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University Observer







We have a chat with the sensitive croon and UCD alumnus

The University Observer’s best and brightest preview an exciting Six Nations campaign

How consumers aren’t the only ones suffering at the hands of failing companies

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UCD to abolish passing by compensation by aoife valentine · deputy editor

University College Dublin Assessment is due to announce in the coming weeks that from September 2013, UCD will be phasing out the practice of passing modules by compensation. UCD currently allows compensation in the situation where the student has failed with an E grade and has achieved an overall grade point average (GPA) equal to or above 2.0. This applies across almost all modules with the exception of 15 credit modules (such as thesis modules) and a small number of other modules which the School’s Programme Board have deemed non-compensable. Once compensation is abolished, students who achieve lower than a D- grade in any module will have to repeat or resit the module, regardless of their GPA. UCD Students’ Union Education Officer Shane Comer insists that this change will be made with minimal interruption or confusion caused to students, stating that by phasing it in, “it would have the least effect on students.” A spokesperson from the University has clarified that no modules or exams sat in 2012/2013 or in previous years will be affected by the change, and any modules that have already been compensated will remain compensated. They stated: “Current students already on a programme in UCD will not be affected by the changes for the most part.” The phasing process will occur by module level rather than by year groups. From September 2013, modules at level zero, one, four and five will no longer be compensable. Comer says this shouldn’t affect students a large amount as “when you’re doing level fours, you’re usually a final year and you don’t want to fail them at that stage anyway, but say for someone who comes into first year, they won’t know any different.” From September 2014, level two modules will be included, and level three modules will be added in 2015 to complete the phasing process. While the option of introducing it year group by year group, beginning with first years entering UCD in September 2014, was discussed, it was rejected as it could cause students sitting the same module to be assessed differently. Comer explained: “There could be two students in a module and one can compensate while the other can’t, so that’s why they’re doing it by levels.” He also warned that it could cause

by claudine murphy

Photo: Robert Manning some confusion, particularly for those studying a majority of level two and three modules, noting: “Students will need to bare that in mind, that if they’re picking a level one elective, then they can’t compensate it.” This change comes following “discussion and approval of a set of proposals involving senior management of the University, the Students’ Union, Academic Council and other University governance and working groups,” according to a spokesperson from the University.

Comer stated that this year’s Students’ Union Officers will not be negotiating with the University on this matter, as “the deal was done by the last sabbatical team so we’re caught between a rock and a hard place.” However he feels the impact of the change will be limited by both UCDSU and the University running information campaigns to adequately inform students of the changes in the next number of weeks. UCD is the first of Ireland’s seven universities to abolish compensation

across the board. While University College Cork, Dublin City University, and the National University of Ireland Galway operate a broadly similar system to the present system in UCD, Trinity College Dublin only allows students compensate one module, and in the National University of Ireland Maynooth, students may not compensate their compulsory or core modules, but it is possible to pass a stage by compensation.

Over €300,000 additional funding allocated to UCD Welfare funds by aoife valentine · deputy editor

UCD has received a top-up tranch of funding from the Government for the Student Welfare Fund this month. The money, totalling €317,344 for UCD, comes as part of a €3 million national payment into similar funds across all of Ireland’s institutes of higher education. The money allocated to UCD will be divided up among the numerous student support funds, including the emergency Welfare Fund, and the newly re-established means-tested Student Assistance Fund. This payment has come as a welcome relief to the Student Support Staff as their fund resources began to run low following a rush of applica-

Location and licensing problems threaten UCD Ball 2013

tions before the Christmas break. UCD Welfare Officer Mícheál Gallagher explains: “It’s a supplementary allocation, to help alleviate some of the pressures and some of the associated costs to our funds because of the SUSI fiasco. We had to cover financial messes that wouldn’t have existed if people had got their grants on time, so this extra money will help to go towards repaying that money that was used.” Last semester the Student Support Staff found themselves with some difficulties administering funds to students who had financial difficulties due to the constraints in force on the Welfare Fund, which is a fund designed to assist students who find themselves in emergency or unexpected financial trouble.

While in previous years a means-tested fund operated for students who were experiencing non-emergency financial difficulties, this wasn’t set up in semester one as there was no one available to administrate the fund. With this money now secured, the Student Assistance Fund has been reinstated and will be accepting applications from the beginning of term. Gallagher explained: “There’s not always an emergency; there’s not always an unforeseen circumstance that pops up… This money means the difference between saying to students, ‘Sorry, we can’t afford to help you’ and saying ‘Keep your applications coming, the whole team is ready to support you’… Students are encouraged to sub-

mit at least €500 worth of receipts. The money is in force as of now.” The absence of the Student Assistance Fund highlighted the need for the Student Support Staff to assess the current administration of UCD’s numerous support funds. Plans are currently being put in place to “overhaul the support system” according to Gallagher, though they are currently in early stages. Once complete, the Student Support Staff will report back to the University Management Team to “recommend changes going forward to make the system much more friendly and student-orientated.” It is hoped that this report will be completed by April 2013.

The Students’ Union have been struggling in recent weeks to put suitable plans in place for the UCD Ball 2013. In his report to SU Council, Entertainments Officer Eoin Heffernan outlined that the SU were having difficulties finding a location for the Ball, as well as obtaining Gardai permission, stating: “It has come to light in the past ten days that the running track will not be available as a location for the UCD Ball 2013… The Gardai are also concerned with the intoxicaton levels at the Ball in recent years”. Both Heffernan and President of the SU Rachel Breslin have outlined the difficulties which they are facing, including financial concerns. Heffernan stated: “We’re coming up against numerous aspects: the Gardaí, the location… with campus closure… the costs also. We’re still trying to get through these problems.” Heffernan expressed his disappointment with the college in assisting the SU to find a new location, commenting that “the college hasn’t come back to us with anything yet.” However when questioned about the possibility of holding the Ball off-campus, Breslin stated that this doesn’t appear to be a “viable option, as students want an on-campus event” but continued on to say that no confirmation has been received that the event will take place on-campus. According to Heffernan, he is committed to finding a location within UCD: “If it’s off campus, it’s not the UCD Ball. It has to be on-campus.” The SU has had particular difficulty in obtaining a license for the event, as Gardai are concerned about student and public safety. Heffernan insists the SU has engaged a lot more with the Gardaí this year, however he noted that “The major issue they have is that they said last year if an emergency had happened, they wouldn’t have been able to evacuate the place with the level of drunkenness. The Ball started in 2006 and they said over the years that steadily, year-on-year, the level of drunkenness has got worse and worse. Also, that the students’ attitude towards drink in UCD is terrible.” In response to the Gardai’s concerns, Heffernan has launched a new alcohol awareness campaign called ‘Take It Handy’. It has been presented to the Gardaí and the SU has reportedly received positive feedback from them. Heffernan explains that the campaign aims to teach people that “You are allowed have a drink but just to know when to stop, before you ruin it for everyone”. He states that it is essentially about “breaking down a routine”, and that the campaign will be using different methods such as posters and events such as “Sponsor me Sober”, in an attempt to break down the preconception that “to have fun you need to have alcohol.” While Breslin says that “the SU is moving in the right direction”, no plans have been confirmed, and Heffernan admits that there is still a lot of work to be done. Over the coming weeks he will be negotiating with the Gardai and the University, and plans to emphasise “the student experience… the social aspect” in the hopes of finalising a location and obtaining a license.



News in Brief

The University Observer | 22 January 2012

SU optimistic as shops show profit for October

by donal lucey

by yvanne kennedy · Chief reporter

UCD Professor appointed editor-inchief of QJM The Quarterly Journal of Medicine (QJM) has appointed Seamas Donnelly, staff member of both the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science and St Vincent’s University Hospital, as its new Editor-in-Chief. He becomes the first Irish based academic to hold this position. QJM is a leading medical journal and the official publication of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland. It has a long standing reputation for publishing original medical research, peerreviewed articles and papers, and placing a focus on internal medicine. Published monthly, QJM includes original papers, editorials, reviews, commentary papers to air controversial issues, and a correspondence column. Speaking about his new role, Professor Donnelly said: “I’m honoured to be appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Quarterly Journal of Medicine. I will build on the historical reputation of the journal in the Translational Medicine space with the mission of the journal to stimulate, educate and challenge our readers and significantly contributes to their pursuit of lifelong medical learning”.

Two UCD Graduates nominated for acting awards Two recent graduates of UCD have made the shortlist for the Irish Times Theatre Awards. Beginning in 1997, the awards have looked to reward excellence in all aspects of Irish theatre, from the actors and directors, to the production, design and writing. Catriona Ennis, a former UCD Ad Astra Performing Arts Scholar, who completed her MA in Drama and Performance in 2012 and her BA in English and Drama in 2010, has been shortlisted for ‘Best Actress’. This is in recognition of her portrayal of Young Girl in Anu Productions’ The Boys of Foley Street. Directed by Louise Lowe, the production was a major success at the recent Dublin Theatre Festival. Gavin Drea who completed his BA English and Film at UCD in 2011 has been nominated for ‘Best Supporting Actor’. He played Des in the Druid Murphy production of A Whistle in the Dark, which toured Ireland, the UK and the US to great acclaim during 2012. The awards are open to any professional theatre companies or productions performed in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. Anyone nominated will be profiled in the Irish Times this month, and then the invite-only awards ceremony is held in February to recognise the very best in Irish Theatre.

