Last night the four candidates for Maynooth Students’ Union (MSU) President attended the Hustings for the upcoming MSU elections on March 13. The evening went almost exactly as expected: lots of spice, but not much substance. The four candidates received some cheers and a few ardent supporters hastily typed comments on the Facebook feed, but otherwise the four candidates failed to impress or convince. It is for this reason that I will be ticking the fifth box on my ballot paper on March 13.
Re-Open Nominations (RON) is the final option on each ballot paper at MSU elections. According to the MSU constitution: ‘If the option “RON – Re-open Nominations” is deemed elected, the Returning Officer shall declare the seat unfilled and shall organise another election at the earliest appropriate date.’ This would allow for other potential candidates to gather nominations and make an attempt for election as president. Our constitution specifically allows us as voters to say that the options we have been given simply aren’t good enough. This year, no one candidate running for election can adequately represent the student body to the Governing Authority, to other colleges, or to the country.
One candidate is blissfully unaware of the governing structures and activities of the MSU and markets himself as a sesh candidate with a cool hat. One candidate considers one year on the MSU Senate and a suit and tie as adequate experience and proposes a manifesto that is unoriginal and uninspiring. One candidate deems it appropriate to use the ‘N’ word at Hustings which are broadcast live on Facebook and claims that minority groups in Maynooth do not suffer any racism, stigma or systemic issues. One candidate has proven himself to be an impotent leader, unable to sway the Governing Authority to prioritise student welfare and facilities and proposing a two-day festival that nobody asked for.
How can any of these four candidates negotiate seating areas with Philip Nolan? How can any of them inspire incoming first years to strive to be the best they can be and to be the change they want to see in Maynooth?
This year’s elections feel different. The atmosphere on nights out is tense, uncomfortable and awkward. Campaign teams blindly attack any opposition to their candidates and offer very little understanding of the roles that their candidates are running for. Where is the bubbling energy of Niamh Halpenny’s campaign? Where is the unadulterated craic of Karen Kane and Lorna Sexton’s campaigns? The imagination of Aoife Fennel’s campaign and the warmth of Aishling Nic Neill’s campaign? The student body are disillusioned, and frankly disinterested, by this year’s campaigns for the MSU. The lack of inspiring and qualified candidates on most of the ballot papers has affirmed the pervasive ideology that student politics doesn’t matter, and is only a playing ground for social climbers. That is why we need to say that we have had enough.
Our constitution gives us the right to tell those running to represent us that we demand better. We are not tied to the four names on the ballot paper, we do not need to settle for the least of four evils. We must demand better. We must turn out on March 13. We must vote to Re-Open Nominations.
IMAGE CREDIT: MSU Elections 2018 Facebook Page