New ITSSU Officers 11/12

1IT Sligo Students’ Union elections go to the wire

Last Wednesday fortnight March 30th saw the one of the most tightly fought Students’ Union election battles on campus at IT Sligo in many years. There were a number of positions both part time and sabbatical up for grabs, with a total of fourteen candidates contesting seven positions.

The high octane campaigns ran by the candidates were matched by a busy day of voting and the second highest voting turn out in the Institute’s Students’ Union elections history. Voting took place throughout the day in the Institute main canteen from 10am to 5pm. The polling stations were bombarded with students throughout the day casting their ballot. A high turn out was predicted from an early stage, with over 1000 students having voted by lunch time.

Throughout the day at the polling station in the Institute canteen, there was an almost carnival like atmosphere, as all of the students who put themselves before the electorate fought tooth and nail to secure every single vote they could gather. As eager campaign teams jostled for prime position close to the polling station, the sense that the main positions would go down to the wire was very palpable. Exit polls predicated that all three positions could go any way.

For the Part timer officer positions Cathal O’Fearraigh was returned unopposed as Irish Language officer. Ustane Probst was similarly returned for the Campaigns officer position. Konrad Mulrennan beat off the challenge of Peadar King for Entertainments officer. Marion O’Connor ousted Kathryn Patton for the position of Equality officer in a close encounter. The three full time positions of President, Vice President (Education) and Vice President (Welfare) was where the election became nail bitingly close. Over 1550 students voted to endorse the candidates they wanted to represent them for the coming year. To put this figure into perspective, the figure constitutes an increase of over 50% in turn out compared to last year. Astute commentators felt that this was indicative of the level of interest not just in Students’ Union elections, but a keen interest in selecting the best candidates to represent students’ publicly.

The position of Vice President (Welfare) was a duel between Kevin O’Grady and Roisin O’Malley, both of whom have spent a year as part time officers on the Students’ Union executive. While O’Malley impressed highly in the run up to the election in the public hustings debate, it was the dogged never say die attitude of the O’Grady campaign team that pulled him over the line on a margin of 836 versus the 683 of the Westport lady.

The second Vice President (Education) sabbatical position was a new position which pitched three candidates against each other. In an amazing three horse race only twenty first preference votes divided Aiden McTigue, Anita Hurst and Shaun Hannon. After a second recount of the nailbiting encounter a resolute Shaun Hannon was eliminated and his votes transferred between the two remaining candidates. Aiden McTigue topped the poll with the narrowest of leads with 518, to Anita Hurst’s 502, while Hannon was an excruciating 4 votes behind Hurst on 498 votes. It was clearly obvious once the ballots were being distributed that there was going to be one victor only as Anita Hurst hoovered up the transfers of Shaun Hannon. At 9:15pm, Returning Officer Bob Coggins announced the second and final count. He paid tribute to the three candidates in an election which he commented was incredibly close. There were emotional scenes as an almost surprised Anita Hurst was raised to victory when she received 281 to the 139 transfers of McTigue. She exceeded the quota with a total of 783 votes.

Finally the position which all students were most interested in and the one which carried the greatest honour and responsibility, President of IT Sligo Students’ Union, was up for decision. Three students, Michael Lavelle an Energy Management Masters student, James Dillon the Press and Communications officer of the Students’ Union and George Leetch, the SU Vice President (Welfare) contested the post. As the election clerks began to sort the votes the tally men could clearly see that this was another election where the two existing Students’ Union sabbatical officers were clearly ahead of the valiant Lavelle, but could be split with a hair respectively. All three campaign teams were on tenterhooks, as the assembled crowd went deathly silent each time the Returning officer turned as if ready to announce the first count. Bob Coggins accordingly obliged with that first count result, but only after the votes had been counted for the third time without that announcement.

In a valid poll of 1553 votes James Dillon received 569 votes, Michael Lavelle received 356 votes and George Leetch topped the poll with 625 votes. Bob Coggins announced that Michael had been eliminated and that his transfers would be distributed to the other two remaining candidates. There were no huge cheers as both Dillon and Leetch camps realised the margin was too tight for either man to claim victory at that point, albeit Leetch holding the obvious upper hand in the race at that time. Amazing scenes began to unravel as the transfers were distributed. What some thought an insurmountable lead of Leetch was quickly erased by the transfers going strongly in favour of Dillon. Chants of “Yes We Can, Yes We Can” began to echo through an otherwise quiet Institute of Technology at 10pm as the excellent vote management and top class campaigning of the James Dillon machine became apparent. Finally, the Returning officer made the announcement of the second and final count for the position of President of ITSSU. The votes of Lavelle were transferred as follows: George Leetch +110 giving him a total of 735 votes. James Dillon +200 giving him a final tally of 769. The Dillon camp exploded as Bob Coggins deemed him elected without having reached the quota. As pandemonium ensued with Dillon immediately elevated shoulder high by his supporters, he modestly made his way to commiserate with Leetch. In an ironic strange mixture of emotion both men for once were lost for words when called on to speak.

Later however, James Dillon, the 24 year old Ballinasloe native, had this to say:

“I’m truly honoured to be representing the students of IT Sligo for 2011/2012 as Union President. Next year will be extremely challenging for third level students across the country, not least the students here in IT Sligo. I promise to work tirelessly with the support of my team of Union officers, to ensure that we provide the best representation possible for our students.

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to my fantastic campaign team who worked tremendously hard over the last number of weeks, I’m forever grateful. I wish to congratulate the newly elected officers, Anita, Kevin, Marion, Ustane, Konrad, and Cathal. I look forward to working alongside them in the new term. I would also like to commiserate with the candidates who were unsuccessful in our elections, standing for election is never an easy thing to do, and I’m sure their day will come. Finally I wish to sincerely thank the students of IT Sligo for placing their trust in me and I believe with their support we can achieve a great deal in 2011/2012”.

The newly elected personnel take up office on the 01 of July 2011 for the coming academic year. All staff and students of the Institute wish them the best of luck in their endeavours.

Photo Caption: Left to Right – Ustane Probst Campaigns Officer, Marion O’Connor Equality Officer, Konrad Mulrennan Entertainments Officer, Kevin O’Grady Vice President/Welfare, James Dillon President, Anita Hurst Vice President/Education, and Cathal O’Fearraigh Irish Language Officer.

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