Architect Kevin Roche presented with Ulysses Medal In a special ceremony to mark the end of a year-long celebration of the centenary of the UCD School of Architecture, UCD alumni and renowned architect Kevin Roche was presented with the UCD Ulysses Medal. Roche, the Irish architect behind such buildings like skyscrapers of the UN Plaza and California’s Oakland Museum, was presented with the award by UCD President Dr Hugh Brady and then took part in a live interview with Shane O’Toole, in front of invited guests and students. During the interview he talked about beginning his study in UCD’s then small School of Architecture, to then serving an apprenticeship under the leading Irish architect of the time Michael Scott, before spells in London and a further graduate degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Looking back on his success Roche says: “It comes down to a lot of luck, but one thing you’ve got to do is work, work, work. All my life I worked six or seven days a week, eight or ten hours a day. You have to do that and keep at it”.

UCD Students’ Union Commercial Services Limited, which encompasses all of the SU’s retail units across campus, ended October by recording a profit. Though the retail outlets were in the red overall, UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin is cautiously optimistic after the profits “exceeded expectations”. The profits for October amount to €49,000, but the shops made a loss for the year to date of €31,000 for the period ending October 31st 2012. Breslin credits the late profits to the cuts in costs implemented earlier in the year, such as the rapid decrease in costs for wages and supplies. New products, the Insomnia Coffee kiosks in particular, also contributed. The seasonal nature of the shops is causing some concern, but the development is seen as positive overall. “The main reason [for the finalquarter profit] is that costs have rapidly decreased: wage costs, purchasing costs; management has improved,” says Breslin. “This still needs to be a cautionary tale, particularly this month [January] and during the summer; they’re so seasonal, those months are extremely quiet with a large cost base. The shop picture can’t be accurately assessed by just term time performance, so what we need to do is build up those

months so overall there is a surplus.” Every aspect of the shops is being reviewed, including the possibility of redeveloping the library shop to offer more selling space. The Union also hopes to open a shop in the new Science building and is currently in contact with the developers of the building to reach an agreement there, while there are no plans to wind down the Engineering shop, due to its popularity among students in that school. The Commercial Managers employed for the last semester are in the process of “extending their contracts until the summer,” says Breslin. “Their job is to manage the shops on the ground and to develop a strategy for the shops in the medium and long-term and to look beyond shops to provide other services for the students. I think that they have been experienced individuals on the ground and being able to help me with the management while they take the operational decisions.” The short-term success of these managers in assisting the UCDSU in changing the losses of the shops to profit in the latter stages of the year does not guarantee that they will be a permanent part of the management structure, with the decision on whether or not to make long-term appointments to be reviewed “at the end of the year.”

€1 million book funding granted to library by killian woods

UCD Library Services have secured €1 million funding to allocate towards restocking the library’s physical resources, including books and physical copies of journals, as well as broadening student accessibility to online content, such as online journals and eBooks. In recent years, UCD Library Services have curbed their investment into revising current resources due to inadequate funding, resulting in the existing collections becoming out-dated. Student complaints in relation to the library failing to supply the latest editions of textbooks and access to relevant online resources was brought

to the attention of the University Management Team by Students’ Union President, Rachel Breslin, resulting in a committee set up by the University to research the strategic needs of the library. Commenting on the announcement, Breslin highlighted that investment in library resources has been lacking in recent years: “For a few years now we’ve seen a lot of students noticing and commenting on the physical resources, like the books and the journals, have not been purchased on the same levels that they were and I think that began really affecting students last year when they were seeing that the latest volume of their textbooks weren’t available or there weren’t enough.”

She continued: “This year there has been an extra €1 million allocated, which is a ten-fold increase on last year, to improve resources such as online journals, physical journals, books, and bringing up to date the collections again.” Speaking to The University Observer, Students’ Union Education Officer Shane Comer expressed his delight that significant funding has been made available for updating the current stock: “It’s a great development there, on top of the return of the opening hours. Resourcing the library is a huge step forward. There have been complaints in previous years about only one book being available for a large class of students. So hopefully this increased

funding will help alleviate that problem.” Comer continued to emphasise how vital such an investment of this proportion is to the UCD library: “For a university, the largest university in the country, it’s an extreme necessity. One development I’ve heard is that some of the money will be put into online journals and eBooks, which is a big step forward for a university that is as involved in research as UCD.” Comer was unable to confirm if the investment was a once off contribution, but remarked that he will be investigating if the University intends on renewing such contributions on an annual basis.

Applications deadline approaches for UCD Presidency by darragh ó tuathail

Applications for the job of President of UCD will close on February 4th. Current UCD President, Dr Hugh Brady’s ten-year term will finish on December 31st 2013 and a search committee was set up several months ago to find Dr Brady’s replacement. Although a confirmed list of applicants was not available at the time of going to press, The University Observer understands that likely candidates for the position include Dean of UCD’s Schools of Business Professor Ciarán Ó’hÓgartaigh, Principal of UCD’s School of Human Sciences Brigid Laffan, UCD’s Registrar Mark Rogers, Vice President of Innovation in UCD Peter Clinch, as well as President of National University Maynooth and former UCD Registrar Philip Nolan. The search committee was chosen by the university governing authorities, comprised of a number of academics and campus administrative figures. Their role is to ensure that the position is advertised both nationally and internationally, as described by Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin: “It’s being advertised in Ireland and quite literally across the world, in publications and online and through, headhunting and contacting individuals in the third level sector.” Breslin also noted that “no Irish university has ever appointed a president or leader from outside of Ireland.” Among the credentials sought are “an internationally recognised academic research record, extensive teaching experience at university level and a proven track record of leadership in a university or in a public service organisation.” A recent survey by the SU asked students what they wish to see in a President, a survey which played a role in the writing of the job description. Results showed that students called for a President who engaged with students and had a student-orientated focus during decision making. Along with this, students wished to see a job description which highlighted the diversity of the

disciplines and student population of UCD. Applicants which meet these criteria are put forward to the selection committee, where all applications are re-examined and candidates’ academic backgrounds will go through an indepth investigation. Shortlisted candidates are required to meet with a panel consisting of six members chosen by UCD’s governing authority, ensuring a cross-examina-

tion and the best candidate is selected. At least one member of the panel must be a student, assuring the voice of the student body is heard. The governing authority may appoint the candidate put forward by the committee or refuse on the grounds of unsuitability for the €200,000 per annum position. The successful candidate must then undergo a medical examination. Breslin believes that there has been

substantial interest in the position: “There certainly does seem to have been [a lot of interest], I don’t know any sort of application details or applicant details, but by the hits on the website, by the feedback that we have had from the company that are advertising and targeting individuals to spread the word internationally, it has been very good.” The new president will begin their term on January 1st 2014.

The University Observer | 22 January 2012


New performance gym opens in UCD with no time restrictions for students by bronagh carvill

The management of UCD Sport and Fitness opened a new performance gym on Monday, January 21st. The performance gym is located on the second floor of the UCD Sports building, taking the location which was previously occupied by the Crunch Fitness gym. There will be no time restrictions on UCD students using this new performance gym. The gym is open from 8am to 10pm, and students can use the gym any time during these hours. This is to counteract measures which were put in place restricting students from using the gym in the new Student Centre between 6.15pm to 8.15pm on weekday evenings during term time. President of the Students’ Union, Rachel Breslin has described the opening of this new performance gym as a “really positive development”, the result of both the Students’ Union and individual students “talking to management” and voicing their complaints. Breslin sees UCD Sport and Fitness as “expanding to meet the needs of the students…particularly those who will want to get fitter and healthier”. The new performance gym will offer


News in Brief by ryan kane

UCD students invited to partake in irish “Junior Nobel Prize”

a vast array of strength and conditioning and functional training equipment, such as half cages incorporating lifting platforms, a full plate loaded range, four cable machines, dedicated TRX training stations, seated calf machine and T-bar row as well as a range of cardio equipment. These new weights were purchased by the University, due to the large number of students who “were writing in and asking” for more equipment. In addition to the new performance gym, “there will also be 22 free fitness classes for students this semester,” according to Breslin. A new student fitness class timetable was issued January 21st, which offered a variety of classes such as spin, cardio box, body cut, pilates and Core ’n Tone. These classes will take place throughout the week in the new performance gym as well as in the UCD Sport and Fitness Centre. The new performance gym will be open to the public as well as to students. Meanwhile, the same restrictions on students using the UCD Sport and Fitness Centre are still in place. Breslin thinks it likely that this new system will be used for the rest of the semester, though nothing is confirmed.

External counselling scheme set-up to deal with increasing demand by mary-meadhbh park

The UCD student Health Centre is set to implement a new external counselling scheme, in which it hopes to reduce the number in the waiting list of students looking to receive counselling from UCD. This comes due to an increase in students requesting counselling services in recent times and it has been noted that it could take up to six to eight weeks for a student to receive the service in the current system. The new scheme entails that, during peak times of students requesting counselling services, applicants on the waiting list will be emailed and offered counselling externally, but the cost would be reimbursed by UCD.

