QUB a home from home for international students, inspired by her experiences on the Study USA program, international students can be discriminated against. She also wants to increase disability awareness, and ensure that she remains student focused.

– Nicole McShane – Experience as president of of Geography Society, sits on Student Council, has taken part in the Internatonal Buddy Scheme, came second in 2012’s QUB Apprentice. McShane wants to focus not only on what is mandated but implement equal orientation scheme, NI students left out similar ortientation scheme given to international students, there is a feeling that anyone from anywhere else in Northern Ireland is expected to be familiar with Belfast. Also wants to integrate students with the wider Belfast community.

– What experience do you have to qualify you for this role?

– McShane – Being an International buddy, gained an insight into what international students feel. I’ve got transferable skills to enable me to carry out role well. McNeill – As a student on Study USA I know how it feels to be an international student. I’ve also worked with forgein students, and with students with mental illnesses.

– In previous years the role of VP Equality and Diversity has focused on LGBT and international students will you change this ?

– McNeill – There’s been a lot of attention on these groups, in my manifesto I mention reorientation sessions for older or returning students. I want to increase awareness of disabilities, both visible and and invisible. McShane – International students and LGBT students are already a big focus. I want to work with women’s issues, such as Zero Tolerance on sexual harrassment. Further, for those with disabilities at Queen’s, there is very low awareness of support available. I’d also like to look into funding for mature students.

– What do you plan to do to educate students on the Romanian community?

– McShane – I’d like to raise awareness and to celebrate cultures. Envisages massive cultural events , and I’d really like to push my ‘Stamp Out -ism”‘ campaign. McNeill – I’d like to work with Belfast city council and to carry on Jessica Kirk’s work, discrimination is not something which should be happening, we should celebrate diversity and everyone should be treated as individuals.

– In parliament, MPs are given a free vote on ‘issues of conscience’ such as equal marriage and abortion, how do the candidates propose to represent the views and needs of students which they do not necessarily share?

– McNeill uses the example of SU Council’s December vote which resulted in QUBSU adopting a neutral stance on abortion rather than forcing her own views onto students. Neutrality means that the Union could be representative of all students. McShane¬† – Will work with LGBT society to promote equal marriage actively. On abortion, the Union is a neutral venue for discussion promote all views, pro choice and pro life. Should the Union’s stance move away from neutrality, I am willing to work with all students and not voice opinions.

– Has the time come to implement policy on flags and emblems?

– McShane – Sectarianism is something which needs to be stamped out, we should definitely look into flying flags like the Palestinian and the LGBT rainbow flag. McNeill – I agree with everything Nicole says, the Union shouldn’t take stance which is one sided, I supports the flying of [for example] the “rainbow” flag and explain to students what it stands for.

– Closing addresses. – McNeill – If elected strive for equality of every student and celebrate diversity with celebration days, educate students on diversity and what is out there in the world. McShane – I’d just like to say that I genuinely appreciate all votes and I encourage you all to read the manifestos of my ticket on

– The candidates for VP Welfare take the stage – Tiernan McAteer, Shane Melaugh and Lynsey Ellis.

– Dominic Doherty reads out a statement from Lynsey Ellis from the Student Action ticket, who is absent as she is currently representing QUB at an event in London. She encourages everyone to view her manifesto on the ticket website and to feel free to send her a message by email or Facebook if they wish.

– Opening addresses are given by McAteer and Melaugh. McAteer states that he as changed his degree path, he is in a position to advise students. He has had issues with landlords too In his experience on the Study USA program, he found that students in America were far more open to discussing personal issues, not just to student representatives but also to their peers. He would like to implement an open door surgery, made up of Welfare volunteers and would love to see Queen’s Radio produce something like Radio One’s Sunday Surgery.

– Melaugh – The economy is tough, but student welfare shouldn’t suffer. I’d like to set up an emergency fuel fund, as well as an open door sexual health clinic, a food bank and a scheme for a security and safety with landlords.

– What are your top three priorities, if elected?

– Melaugh- Students are living in cold houses, so my proposal for an emergency fuel fund is key. As is a program for mental health care. Food is an important issue for students. I’d like to set up a food bank at Queen’s for when students are unable to feed themselves. McAteer – The creation of an open door welfare team team, and the use of SU media to run an agony aunt campaign in print and a Sunday Surgery, campaign on the radio. I want to encourage students to pick employers who encourage a good work life balance,and to implement a reminder service to prevent those short lone 50p per hour fines adding up.

– Following on from last year’s infamous Property People video, How do candidates plan to tackle the issue of unauthorised house visits from landlords and letting agents?

– McAteer – I’d encourage the use of SU Lets, who will have students best interests in mind when drawing up a tenancy agreement. I’d remind all students that they have the rights to refuse entry. Melaugh – Landlords think they can walk over students, use SU Lets, but the Union should be approachable for students to get information on rights. I’d love to see the establishment of an SU student/landlord deposit scheme.

РMany students remain unaware of the complete range of their rights in the workplace Рwhether on placement or in part time  work РWhat do you propose to do to change this?

– Melaugh – I’d establish better work schemes to get students employed, to educate on rights on what they’re entitled to as employees, and make them make aware of support that’s available. McAteer – I’d look into running programmes with Student Guidance Centre and encourage students to pick employers with work life balance, and to get more part time jobs within the Union where a balance will be respected between study and part time work.

– What would you do to help students with mental health issues?

– McAteer- I’d establish schemes where students are made aware of mental health, carry on with Are Ye Well?¬† And encourage a healthy diet. Melaugh – Mental Health is one one the main issues in my manifesto. I’d encourage students to look after mental well being, canvas to raise awareness, and encourage use of SU resources, and to reach out to the SU in times of exam stress.

– Closing Statements – Melaugh – I will work tirelessly if elected, the SU is only as strong as the student body. McAteer I’d continue some of the good work such as Are Ye Well and implement a wellness and wealth campaigns.

– 4.13 – Dominic Doherty closes the Question Time session.

4.57 – That’s it from the Gown team in the Speakeasy for this Question Time. The Speakeasy has well and truly emptied now. No doubt this won’t be the last mud slinging match in this year’s SU Elections. Don’t forget to keep up to date right here on our website between now and the close of polling at 5:00pm on Thursday 7 March.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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