On Thursday evening in the Speakeasy bar at Queen’s Students’ Union it was election result night.
The bar was packed. The tension in the room could’ve been cut with a knife. Who would be elected to the 2015-16 Student Officer team? We would soon find out…
But, before we get into the actual results, it would only be right for some post-election analysis ahead of putting a lid on this year’s election coverage.
This year saw a drastic fall in the number of students voting in the Student Leader Election. 566 less students decided to take part this year, but why? On paper, most of us SU hacks had assumed that with 15 candidates standing this time around compared to nine last year, added to the fact that the ticket system (where candidates stand alongside one another on the same platform) was diluted this year – participation could only increase, surely?
My own thoughts on the issue are that there’s a very real disconnect between Student Union politics and the average student. That is not to say that students are stupid or don’t care about the big issues of the day but we have to remember that the vast majority of students probably don’t know who their Student Officers are, such is the lack of connection between students and SU politics.
I must admit that until I started covering SU Council for The Scoop, I didn’t know their names myself!
The Gown, The Students’ Union website, and of course ourselves at The Scoop all had election content online. The voting procedure is online; candidates also had campaign videos and manifestos online. Given that it couldn’t be easier to get engaged in the process and vote, for only 15% of students to do this, it’s hard to come to a conclusion other than that there’s a big problem within SU politics, if not a crisis.
Despite one of the the main stories of the 2015 Student Union Election being a declining turnout, this actually wasn’t the case for all Office positions. Interestingly, the positions of both Community, and Equality and Diversity saw an increase upon last years engagement with the positions. The Equality and Diversity post did only see an increase of one voter, however the position of Community saw a more drastic increase. One reason for this could be due to the increased competition for that role.
The position of Vice-President Welfare was contested by Chloe Patterson and Ellen Haveron. In this case, Chloe Patterson received 1,172 votes in the first count and as such was elected because she surpassed the quota of 1,027 for this position.
VP Clubs and Societies
The Clubs and Societies post was only contested by the incumbent, Niall McKenna. Niall was elected at the first stage as he received 1,619 votes, surpassing the 1,032 quota. Last year Niall received 1,355 votes and RON received 979. RON didn’t do so well this year as there simply wasn’t as much of an ‘anti-ticket anger’ feeling, due to the slight dilution of the ticket system.
Incumbent Hannah Niblock put her hat in the ring again as he attempted to retain the position of Vice-President for Education. Hannah was elected on the first count as she received 1,554 votes which well exceeded the quota of 972. Like Niall, Hannah stood last year when there was a much more significant anti-ticket feeling; subsequently RON’s vote dropped from 856 last year to 388 this year.
VP Campaigns and Communications
Campaigns and Communications was contested by Sean Fearon and Caitriona Keenan. The build-up to the Campaigns and Communication result was an interesting one as nobody was able to call the result. Many people I talked to felt that there could be a strong ‘anti-Sean’ vote due to the role he played in campaigns such as; trying to ban the sale of the poppy in QUB Students’ Union and securing a referendum at QUB on whether the SU should take a stance on the constitutional issue of Northern Ireland. Others were telling me that Caitriona would have a lot of support from Law and GAA, the two groups that traditionally dominate SU politics. In the end Sean surpassed the quota on the first count by a healthy 12 votes as Caitriona polled 896 first preference votes.
Equality and Diversity
The position of Equality and Diversity was one of the most contested positions in the Student Officer Elections this year with Dervla McGaughey, Oisin Hassan, and Nicole Quinn all contesting the position. After the first round of votes had been cast there was no clear winner as no single candidate had surpassed the magic blue line. RON received the lowest amount of votes and as such, was eliminated. RON’s votes were redistributed to the other candidates and the yellow line shows how much support the candidates had received once RON’s votes had been re-distributed – there was still no clear winner. At this stage Dervla was now the candidate with the lowest amount of votes and hence, was eliminated. Once Dervla had been eliminated and their votes had been re-distributed, we had a winner in Oisin Hassan who had 1,129 votes – passing the 1,037 quota.
Like the position of Equality and Diversity, Community was also a hotly contested position with nobody really sure who was going to win. The post was contested by Paul Loughran, Tori Watson, and Connor Malone.
The first round of votes had come and gone with no clear winner – Paul was in the lead with 986 votes, however he was still some distance from the magic number of 1,174. RON, with the lowest number of votes was eliminated and had its votes distributed. The yellow line shows how each candidate faired after this re-distribution had taken place – there was still no clear winner and now, Connor Malone, with the lowest number of votes was eliminated. The contest came down to a race between Paul and Tori, with it looking likely that Paul would win. Connor’s votes were re-distributed and the orange line shows the result of this. Paul surpassed the quota by 5 and hence was elected.
The position of President was contested by Caoimhe McNeill, Sean Searle, and Raymond Dillon.
This truly was the big one. My own thoughts from following the campaign trail were that most people thought Caoimhe would win, however, would Sean Searle be able to pull in a big GAA vote?
After the first round of votes we didn’t have a winner, but it was clear that Caoimhe McNeill was going to win – she only needed 6 more votes to become the first woman QUBSU President in ten years. RON was eliminated and the yellow line shows that this took Caoimhe over the magic number of 1,415.
One surprise was that Raymond Dillon had beaten Sean Searle, who many expected to draw down a significant GAA vote, especially with Niall McKenna receiving such a large vote and granted that he was on the same ticket as Sean Searle, you could have been forgiven for assuming that Sean would have received a generous vote. Quite clearly though, something didn’t go to plan.
Many people, including myself, had expected participation to increase this year with more diverse candidates running and with the slight dilution of the ticket system. What do I mean by a dilution of the ticket system? More often than not, seven candidates would all run under the same platform and they would use the same election material, etc. This year saw three different tickets and a healthy serving of independents.
Presidential candidate Sean Searle teamed up with Clubs & Societies candidate Niall McKenna as well as Campaigns and Communications candidate Caitriona Keenan to form their ticket.
Presidential candidate Caoimhe McNeill teamed up with Community candidate Paul Loughran; Campaigns and Communications candidate, Sean Fearon; and Equality and Diversity candidate Oisin Hassan to form their ticket.
Education candidate Hannah Niblock teamed up with Welfare candidate Chloe Patterson to form their ticket, titled ‘We Deliver’.
There were also six independents; Tori Watson (Community candidate); Connor Malone (Community candidate); Dervla McGaughey (Equality & Diversity candidate); Nicole Quinn (Equality and Diversity candidate); Ellen Haveron (Welfare candidate); and Raymond Dillon (Presidential candidate).
The election was clearly a win for the ticket system and a loss for independents as not a single independent won a seat this year. Between now and next year there will big concerns raised over Student Union politics and its relevance. Until then however, thank you for following our coverage on The Scoop and we do hope you’ll stick with us to do it all over again next year.