By Aoife Mullen
Cillian Byrne is the experienced member of the SU this year as he begins to draw down his time in his second term in the SU offices. Education Officer, Cillian, has enjoyed his second year in the union, but are there any highlights from the year?
“Orientation is always a special kind of event and the opportunity you get when you get up in front of the new students. It’s always good because to me it’s when you know if they’re going to engage with us. Orientation is definitely the highlight.
As a sabbatical member of the SU team, Cillian has a lot of hard work to do, but he knows that sometimes explanations can’t be given to deal with student complaints.
“One of the hardest things to deal with is you know what goes on behind the scenes, in terms of events or even in meetings, especially with the likes of security briefings and events briefings.
“It’s so difficult when you understand the reason why something has happened but you also understand the reason why people might not be able to know the full extent of it. “Toxic Tuesday is a prime example because there are a lot of reasons why that didn’t continue, but there are one or two elements that can’t be discussed. If they were able to discuss them I think people would be able to understand a lot better and a lot quicker.
Working in the SU for his second year has helped Cillian deal with problems students may have, but he admits that it can sometimes be difficult to leave the job at the end of the day.
“You hear some horrific life stories when you’re in office and I suppose hearing them is very hard and then being able to separate your work and your own life is also another hard element to cope with.
“Having the first year under the belt, you learn how to deal with it a lot better. But when you hear certain things they do have an impact on you. It’s just about learning to cope with it, learning how to put on a brave face and keep smiling, It’s part of the job but it’s not all of it. “Student fees have been the big talking point from this college year, but Cillian believes that there should never have been any referendum on fees.
“I don’t think a first one should have been held. The whole of idea of a referendum with five options doesn’t make any sense to me; I think there are a lot of people it wouldn’t make sense to.
“I would have thought, and would have suggested to council as well, it would have been better to have a survey you can send to all students.”
Ruarí Quinn has been the man in the centre of the fees controversy, but Cillian believes that he was right to go back on his pre-election promises. He thinks that means testing is the way forward.
“I am in complete favour of a means tested system, but it needs to be revamped.
“It was silly for [Ruarí Quinn] to make the pledge in the first place, because he’s not going to fully understand the extent of the position he’s going to be in until he actually gets in.
“In terms of the pledge, the way I understand it, he wasn’t going to have any other choice. It’s hard, if I was a first year again, I’d probably be going around calling him all sorts. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I’m nearly finished with third level education that I’m a bit more relaxed about or that I just see the shape of the nation in its entirety.” With the change to go back and do things differently, Cillian would refuse the opportunity. “I probably wouldn’t because, you want to have that drive and ambition to try and do something bigger.”
A long year in the SU is now coming to an end, but are there any regrets for Cillian?
He pauses and ponders the question. “There are probably a few,” he says. “It would have been nice to see what it would have been like to swap the late nights in the office for early mornings in the office, it would be a completely different approach to the job. That would have been nice to have tried.
“There’s always going to be regrets, there’s always going to be more that you could have done. If I sat here and said there was no more that could have been done, I’d be lying because there definitely was, but you get pulled so far away from something you’re trying to focus on with everything that happens around you.
“My biggest regret actually is not planning enough. We didn’t take it far enough with the planning element in my opinion anyway.”