Students’ Union Welfare Officer, Michael Gallagher, believes this is a very positive move by UCD to help students, especially around this time of year, when the number of applicants tends to rise: “It definitely is kind of seasonal and to leave out some of that pressure, where students who are on the waiting list are offered to see external counsellors, and to have their costs reclaimed, I think is absolutely vital.” The external counsellors offered by UCD have all been approved by the Health Centre and there is no limit to students who can avail of this. As the external counsellors do not have the backlog that UCD counsellors do, students are seen almost straight away. In addition to this, Gallagher has proposed plans to distribute helpful packs

on mental health to students who register for services. The Health Centre has also recently introduced a new counsellor, Donal Kiernan, who particularly deals with alcohol issues. This has helped with the overflow of students looking for counsellors, and provided students with a more specialised counselling service. There are also plans by Gallagher to set up an alcohol support group in UCD for students who have alcohol issues, either themselves or are affected by alcoholism in their family. The Students’ Union has also taken steps to help soften the problem of the long waiting lists by hiring a counsellor to assist students who are unsure if they need counselling, or for those who need counselling urgently. According

to President of the Students’ Union, Rachel Breslin: “[the new] counsellor deals with students who are more of an urgent situation rather than an on-going situation… I think it has worked really well and it has certainly provided the back-up that the SU needs in order to offer a comprehensive welfare and mental service to students.” However, due to the increasing demand, it seems clear that there needs to be a more long-term strategy put in place to deal with the waiting lists. Breslin adds, “It’s a good thing that people are feeling that they can talk to a counsellor, but it’s something that we definitely need to find a long term solution for.”

Building recommences on Sports Club House Bar as the future of Student Club remains uncertain by jack walsh · Chief reporter

Construction work will recommence on the Sports Club House Bar, located at the Student Centres within the next week, while UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin has also stated her belief that the UCD Student Club, located beside the Newman building, will reopen within the coming year. According to a UCD spokesperson:

“A new contractor, ‘Townlink’ has been appointed for the Sports Club House and will commence on site on 28 January 2013. An advance management team from the contractor has been on site since 14 January 2013. The contractor submitted a construction programme for discussion and this shows a handover date of 31st May.” Breslin stated in relation to the work on the Sports Club House bar: “It’s a lit-


tle bit difficult to know exactly when as they are doing their own survey work to estimate the length of the project, but it is moving again so all major catastrophic events aside it should be opening soon.” Discussing the operations of the old student bar, the Student Club, Breslin detailed the efforts made to reach an agreement with the University on seeking a new alcohol license for the

premises: “That premises [has been] returned to the University, so the University have complete control over it, but separate to that we reached an agreement where we would seek to open it as a venue in the interest of students; open it as a venue and seek a licence to that affect so it will be open for a limited number of days per year. Students would come to the Students’ Union or societies and say: ‘We have a big event this night, is it possible to get the Bar open.’ Breslin went on to highlight complications with the building itself: “We are trying to resolve issues with the building, and with the processes involved. It’s not as simple a case as I might have hoped, there are some complications with it, but we are working with buildings and services and all the different departments within UCD to try and get it open as soon as possible and I think it’s just frustrating.” When asked about whether or not there had be an application for a liquor license put forward, Breslin said: “No we haven’t applied for a license yet. We were getting our licensing documents together but we realised that there were some complications with that so now we are trying to fix those before applying for the license again”. A spokesperson for UCD confirmed: “No alcohol license has been applied for at the premises previously known as the student club. The ambition alongside that of the student leadership is to provide a venue for live acts/entertainment on the campus during the second term. Together, we are working on this proposal and a number of options/locations are under consideration. It is expected that an entertainment programme with various live acts will be announced in the coming weeks by the student leadership.”

The application process for the 2013 Undergraduate Awards, an Irish academic awards programme, opened on January 16th. The programme invites the world’s brightest undergraduates to submit their coursework for assessment. Last year’s honours saw three UCD students claim Undergraduate Awards, whilst an additional ten students were named as highly commended entrants. The Undergraduate Awards have attracted students from world-renowned academic establishments such as CalTech, Harvard, University of Hong Kong and the Indian Institute of Technology who have already registered to submit their research papers to the 2013 programme. Undergraduate Award winners are described as some of the most innovative young minds of their generation. Programme Director Louise Hodgson has called for “the next generation of creative thinkers and problem solvers” to submit their pioneering researching solutions. The 2013 programme is expected to attract over 4,000 submissions from students worldwide. Patron of the awards programme, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, will commend the winning students at the Undergraduate Awards Ceremony taking place next November. Submissions close for the Undergraduate Awards 2013 on May 24th.

UCC to host journalism conference in february The UCC Journalism Society will host the 2013 Journalism Conference in association with the Irish Examiner next month. The conference will take place in UCC’s Aula Maxima on Saturday February 9th. The event will run from 11:30am to 5pm with speakers including journalist Charlie Bird, broadcaster Joe Duffy and Irish Times Deputy Editor Denis Staunton set to attend. Brief individual speeches will be presented in addition to two panel discussions on ‘Journalism as activism’ and ‘Investigative Journalism’. Tickets to the event are €10.

USI launch national survey on students experiences of violence On January 10th the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launched its ‘Say Something’ online survey on students’ experiences of violence. The survey, conducted in association with Cosc, the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence, aims to better understand the extent and nature of violence experienced by third-level students. Cosc Director Gary Heylin believes the survey findings could be used to “improve [Cosc’s] actions to counter violence and support those who have experienced it.” The survey will also seek to establish how safe or unsafe students feel in different environments, with responses being used to further the understanding of, and deal with, issues of violence experienced by third-level students. The survey takes 10-15 minutes to complete with topical sections relating to stalking, harassment, and unwanted sexual experiences amongst others. Students of all genders and sexualities are invited to take part in the survey, which can be completed confidentially if desired. The USI has called on students to complete the online questionnaire as soon as possible, so as to allow the Union to publish its initial findings in late January.


The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Universities propose regional cluster plan News in Brief international

by daniel keenan · news editor

by sean o’grady · chief reporter

Bristol University Christian Union allows women to speak at meetings Bristol University Christian Union (BUCU) has issued a statement confirming that they will allow both women and men to speak at BUCU events without exception. The move serves as a reaction to criticism following the release of an email sent out by BUCU President Matt Oliver explaining to the society members that women would not be able to teach on their own or to speak on their own at society meetings. The email further went on to clarify that women could teach at the meetings as long as they were in the company of their husband while doing so. The policy came under criticism from the British media and BUCU have issued a statement following the email release: “The Executive Committee wish to make it clear that we will extend speaker invitations to both women and men to all BUCU events... BUCU is utterly committed to reflecting the core biblical truth of the fundamental equality of women and men.”

Cambridge College Scheme owes thousands to students The Cambridge College Programme (CCP), a legally questionable summer camp scheme is set to return this summer. The CCP is a £2,000 pound a week scheme which claims to provide students with summer work. Despite the programme not being affiliated with the University, the CCP has been using the Cambridge logo since 1990, which puts it in breach of British copyright law. The programme is run by Taryn Edwards, who describes herself as a former member of staff at Homerton College. Deborah Griffin, the college bursar says of Edwards: “I can assure you we will not be accommodating this woman or her students. Edwards has never been a member of staff at Homerton College, or had any connection with the college.” A number of students are owed between £1,000 and £2,000 by Edwards, and she is suspected as owing an even larger amount of money to colleges who have been tricked into accommodating her scheme. Despite the criticism and having virtually no qualifications, Edwards refuses to pay any money to the students who worked for her. Despite requests that none of the colleges accommodate the CCP this year, ten colleges have refused to confirm whether they will house the programme in 2013.

Aleppo University subject to terrorist attack At least 87 people, most of them students, have been killed in two explosions at the Aleppo University campus in northern Syria, with the death toll expected to rise. At the Security Council in New York, Bashir Ja’afari, Syria’s UN envoy, said: “A cowardly terrorist act targeted the students of Aleppo University as they sat for their midterm examinations. This act killed 82 students and wounded 162 other students.” In a statement, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said: “Medical and local activist sources report that the number of dead is likely to rise to over 90 because there are more than 150 people injured by the explosions, many of them severely. The UK-based human rights group said it had not been able to identify the cause of the two explosions, which shook the area between the university residence and the architecture building in the southern part of Aleppo University on Tuesday. A government-run university, Aleppo University is Syria’s secondlargest higher education institution.

