Luther had a Catherdral door, The Observer has the internet.
Most Manifestos in this election range from, at best, lists of things that are nice to the deeply pathetic; the product of the desperate minds of opportunistic jokers looking for an easy wage. Welfare manifestos tend to be an exception, the importance of a job where you regularly end up dealing with someone going through serious mental health issues tends to discourage those who can’t at least pretend to care. Bar a few shaky points, Gearóid Brennan, Cathal Óg Donnelly and Fiach O’Neill’s manifestos are all particularly impressive. However, the presidential manifestos are different, containing lunatic outlandish promises, vague fluffy sentiments with little detail, and quite often promises to do things the Union already does.
Gene Carolan’s Manifesto is a good example of unsubstantiated fluff, It talks about the disconnect between the SU and students and then goes on to talk at length about fixing this, using nice catch-phrases like “An SU You can believe in,” and “Representation is the foundation of my campaign”. The problem is that Gene’s manifesto never addresses the question “Why do these problems exist?” and then never goes on to discuss how his proposals (shallow as they are) would fix all these problems. It’s nice of Gene to tell us he’ll be an approachable president but most of his policies amount to one line statements, some of which sound nuts or irrelevant on the face of it, with no detail or any display of understanding about how his policies are actually vague statements about things that are nice, is more accurate than “policies”, are to be implemented. He talks about changing the way the Students’ Union fights fees and proposes lobbying TDs and Ministers, which is really a lot like what members of the SU exec and the wider Union movement have being doing all year. (Admittedly that Gene doesn’t know this may prove his other manifesto point about exec members not communicating what there doing to the Student body.) He then goes on to discuss involving F.E.E in direct talks with Government Ministers considering Tuition Hikes or Graduate Taxes, such a proposal makes me worry that Gene never bothered finding out anything about F.E.E before tossing them into his manifesto. The depth of his thought on the fees issue seems to be “Marches don’t work, lets just lobby sympathetic politicians” who presumably are on our side anyway. Because in Gene’s world, Governments will listen to lobbying attempts by Student Unions without a show of force in support of Fighting Fees by the Union membership, like say getting thousands of students out on the streets. He also pledges to “bolster the credibility of Maynooth degrees and research. Inter-varsity research projects could be encouraged as thesis projects; with the research being published to show all universities involved in a positive light.”, which as a proposal is either genius or crazy. It’s hard to tell because that’s all the info we get on this stroke of genius, leaving us with the deep suspicion that its more of a brain-fart desperately plugged into the manifesto so it doesn’t look like yet another candidate promising an ATM, cheaper prices and no F.E.Es.
Could be worse, Fionn “The Muscle” Brickley is the kind of candidate you at first think is a joke candidate, then you start to wish was a joke candidate. His manifesto includes five points, five very short points, which include promises to do things that the SU is already doing. Like trying to work with security to improve safety on campus (SU is already trying to do this. See the Rob vs Security saga. What, you haven’t heard it? But It’s already SU lore; ok maybe there is actually something to this SU being a massive clique stuff) and a mention of increasing interaction between the Students’ Union and Societies. Fionn doesn’t go into how he would do this, but presumably creating a full time clubs and socs officer, like the new constitution will if its passed, would fulfill this pledge before Fionn even steps foot in the president’s office. See, this is the problem with the opposition to “SU hacks”, you end up with a bunch of candidates with no real understanding of how the SU works, making promises to do things the SU already does, or cant possibly do.
Having said that, the two candidates for President closest to the current Union, the hacks so to speak, Rob Munnelly and Grace Crehan, aren’t a whole lot better, their manifestos essentially being a list of things it would be nice for the University to have prefaced by the word “lobby”. Lobby is a lovely word for a student election candidate because it makes you sound very professional and like your out actively fighting for students without having to get into any of the that messy “Talking about how will you actually do this” business. Promising to lobby for an extra ATM on campus without talking about how you plan to get around the universities contract with AIB or how you’ll convince another bank to move one into the SU (If passed the new constitution would open up some room for maneuver) is an empty desperate patronising promise. Grace’s manifesto promise to build a swimming pool fails to mention it would require adding 150 onto every students reg fee which is like promising to buy every student a barbecue kit and not mentioning that It would add 300 to the reg fee. Although even if that was mentioned in the Manifesto considering a raise to the Reg Fee when It’s already rising faster than the financial support available to students is a pretty strong indication that she doesn’t really give two shits about the Fees issue. The fact that her section on Fees is a rushed paragraph about fees being kind of bad is an even stronger indication of where her priorities are, and there nowhere near those of the first year struggling to pay for college.
Rob Munnelly’s manifesto isn’t much better, another list of things which are nice with no detail on how these nice things will be achieved. He mentions the problems with the SU bar, “The SU Bar’s biggest problem is this: it’s not the best at anything “ but rather than propose solutions for it he simply promises to hold a discussion about it. This is the other beautiful fall back for the Student Candidate, identifying problems then proposing that we all gather around a campfire like a big warm student body and discuss solutions, which makes you sound appealing without actually having to have any ideas of your own. Again and again and again Rob Identifies something wrong with the student experience, his solution to which is either lets talk about it our if we’re really lucky him telling us in a firm soothing, calming voice “I will fix this”. His manifesto is kind of like a superhero who fights things that sort of irritate students, like finding a parking space? Will something be done about crappy WI-FI? Well look no further, I will ring the Computer centre and hopefully they’ll return my calls this time.
Both Grace and Rob are good at identifying things that are wrong with the SU, but then fail to talk about solutions, instead asserting the existence of solutions. It’s a lame, patronising gambit based on the insulting notion that you, the average student, won’t care about student politics unless your talked to like in the language Lowest Common Denominator.
The Obvious response is that no one cares about Student politics because there sick of being talked to like there aphetic disinterested idiots who will be won over by Swimming pools, ATM’s and Real Representation.