By Stephen Moynihan.
Alannah O’Connor is the sole candidate for the position of Welfare Officer in the 2022 Students’ Union Elections. Alannah is currently the Gender Equality Representative on the SU’s Equality Working Group.
Alannah’s top aim for the year, should she be elected, is to set up a web resource to help people who are moving out of home for the first time. “This might consist of a link of the current Students’ Union website, or a separate website itself, with things like the UCC Accommodation Search Facebook Group, your tenant rights and responsibilities, how to apply for the Student Assistance Fund. I want it to show all of those kinds of things, because moving out is already an overwhelming experience”. She also wants to encourage students to join tenants’ unions such as Community Action Tenants Union.
Separately, she would like to improve access to addiction counselling, raise awareness about Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups available to UCC students, to work with the Free Legal Aid Centre to connect students with legal professionals, and to lobby the government regarding the cost of living.
In achieving her aims, Alannah points to her approachability and accessibility as a key factor. “One thing that I know is super important is individual casework. Obviously, systematic change is the way to go. But there’s no point in looking for systematic change at the cost of the individual student. So I would like to be able to help students on an individual basis. I want to be there on campus, having office hours, and making myself known so that people can come to me and then I can help them”.
“I want students to know that the Students’ Union is here for you to ask these questions and to help you. I want to make the Students Union accessible, all the resources: mental health resources, sexual health resources, addiction resources. I really want to make them all so clear., because there is so much available, but it’s just not knowing that it’s available that can be a problem. That’s such a big part of it.”
From a personal point of view, Alannah believes that students should vote for her because of her compassion. “I’m a really empathetic person. I care a lot about helping people and I would go above and beyond to help people. I’ve told so many people that I’m running for officer and they’d be like ‘oh that looks so good on your CV!’, but like, to be honest, that’s not something that would have crossed my mind. It’s not that I want to get into student politics, then go on to the Seanad or something. I really just want this role so that I can help people and make an impact on the college and on the students.”
“My experience as the Gender Equality Rep this year will also be really helpful and beneficial. I also have a lot of experience volunteering with different charities and things like that. I think all of this will be beneficial for how I undertake the role.”, she says.
Regarding the experience of running an unopposed election, Alannah states that “it might feel like a bit of a throwaway election, but I actually think that this makes it even more important for people to know their candidates and to read the manifestos or to know a bit about them.”
“Reopen nominations is always an option. I think, especially as some of them are uncontested, that RON should be seen as a serious option. I think it is just so important that people read the manifestos and that they’re conscious of who they’re voting for, because you don’t want someone just kind of walking into a position”.