University Presidents have proposed a regional cluster plan in response to pressure from the government and higher education authorities to restructure third-level institutions in Ireland. The proposal comes in response to the publication of the Hunt report in January 2011, which proposed a reduction in the number of higher education providers in Ireland, and a Higher Education Authority report, proposing a merger of several universities in Ireland. Under the proposal, third-level institutes would reconfigure into five regional clusters, North/West, MidWest, South, Dublin/North-East/ Midlands and Dublin, with UCD falling into the final category. The Higher Education Authority will publish its own “draft configuration” of the system shortly. The arrangement aims to reduce the cost of education by removing duplication of courses from similar regions. It would also allow colleges to share resources via web and videoconferencing, as well as sharing specialist staff and offering students a wider range of facilities without incurring huge costs. The proposal from the Irish Universities Association, the umbrella body for the universities, states that the goal is “to enhance the student experience and optimise the efficiency and effectiveness of educational provision within the cluster by facilitating joint planning of educational provision and effective inter-institutional collaboration; to promote collaboration and to

ensure critical mass in research and more effective knowledge transfer and commercialisation; to engage more coherently and systematically with stakeholders.” The proposal meets the criteria which Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn set down recently in a speech, saying that “There is a need to achieve critical mass through consolidation and collaboration and the development of regional clusters.” Key to the clusters proposal is that collaborating universities stick to core operating principals and internal management regulations. According to the Presidents, the clusters should have a formal governance structure, comprising the relevant senior officers of the member institutions together with the “rules of engagement” which comply with individual institutional governance and autonomy. Wholesale changes in management at any of the institutions are unlikely, as the proposal also says that third-level institutes should remain “autonomous institutions operating through their established management structures”. NUI Galway President Jim Browne called on the Education Minister to fast-track the regional cluster initiative, adding that the cluster in the west, the category which NUIG falls under, could be completed within the next year. The proposals from the Presidents are unlikely to win favour among some institutes of technology, who are seeking reconfiguration as a technological university, a move which university presidents oppose.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

New UCDSU Constitution under review by eimear reilly

UCD Students’ Union has held meetings before and after Christmas to discuss the impact and practical reality of changes made to the Union’s Constitution in the complete Constitutional Review, which took place last year. No major changes are expected as a result of the review, as any such amendments would require an individual referendum. According to UCD Students’ Union President, Rachel Breslin, this was “an auditing group to look at smaller things”. This year the new Constitution has met with problems such as vacant Class

Rep positions; low interest due to confusion, with 50.5% of filled seats uncontested; and a lack of clarity between UCRs (Union Council Representatives) and Class Representatives. Breslin believes that the new system will take a few years to become effective and the main aim of the review she says is “looking at ways of typing up the constitution now that we’ve seen it in operation for a year”. A number of issues are being discussed, including the class rep system, the jurisdictions of a number of the College Conveners, as well as the effectiveness of the current system for voting to accept or reject officer reports.

While a number of students have queried the abolishment of the Campaigns and Communications Officer and Entertainments Officer positions, this issue will not be covered by the Constitutional Review as the Independent Appeals and Disciplinary Board deemed it to be “overstepping the bounds” as such a decision would have “big financial consequences” according to Breslin. However, the group has discussed introducing a reporting mechanism to ensure the effectiveness of the elected members of the Campaigns Forum and the Entertainments Forum. Breslin explained that this will be necessary as

“next year when those Officers are no longer in the Union, the Campaigns and Ents forum will really have to grow and take over a lot of responsibility.” Breslin explained that this was just a review group and not a complete Constitutional overhaul. She concluded: “There’s not a huge amount that will change in this Constitution. I don’t think it’s right to rewrite a new constitution for the Union every year. It needs stability but at the same time, we’re trying to improve some small elements that have probably hindered us a little bit this year.”

Former UCD lecturer loses right-to-die case by anne marie flynn

Former UCD lecturer, Marie Fleming, last week lost a high court battle to overturn the ban on assisted suicide in Ireland. Fleming, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, took the case to the High Court to challenge the law that prohibits her partner, Tom Curran, from assisting in her death, should she decide to end her life. Fleming has suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for 27 years. She is currently in the final stages of the illness, which confines her to a wheelchair and affects her ability to speak and swallow. Due to the nature of her illness, which she fears will eventually prevent her from communicating; Fleming would require assistance from her partner or a third party to end her own life. Speaking to Blathnaid Ní Chofaigh on a special edition of RTÉ’s Moment of Truth, Curran detailed how he and his partner of 20 years took the case against the state so Fleming could avoid what she believed could be a “horrible” death, and instead end her own life at the couple’s County Wicklow home. As the law currently stands, Curran could face a prison sentence of up to 14

years should he be found guilty of assisting in his partner’s death. Fleming challenged the ban on assisted suicide in Ireland in the High Court on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as it denies her right to dignity, privacy and autonomy. She also claimed that the ban is discriminatory, as it criminalises assisted suicide, but allows an able-bodied person to choose to end his or her own life. The High Court judgement did not, however, rule in favour of Ms. Fleming’s case. While High Court President Justice Nicholas Kearns deemed Fleming a “humbling and inspiring” person, the court ruled against lifting the ban on assisted suicide, on the grounds that it could not do so without putting other vulnerable persons, including the elderly, the disabled, the poor and the unwanted, at risk. The State also highlighted that whilst suicide was decriminalised in 1993, no Irish citizen possesses a constitutional right to take his or her own life. Ms. Fleming and Mr. Curran announced on Wednesday last that they intend to appeal the High Court judgement to the Supreme Court.

Marie Fleming

The University Observer | 22 January 2012



Sunday opening hours reinstated for James Joyce library by emma healy mahon

The James Joyce library is to reopen on Sundays, having only been open six days a week for the majority of last semester. It follows a high profile campaign led by UCD Students’ Union representatives last semester to achieve a commitment from the University to Sunday openings. Through its website, library authorities confirmed that opening hours are to be extended to include Sundays, between the hours of 10am and 9pm. This is to take effect from the second week

of term, Sunday February 3rd, as internal recruitment is to take place on January 27th. Provisions have been made to continue these opening hours for the next four years, subject to future economic considerations. Other UCD libraries remain closed on Sundays. “Provisions have been made for the Library to have Sunday opening-hours during semester. This will continue for those students who wish to avail of it for as long as funding is available,” says a UCD spokesperson. The cost of opening the library on a Sunday amounts to €1,400 per Sun-

day, which is €14,400 per semester. UCD Education Officer Shane Comer welcomed the decision, commenting: “This is a brilliant development for UCD students. The cost of running on a Sunday is easily justified when one looks at the numbers who use it”. This extension in opening hours is the result of negotiations between student union representatives, library representatives and the registrar’s office. Sunday opening hours had been in place since 2010, but the number of Sundays was reduced unexpectedly last semester. The rationale for the clo-

sures had been the comparatively lower numbers using the library on a Sunday and the difficult economic climate. However the Students’ Union believes that this won’t be a problem this semester, with UCDSU President Rachel Breslin explaining: “I think the number of students who realised this year once it was gone the difference that it made to their studying timetable will show that the numbers are high, will result in high numbers this year and that is what will encourage them to keep it open after this semester.” The Students’ Union ran an inten-

sive campaign before Christmas that included a protest, petitions and mobilising the student population through the use of social media. The protest, which involved placing 600 chairs in lines outside the library, was the most noticeable of the activities, with each chair representing a student who had lost the Sunday service over the previous six weeks. Comer believes that it was this protest which gained the support of support staff and academics. The news comes as the library prepares to open the Cube, a collaborative learning facility on level one.

UCD in discussions to reform university admissions by aoife valentine · deputy editor

A feasibility study was launched last Monday, January 14th at the Royal Irish Academy as part of the Irish Universities Association’s (IUA) on-going discussions on reform of the selection and entry to university in the context of National Educational Policy. Trinity College Dublin has launched a pilot entrance scheme which is broadly similar to the UCAS system in the United Kingdom. Instead of basing entry to a University course solely on Leaving Certificate points, this scheme aims to test the viability of using other factors such as a personal statement and their Relative Performance Rank in relation to other students in their school. The pilot scheme will run for two years on a small allocation of places in three courses in the University. This is just one of the entrance schemes being discussed by the IUA Taskforce group, which is made up of representatives from all seven universities in Ireland. UCD’s former Regis-

trar Philip Nolan, who is now President of the National University of Ireland Maynooth chairs the Task Force group, while UCD’s current Registrar, Mark Rogers, sits on the committee. The group is also considering a number of other options, not limited to assessing how much a Leaving Certificate grade should count for points, and whether the first year of University should remain as it is, or whether it should be a broader year in which students can sample a number of courses before specialising, somewhat similar to the American system. UCD Students’ Union Education Officer Shane Comer sits on a subcommittee of the IUA Task Force along with a number of UCD’s academics, and he believes that these discussions are long overdue. He commented that: “It’s been shown in the past that the points system is not the best method as an entrance mechanism into third level education… For fifth and sixth years, filling out the CAO is a very daunting time. The majority of people at that age don’t know what they want

to do so having to narrow down your choices to say Commerce, or Science or Law, at that early stage in your career isn’t the best option, so this entire review is wholly necessary.” While Trinity’s feasibility scheme is the focal point of these discussions at the moment, Comer believes it is only a matter of time before UCD will trial an alternative entry scheme as well, “with UCD being the largest University in the country”. However, no specifics for such a scheme have been set in stone yet, and according to Comer, “a lot of universities are waiting to see how the Trinity one works out.” There has been some issues with a number of Irish universities favouring the current scheme, however Comer believes that when a new admissions system is chosen, it will apply across all higher education institutions across Ireland. He commented that: “That discussion is on-going, but it’s looking like this will be from a national standpoint. The IUA can’t make this decision by themselves; the institutions of technology

across the country, the colleges of further education have to be on board, too.” While no change will occur for CAO applicants for 2013/2014, aside from the three courses in the Trinity pilot scheme, the IUA Task Force should be presenting its report to the Higher Edu-

cation Authority and the Department of Education in the next number of weeks. According to Comer, the IUA will present its recommendations in its report, noting some of the best channels available, however there will be no “concrete decisions” in the report.

SU in stronger financial position for 2013 by yvanne kennedy · Chief reporter

A reduction in spending and stricter management has seen UCD Students’ Union enter 2013 in a stronger financial position than last year. UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin is happy with the “huge reversal” which has been made financially by the Union and is hopeful that it will continue into the future. However, while the Union spent much less than budgeted in the July to December period, with expenditure significantly lower than previous years, Breslin is unsure if this trend will re-

main static. “We spent much less than budgeted, much less than previous years,” says Breslin. “Our expenditure was so low this year though; I wouldn’t expect it to continue in the future. You can’t both cut budgeting drastically and manage it, and expand at the same time. I would have liked to do that more this year.” Breslin believes that the decision made by all Officers this year to reduce spending, and operate at the lowest possible cost has contributed greatly to the financial position of the Union now, and that controlling the budget was important for the SU at a time when

students were feeling particularly distant from the student governing body. “Students have been bemused and bewildered by the Union. I think we need to show the students that we have our Union under control. Every Officer has spent less which has been a conscious decision,” says Breslin. Controlling expenditure through use of a Board of Directors and the production of monthly management accounts presented to Union Council have also assisted in reducing the large deficit previous students’ unions amassed. Breslin wanted to “firmly ensure that there was a culture-shift” away from

the previous ethos of “throwing money around”. Being aware of the financial position and that public opinion was not in the Union’s favour prompted such a shift. The SU has not begun paying instalments on the €1.1 million loan which was approved last semester, however it is budgeted for each month so that when repayments begin, it should not pose a problem for the Union. Breslin believes that this loan was a “completely necessary” cash influx, and has allowed the Union to continue operating; allowing it to continue meeting its suppliers’ needs and all other demands

on the Union’s finances. The steps taken to reduce the debt have so far worked for the SU, but Breslin acknowledges that they must continue in the same vein in order to survive: “I think that with prudent management, the worry that we had last year and the worry I had at the start of my year about our survival is not there any more. It’s still very difficult day-to-day to manage our cash flow, meet our obligations; it’s difficult but it’s happening.”

UCDSU join ‘Walk in my Shoes’ campaign by roisin finn

UCD Students’ Union Welfare Officer Mícheál Gallagher has announced that UCD will be joining the ‘Walk in my Shoes’ (WIMS) campaign, which is organised by St Patrick’s University College Hospital. The campaign, kicking off in UCD on January 30th, aims to raise awareness and provide support for young people ages 18-25 who are most in need and at risk from suffering from mental illness of mental difficulties. The campaign will centre around a ‘Fun Tuesday’ on campus, which is designed to embody the campaign’s main message: to walk in someone else’s shoes. “We’re asking people to wear shoes that they wouldn’t traditionally wear into college and to get sponsored for doing it,” explained Gallagher. To further promote the campaign, shoeboxes, as opposed to regular buckets, will also be used to fundraise. Gallagher continued on to explain that the idea behind the campaign “came from a young service user who said he wished that his friends could walk in his shoes for a day to understand the mental health issues he had gone through.” The 2012 WIMS campaign raised €85,000 nationally, and aims to raise €200,000 in 2013. The funds raised by WIMS will provide useful services such as a free support and information phone line that will be manned by health care professionals from St Patrick’s University College Hospital. Free assessments and ongoing therapies for young people at risk from suffering from mental health difficulties and community clinics will be provided throughout Ireland, some of which are located in Dublin. According to Gallagher: “The statis-

tics show that one in four young adults will experience mental health difficulty in 2013. By taking part in the ‘Walk in my Shoes’ project you are showing students that you care and are actively raising awareness and challenging the stigma associated with mental health issues.” Suicide is the leading cause of death among 18-25 year old men in Ireland. Yet many of these deaths may be preventable with early clinical intervention, which WIMS aims to promote. Between 45% and 65% suffer from treatable mental illnesses such as depression or psychosis. Early intervention in these conditions can stop deterioration, aid recovery, and prevent relapse, giving young adults real hope in returning to a normal life. Celebrity ambassadors for the campaign include U2’s Adam Clayton, Dáithí Ó Sé, Norah Casey and Brent Pope.

Norah Casey

Adam Clayton



Observer Comment

The University Observer | 22 January 2012

The not so perfect nominee Following the US President’s recent controversial nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defence, Hugh McGowan examines his choice


t first glance, Chuck Hagel, the man chosen by President Obama to head up the most powerful military organisation on the face of the earth, is perfect. Hagel is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, where he served as a Sergeant in the 47th Infantry Regiment. He has extensive knowledge of Washington politics, stemming from his two terms as a Senator for Nebraska, and best of all for a President struggling to regain a semblance of bipartisan cooperation, he’s a Republican. However on closer inspection of the facts, of Hagel’s experience, training and record, it becomes clear that perhaps he is not ideally suited to the role of Secretary of Defence. Hagel’s distinguished service in Vietnam was held up by President Obama as a compelling factor in his selection for this position. It stands to reason, surely, that a man who has seen first-hand the carnage of war, who has led soldiers under the most demanding combat conditions, is supremely qualified to play such a leading role in the US defence apparatus? Hagel, his proponents contend, would be uniquely placed to command the confidence of America’s soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen as the first enlisted man to hold the office of Secretary of Defence. “In Chuck Hagel, our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and strength. They see one of their own,” declared the President as he announced Hagel’s nomination. While the

President makes some valiant points, it is hard to accept that this is sufficient cause to nominate Chuck Hagel to lead the US military. A temporary spike in morale can be the sole justification for his appointment. Chuck Hagel has no strategic command experience, he has no intelligence or counter-terrorism training, he is not experienced in nuclear command and control, and he has limited familiarity with Naval, Amphibious, Aerial and Special Forces operations. He has never led more than a few dozen men in combat, and now he is expected to head an organisation numbering some three million based on 2009 figures. The war Hagel took part in, in the last century, was waged in a very different way, in a very different geo-political context and against a very different enemy compared to America’s contemporary military obligations. To put it in context, the last time Hagel wore a uniform was in 1968 when Martin Luther King was still marching for civil rights and Charles De Gaulle was still president of France. The security situation, needless to say, has dramatically altered since then; and US foreign and defence policy, and the world as a whole, would be better served through the appointment of an individual more experienced in command and more familiar with the threats of today’s world. Consider Hagel’s two immediate predecessors: Leon Panetta and Robert Gates. Both had long careers in the US National Security framework, both

Last rights As the issue of Assisted Suicide Law is once more making the headlines, Victoria Sewell takes a closer look at the debate


here are few more divisive and complicated social and legal issues than those that revolve around life and death. The issue of assisted-suicide and euthanasia returned to the fore in recent weeks when Former UCD lecturer Marie Fleming took a landmark case against Ireland’s legislation on assisted suicide, stating that it was in breach of her rights under the Constitution and ECHR, as well as discriminating against her as a disabled person. Ms Fleming had sought the opportunity to die in a comfortable dignified manner, in her own home. However, the High Court upheld the current legislation, ruling that the outright ban was necessary to protect the vulnerable from “involuntary death”, and did not breach Ms Fleming’s individual rights to bodily autonomy. However, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, President of the High Court, also stated: “If the court could tailor-make a solution

“Between their founding in 1998 and 2011, Dignitas assisted 1298 people to die, including seven individuals who listed their country of origin as Ireland”

which would suit the needs of Ms Fleming alone without any possible implications for third parties or society at large” that there may be a deal of merit in her case.

Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel were trained as military intelligence officers, and both would go on to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. They presided over a mostly successful campaign of targeted strikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, the most famous of which is of course the elimination of Osama Bin Laden. They get it. These are the kind of people who understand exactly how to prosecute the War on Terror. They have a comprehension of the complexity of this kind of war as a result of proven records in national security. Chuck Hagel may well also possess this understanding, but he remains as yet untested in the high stakes game of national defence. How might US defence policy look under Hagel? Take for instance Hagel’s stance on Iran: he is on record as opposing surgical strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, he opposed the im-

position of sanctions and voted against the classification of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organisation. The Obama administration has repeatedly tried to draw a line in the sand as regards Iran’s nuclear ambitions, with the President stating in his speech to the United Nations that: “The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon”. However, the appointment of Hagel could well create doubts in Tehran about the strength of US resolve towards preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And an Iranian perception of American weakness in this area is not an option. If Iran feels that it can continue to develop nuclear-capabilities unchallenged then it will, and a nuclear-armed Iran presents a clear danger to the stability of the MiddleEast and the security of the world as a

result. Chuck Hagel served his country with honour and distinction in a bloody and costly war. He frequently risked his life in defence of his nation’s interests and the troops under his command. An infantry solider, he was the tip of America’s spear; his mission was to close with and kill the enemy.vHe carried out this mission with extraordinary courage and was twice awarded the Purple Heart medal for being wounded in combat. Once again, he has been called to serve and like the good soldier that he is, he has answered the call of his Commander-in-Chief. However, on this occasion the mission he has been assigned is beyond his training and expertise and that his appointment as Secretary of Defence could well have uncertain implications for global security.

At present, the only legal option open to those with terminal illnesses who wish to end their lives by assisted suicide is to travel to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland, where the law states that assisting in a suicide is legal if done for reasons of altruism, and not motivated by self-interest. Between their founding in 1998 and 2011, Dignitas assisted 1298 people to die, including seven individuals who listed their country of origin as Ireland. They are the only Swiss clinic that currently accepts patients from outside of Switzerland, a scenario which Swiss voters supported following calls to ban foreign patients attending the clinics. However, this option has several

large drawbacks, which may rule it out for a large number of people. Those wishing to visit the clinic must be well enough both to travel to Switzerland, and also to take the drugs provided themselves. This means they must still be able to swallow the drugs unaided, which many individuals with degenerative debilitating illness may not be able to. This removes the option for them to die at home, at a time of their choosing. This scenario also may encourage those suffering from degenerative terminal illnesses (such as MS and Motor Neuron Disease among others) to end their lives before they are ready or willing, as when they reach a point at which their suffering has be-

It is clear from the statement of the Court, that they were unwilling to set a legal precedence by allowing her family to assist her to end her life, as it would risk opening the floodgates on the topic. There is a fear that allowing assisted suicide in certain circumstances would encourage some individuals (i.e, those who are old, disabled, in financial difficulty or emotional difficulty) to take their lives “in order to avoid a sense of being a burden on their family and society”, according to Mr Justice Kearns. Indeed, according to Dignitas, up to 21% of their patients are not suffering from a terminal illness, but rather have expressed a “weariness of living”. However, research conducted

“research conducted in Oregon in the United States, where physician-assisted suicide has been legal since 1997, showed no increase in suicides in groups such as the elderly, disabled, mentally ill or poor”

Marie Fleming with her husband

come unbearable, they will no longer have the capacity to end their lives. This contradiction is at the heart of the debate surrounding assisted suicide. Although suicide was decriminalised in Ireland 20 years ago, under the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993, the same law made it an offence to “aide, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another”. However, as Ms Fleming’s case highlighted, this law prevents those who are inhibited from engaging in acts which would end their lives by disability or debilitating illness, while an able-bodied person would be free to engage in these acts. It is not outrageous to assume that even those with terminal illnesses would not want to end their lives while they are still able to engage in life to any degree, but may want to do so later on when they are no longer able to move, care for themselves, or are experiencing a high degree of pain and suffering. Family members, carers and partners, are however prevented from aiding those who wish to end their lives without risking prosecution and up to 14 years imprisonment.

in Oregon in the United States, where physician-assisted suicide has been legal since 1997, showed no increase in suicides in groups such as the elderly, disabled, mentally ill or poor. Given the development of medical science over the last 50-100 years, particularly its ability to prolong lives, it is likely that in the future incidences of long-term debilitating terminal illnesses will rise. The UK Office for National Statistics predicts that more than a third of babies born now will live past their 100th birthday. While we rule out and delay natural causes of death, our health will still deteriorate as we age, and the incidence of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease is rising. When and how we die, and how much say we should have in that decision, is a question which is not likely to go away, but rather become more important in coming years. We will also be forced to reassess how much of a say the government should have in individual choices, and to what degree it should respect the intellect and autonomy of its citizens in decisions regarding life, and death.

The University Observer | 22 January 2012


Following the recent death of a New Delhi rape victim, Sean O’Grady looks at how fair international criticism is and what can be done to put an end to the culture of violence


he recent death of a 23-year old Indian woman who has been called ‘Damini’ by the press has once again highlighted the issue of the treatment of women across global societies. The woman in question died following injuries she sustained after being brutally gang raped on a New Delhi bus in December by a group of unnamed men. The incident has naturally sparked outrage across India as well as the rest of the world and mass protests continue to take place across the country, calling for Indian society to be made into a safe place for its women. However, with the flood of international criticism now being directed towards Indian society, it begs the question, is it acceptable for us to so harshly criticise a country and culture most of us will have known little about before? Many feel hesitant to point the blame on the culture of another country, particularly in the case of a nation as large and diverse as India. It is frequently pointed out, and fairly so, that sexual violence occurs across the world and is not just a burden the developing world must deal with, but one that all of us must try to curtail. In the United States alone, a country which prides itself on its status as a world power, reports over 85,000 incidents of rape annually with an estimated one in six women facing a form of sexual assault in their lifetime. Despite this fact, it seems that not only is this foreign criticism totally fair, it is also long overdue. The death of Damini is not the only case that has come out of India in the last month. Following the initial protests over Damini’s attack, news spread of a 17 year old girl who committed suicide a month and a half after also having been gang raped. The young girl in question even named her attackers in her suicide note and they have since been arrested. A similar case occurred in the summer of a young woman in northeast India who was attacked and beaten by a large group of men outside a nightclub. The assault, which was

filmed by the attackers and went viral, carried on for 45 minutes with a local TV crew nearby filming the incident rather than doing anything to stop it. While it goes without saying that incidents like these can and do occur in Ireland and other western countries, it is no surprise that these incidences are more of a common occurrence in India, with the country being named the worst place to live for a woman among the G20 nations in a recent study, ahead of other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. This is expected, given the current social climate women must face. Sex selective abortions are all too common with male babies given more value than female ones, meaning that the male population of India considerably outnumber women, a trend not seen in many countries. Another factor is education; by the time children in India get into their teen years, education ceases being free and many families prefer to send only their male children on to further education. This coupled with 44.5% of Indian girls marrying before the age of 18 means many of them are essentially prevented from being independent of their husbands and families. To say there seems to be a fundamental current of misogyny running through the current cultural climate would be an understatement. However this social problem of

With the government launching a cyber-bullying campaign following the death of Shane McEntee, Katelyn Cook examines the backlash against social media by Irish politicians


Responsible criticism

“If any movement towards change to more safe and secure societies for women is to take place, is it the mentality of the men who commit these crimes that will have to change first”

Anti-social media ocial media websites have been become a cardinal part of daily life. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube mostly dominate this social media phenomenon. Facebook is at the forefront of this viral social media craze; with now over one billion users. These numbers present Facebook as a forum with immense power, due to a vastly active audience. Society’s dedication to Facebook and social media allows for the rapid distribution of information instantly, to a global audience. This rapidity is what poses a danger for politicians, companies, and other entities that rely on public opinion in order to succeed on international and national stages. Facebook members that post complaints about brands can damage the company’s integrity, and ultimately damage them financially. Facebook allows societies and individuals’ opinions and comments to be readily available in a way they have never been before. The recent death of Irish junior agricultural minister, Shane McEntee, sparked a political campaign against the social media giant. Cyber-bullying and harsh criticism of the government on the website is claimed to have played a part in the suicide of the minister. Enda Kenny is believed to have initiated a cyber-bullying campaign in the aftermath of McEntee’s death. However this sudden surge in action is merely creating a scapegoat for the suicide of the junior agricultural minister. This focus on social media presents a distorted vision of the circumstances of McEntee’s death. A politician, or other prominent social figure, should be used to criticism and slander as their position in society leaves them vulnerable


to scrutiny. Further issues or possible factors of the suicide are not addressed such as family, work issues, or other personal problems. Facebook is presented as a dangerous article; which in some cases can be accepted. However, it is not Facebook itself which is dangerous but rather the members which abuse its popularity. Numerous members of society, not solely politicians, use Facebook as a scapegoat. Cyber-bullying has initiated the campaign against Facebook and the social media empire, which has taken over the internet. Teenage suicide is at the forefront of this campaign. Recent adolescent suicides like those of Ciara Pugsley, Erin Gallagher, Megan Meier, and Amanda Todd have highlighted the extremity of cyber-bullying and the possible detrimental effects it can have. Erin Gallagher’s principal, Peter Sweeney, called for to be banned after the abusive comments directed at Erin are believed to have caused her suicide. The banning of websites will not stop the epidemic that is cyber-bullying. Bullying will occur in any forum and new websites will regularly be created as long as the demand is present. A study from Dalhousie University in Halifax Canada, shows there has been 41 cases of social media linked suicides since 2003 in Australia, UK and the USA. This study showed that most cases had other factors, such as previous depressions, bullying in other social situations and anxiety issues. The instability of adolescence, dramatic alterations of hormones, as well as the image conscious and immature nature of an adolescent must be recognised when addressing the rationalisation of teenage suicide. The immaturity attributed to ado-

Protesters in New Delhi

“This social problem of women coming in second place to men is not exclusive to India. In fact, sexual violence in India pales in comparison to the situation in South Africa” women coming in second place to men is not exclusive to India. In fact, sexual violence in India pales in comparison to the situation in South Africa. The city

of Johannesburg is known as ‘the rape capital of the word’. Rape of women of all ages from children to the elderly is a daily occurrence and in many communities, women simply feel it is inevitable that they will one day be assaulted. Many citizens feel this is because of what they see as the patriarchal culture that dominates day-to-day life. Such is the situation that many South Africans feel the country has become indifferent to sexual assault. Most disturbingly, a study from the Medical Research Council found that more than one in four South African men admit to raping a woman, and in a country where reported rapes make up only a small fraction of the extent of actual assaults, it is obvious South Africa is in the grip of an epidemic. It begs the question, what can be

lescence suggests the possibility of extreme action when faced with bullying or viral embarrassment. Facebook is blamed for teenage suicide while issues such as depression, mental health, and anxiety, and societies overall relationship with this issues, is for the most part, ignored. Facebook is not inherently different from an average school hallway or playground. It is a forum where bullying is common and can often pass through unknowingly. The single difference, which presents a danger, is the possible anonymity of the bully on a social media website. This presents an issue when attempting to stop the bullying, an issue found in the new internet craze of ‘trolling’; a craze which sees random strangers post comments for a

reaction, often resulting in the formation of other abusive comments. The Facebook forum, like a video game, can often seem surreal. A lack of physical interaction and visible emotions can inhibit a person’s judgement and cause them to engage in bullying. A person could post comments on Facebook they would never say in reality. Facebook is simply a forum where dangerous activities might occur and should not be scapegoated as a cause of teenage suicide. Adolescent members should be briefed and instructed on safe and conscious use of the website to diminish the dangers which are created by abuse of social media. It is not Facebook, or social media in a wider sense, which poses danger but rather an ignorance of the power of

done to stop the onslaught of sexual assaults in a culture where saying no means yes? The main problem seems to be the sense of entitlement many young men have, that leads them to commit these crimes. If any movement towards change to more safe and secure societies for women is to take place, is it the mentality of the men who commit these crimes that will have to change first. The first steps of progress are already under-way, with people having expressed their outrage at the crimes committed against the young woman, Damini and at the treatment of women in general. More pressure than ever is being put on politicians to enact stricter legislation in the case of rape and as onlookers, Ireland and other countries must offer a helping hand in ensuring that this change takes place.

“The Facebook forum can often seem surreal. A lack of physical interaction and visible emotions can inhibit a person’s judgement and cause them to engage in bullying” the internet and our responsibility as a user.

Shane McEntee



The University Observer | 22 January 2012

The Kurdish Conundrum The past century has witnessed a long and bloody struggle for Kurdish independence. Steven Balbirnie looks at how recent events in the Middle East mean that a Kurdish state may soon be a reality


ike so many of the Middle East’s modern conflicts, the roots of the tragedy of Kurdistan can be traced back to the Paris Peace Conference at the end of the First World War. While the Treaty of Sevres with Turkey listed Kurdistan as one of the territories to emerge independent from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, the fate of the Kurds was quickly drawn into petty rivalries between the great powers as they debated who would control the mandates for these new countries. The United States had no desire for the mandate while the French dropped their claim once they were granted Syria, but proceeded to block British requests for the Kurdistan mandate. All that this wrangling achieved was the partition of Kurdistan, with the British ensuring that the oil-rich area around Mosul ended up in their Iraqi mandate. The rest of Kurdistan’s fate was ultimately decided by the rise to power of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Turkey and his rejection of the Treaty of Sevres. Peace with Turkey was only reached in 1923 with the signing of the Lausanne Treaty, a treaty which dropped any mention of Kurdish independence. It was this incident that sowed the seeds of a conflict which has lasted to the present day. Since then Kurdish rebellions have flared up periodically in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey; with a short-lived Kurdish People’s Republic even being declared in Iran in 1945. In the present day, the Kurds have grown to become the most numerous stateless people in the world; a people who now look like they are on the verge of gaining the state for which they have been fighting and agitating for such a long time. This

sudden change in Kurdish fortune can be attributed to a combination of the aftermath of the Iraq War and the Arab Spring. In Iraq, which has a population of roughly five million Kurds, the Kurdish population took up arms against Saddam Hussein’s regime during both the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As a result, a key aspect of the powersharing deal in post-Saddam Iraq has been the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish Regional Government, complete with its own armed forces. The past year has however seen a serious deterioration in this power-sharing agreement as disputes between Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Kurdish regional President Masoud Barzani have grown increasingly serious. Tensions began in January of last year as the Kurdish Regional Government halted oil exports in response to Baghdad withholding payments to oil firms operating in Kurdish territory. Violent skirmishes have also taken place in the disputed province of Kirkuk, a region containing important oil deposits, which has led to a tense standoff between the Kurdish and Iraqi armies along their internal border. Matters have been made worse due to Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, a prominent Kurdish politician seen as a figure of unity, suffering a stroke on the 18th of December. If Talabani is unable to return to office, Iraq’s entire powersharing structure may be thrown into jeopardy. Maliki and Barzani have also disagreed over the Syrian Civil War, with Maliki supporting the Assad government and Barzani supporting the rebels. It is perhaps not surprising then that the editor of the pro-Maliki newspaper, al-Sabah, recently penned an ar-

Hugo Boss With Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’ health in decline, leaving him unable to govern, Evan O’Quigley ponders the political future of the country

“Chavez is a popular and transformative figure”

“Kurds have grown to become the most numerous stateless people in the world; a people who now look like they are on the verge of gaining the state for which they have been fighting for such a long time” ticle suggesting that allowing Kurdish secession may be the solution to Iraq’s current situation. Obviously, such a move would have a very significant impact upon the states neighbouring Iraq that contain substantial Kurdish populations of their own. The state most likely to be affected by such a development would be Syria. As a result of 2011’s Arab Spring,


ugo Chavez, the populist leader of Venezuela, recently made headlines when he was unable to turn up to his January 10th swearing-in ceremony after getting a fourth consecutive term as President. Doubts are now being cast over whether the President can now sustain his career with his health deteriorating. It is therefore worth asking, can Venezuela maintain its current authoritarian-nationalist system with Chavez out of the picture? Chavez is a popular and transformative figure no doubt. Even in the West, where he is largely criticised, he still has large support among some groups. It’s unlikely he would have Hollywood types like Sean Penn and Oliver Stone showing up to hang out if he didn’t have some degree of charm and presence. In this sense, Chavez is in many ways typical of Latin-American leaders, focusing on the populist approach of politics, based much on cult of personality rather than open politics. While Chavez is still sick and receiving cancer treatment in Cuba, his vice-president has been in charge; foreign minister Nicolas Maduro, who he placed in this position following his last surgery. Despite his absence during the most recent election however, Chavez’ United Socialist Party are keeping him as the leader despite the fact that he is now is unable (albeit possibly temporarily) to govern in the country. This shows that the system he has built is not sustainable without the cult of personality element that Chavez offers. In many ways, Chavez has certainly made many successful reforms within the country, such as reducing poverty, funding health care and education. It has been reported that since 2004, poverty in Venezuela has been cut by half and extreme poverty by more than 70 per cent. Eligibility for public housing has increased, along with college enrolment doubling, Supporters of the regime will argue that Chavez has always been democratically elected, and unlike other Latin American figures he is a Democrat at heart. However, this is categorically untrue. If anything, Chavez is more of an autocrat who happens to have secured a democratic mandate. His first attempt to achieve power in 1992 was

Syria is currently embroiled in a violent civil war which has led to a curtailment in Assad’s ability to assert his authority in the country’s interior. With the regime focussing on its war against the Free Syrian Army it has withdrawn its forces from the country’s north-eastern regions, creating a power vacuum which has allowed the local Kurds to take control. Out of Syria’s population of 23 million, Kurds account for three million. The Kurdish National Council in Syria is already allied to Barzani’s Kurdish government in Iraq, so it is highly probable that if Maliki allows Kurdish secession from Iraq and the Syrian CivilWar results in the country’s dissolution, these two movements could combine to forge a sizeable Kurdish state. This possible outcome would undoubtedly embolden Kurdish separatists in Turkey and Iran, so both countries must be observing events with trepidation. While recent years have seen Iran taking part in cross-border fighting with the Iraq-based Kurdish militant group Pejak, Turkey will be suffering the most anxiety. Turkey has

the largest Kurdish population in the region, over 13 million, which is about 20% of Turkey’s population. Since 1984 the Turkish army has been fighting against an insurgency launched by the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered to be a terrorist organisation by both the United States and the European Union. The conflict has cost the lives of over 40,000 people, both in civilians and combatants among the two ethnic groups. However, the recent events in Iraq and Syria may have hastened a resolution to this seemingly interminable conflict. At the beginning of January, the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reopened talks with the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been imprisoned near Istanbul since 1999. If successful these talks could bring to a close one of the bloodiest chapters in modern Middle Eastern history. The coming months will reveal whether a stable settlement of the Kurdish question is possible, or if renewed conflict will further destabilise an already volatile region.

an unsuccessful coup d’état against the Democratic Action government of Carlos Pérez, a centrist democrat. In the 1980s Chavez founded the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200, a secretive paramilitary organisation that staged the failed coup against the democratically elected leader. This movement was set up, in the words of Chavez himself, “within the ranks of the Army” of Venezuela. It began as a political intellectual circle but soon turned into a subversive conspiracy against the system in Venezuela. Chavez in reality as always believed at heart that elections are really a fixed game, legitimising the established order. Chavez is noted for is anti-imperialism, challenging the perception among many that the world will forever be led by Washington. He has taken over the torch from Fidel Castro as the main opposition to United States imperialism in Latin America, and has proven himself to be successful in the anti-American movements. However, his antiimperialism isn’t always consistent. He has rightly attacked CIA meddling in Latin-American affairs but has little to say about Cuba’s control over much of the region. In spite of his claims of bringing further Democracy to Latin America, he still remains close with people like Fidel Castro, who he visited in 2006 when he became ill. Cuba has a large amount of power of Venezuela, and it is therefore not surprising that Chavez has become increasingly autocratic with Cuba as his closest ally. Venezuelan oil has also been used to bankroll Castro’s regime in Cuba over the past number of years as well, helping to sustain the system. According to José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of human rights watch, “Over the years, the Chávez government has built a legal regime that allows it to censor and punish its critics, in clear violation of international norms. Now it is using these laws to limit public discussion on issues of national importance”. The organisation has criticised Venezuela’s Media Responsibility Law, and have accused it of trying to “limit public discussion on issues of national importance”. Yet, in spite of these abuses of power, Chavez is not ruling with the barrel of

“Over the years, the Chávez government has built a legal regime that allows it to censor and punish its critics, in clear violation of international norms” a gun. There is a lot of support for him, with huge groups of supporters rallying for him while he’s been sick. It is unlikely another figure who would replace him could get away with the same policies without the Chavez personality cult. According to Human Rights Watch, the Chavez government have been trying to halt conversation about his health and that he cannot attend his inauguration for the same reasons. Despite this mass amount of support Chavez and his government have also had to deal with various detractors. Venezuela state television has repeatedly ran ads denouncing Federico Medina Ravell, for questioning on twitter the official information the government has provided regarding the president’s health and condition. Ravell has since had his computers seized and been arrested under terrorism charges. There are many good qualities to Chavez. He has proven that an alternative to neoliberalism and Washingtonstyle politics can work, although it is questionable whether other countries would be successful without Venezuela’s huge amount of oil. He has proven to be a popular president, managing to win four terms. This has not stopped an inherently authoritarian streak in the man however. His cult of personality is his most valuable asset. It’s unlikely another president without his popularity would be able to rid of protesters by putting them up on false terrorism charges without some sort of mass protest against him. Hugo may very well recover and continue to rule, but if not, it is questionable whether the authoritarian system in Venezuela can sustain itself. Time will tell.

The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Artistic freedom With Fine Gael recently aiming to censor a controversial artwork in Athlone, Sean Finnan looks at the issue of censorship in Ireland


wo weeks ago in Athlone, Fine Gael Councillor Mark Cooney proposed a motion to remove an artistic installation entitled Fragments Sur Les Institutions Republicaines IV in the new Luan Gallery in the Shannon-side town. Shane Cullen’s work depicted the messages smuggled out of the H-Block prisons during the Hunger Strikes of the 1970s on large dark panels. The messages, often scrawled on cigarette papers and other scrap paper, were reworked to prominence in a dignified white typeface. To Cooney and other Fine Gael Councillors in the Athlone Town Council, this qualified as IRA glorification and thus Cooney’s motion was proposed. To Cooney, Cullen’s artwork presents an alternative view of the state,

one in which the prisoners of the HBlock are representing a struggling republican narrative. Cooney has stated that “We need censorship to protect our children – sometimes you have to do it.” Censorship, in Cooney’s words, thus is a manner of selective education, where the violence of history books, of revolutions and civil wars are legitimized, not only because of the parties involved but also of their importance in the building of the state. On the other hand, the Republican narrative, another seeped in violence threatens the idea of statehood, exposing the lack of homogeneity in the supposed collective will of this nation state. However, Cooney in his assessment of Fragments Sur Les Institutions Republicaines IV makes a mockery of both himself and his party’s values towards culture in general. Cooney’s father Patrick, former Minister for Justice claimed that the piece is offensive to so many people and therefore must be removed. In this claim, he is evading understanding of Cullen’s work. The artist isn’t glorifying the messages smuggled from the H-Block and he certainly isn’t being critical. Instead, it is a recording of history, fleeting messages made into a physical object, representing actual events, actual occurrences, actual struggles without glorification, simply a record engraved. In doing so Cullen is commenting on more than the Republican struggles but the coldness of official recorded history itself. Fine Gael, it seems, would prefer to ignore or indeed erase such public memories. The councillors aren’t stupid but arroAlma Lopez: Our Lady of Guadalupe gant, wishing to dictate what we

COMMENT can witness, how he we think and how we respond to the art presented to us. When the 2010 display of “Blasphemous” at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) opened to the public on Good Friday, depicting a variation of Michelangelo’s Pieta that substituted Mary for a giant rat, the curator K. Bear Koss stated: “We want to raise awareness about the new Blasphemy Law and to celebrate the freedom of discourse that the law seeks to stifle.” Yet, the reactionary nature of this exhibit did little to stir the blood of those they wished to rifle. A year later, Gay Mexican artist Alma Lopez brought her “Our Lady of Guadalupe” to UCC depicting the Virgin Mary in her underwear being held up by a topless angel. The fact that the artist was gay and the provocative depiction of Mary enraged the Catholic community prompting complaints from Fine Gael MEP Kathy Sinnott and the Bishop for Cork and Ross. A senior Garda at the time even claimed that a file was being sent to the DPP over the furore. Such is the nature of the Blasphemy law. That the Board of Management of the Luan gallery decided to keep Cullen’s piece is an important message to young artists that their work will be supported. This is especially important for a gallery yet to celebrate its third month of opening. All nation states have subversive groups and opposing narratives, to erase and ignore them is to suggest an ignorant homogeneity, ignoring the complexity of this island and provoking a challenge to artists about the manner of their expression. Yet, how far can the artists express themselves, provoking reactions from

With the recent phenomenon of ‘slut shaming’ becoming more popular than ever, Michael O’Sullivan looks at the treatment of women


as part of the phenomenon known as “slut shaming”, whereby women label other women as sluts based on how frequently they take someone home. Why is it that women are so ready to label their fellows with derogatory terms? Is it not true that all women stand together to fight the scourge that is men and male culture, to find a place where they can be on equal footing with their counterparts? Perhaps slut shaming is the female equivalent of typical male banter, ladies using derision as endearment as many men do. The real reason is slightly more complex than

Shane Cullen their audiences if there are currently in place laws curtailing aspects of free expression? Art has no responsibility to be respectful yet the Defamation Act of 2009 made it a criminal offence to speak out against a religious organisation in such a manner that a number of people would find offensive. Those found guilty of such an offence could

tinuous abuses of power if they cannot comment freely on it? What is utterly ridiculous about the Blasphemy Law is not that there is a select definition of blasphemy but rather it is based on how much it offence it causes. This is a strong clause, stifling debate for fear of overstepping a non-existent mark. At a time when

“Art has no responsibility to be respectful yet the Defamation Act of 2009 made it a criminal offence to speak out against a religious organisation in such a manner that a number of people would find offensive”

L&H debate: “Slut Shaming” he word ‘slut’ is usually defined as an immoral or dissolute woman or a prostitute. Most people would agree with this definition of a slut, though in today’s world, it seems as though the pop cultural definition has extended to include any woman who sleeps with multiple partners or acts vaguely promiscuous. However, as there are plenty of women who sleep with multiple partners, so the use of the word has proliferated greatly in recent times. Oddly enough, the word seems to be used more frequently by women,


simple, harmless name-calling. Let’s start with the male attitude to women. From a young age, girls are bombarded with hyper-sexualised visions of themselves from all corners of the media; from girls in skimpy clothing dancing provocatively in music videos to the apparent inability of game designers to create female characters who don’t have enormous breasts and impossible curves. Girls, it would seem, are almost groomed to be objects of great sexual interest. A large amount of this stems from the men and the openness with which they express

face charges of up to €25,000. Such a sum would be crippling for anyone but especially young artists, writers and musicians. What makes both the act and the sum more insulting is the fact that this is the generation that has grown up in a crumbling Catholic society, their ‘moral guides’ plagued by scandal after scandal and further belonging to the most debt-ridden generation ever to grow up in Ireland. How can this generation express the society that they have grown up in, a time of cover up, corruption and con-

new ideas and new ways of looking at the history and the progress of Irish society are now needed more than ever, the structures of blasphemy laws and political interference in the arts is less desired than ever but more than necessary to preserve the status quo. So far the political classes have failed to confront the terror that was inflicted on so many Irish people in religious (and quasi State) institutions. Yet, they continue to pass laws forbidding the expressive catharsis needed to confront our recent past.

their sexual desires. The success of magazines such as Playboy and pornography in general is a good indicator of where men’s interests lie. These forms of entertainment would have us believe that women are both promiscuous and willing to perform all kinds of acts simply for their partner’s pleasure. Why is it then, that when certain women want to live up to this hyper-sexualised idea men have of them, they are torn down by their peers? Perhaps this is the reaction of the feminist movement, appalled that women would stoop to conforming to the roles that men believe they should take. Or perhaps it is jealousy at the success of these women. The real reason will probably never be known, but the phenomenon continues to exist. This problem of expectation goes beyond just the male attitude however. Amongst women, there are two separate movements, one who would have women fall into a modified version of the traditional woman: a mother who cares for her children and family whilst

having more children. The next logical step in the use of contraception would be for women to try and level the playing field when it comes to sexual promiscuity. If we’re perfectly honest, we’ll admit that women have a lot more to lose when it comes to sex. A man has no risk of becoming pregnant, and has the option of walking away should a pregnancy occur (though his treatment after such a decision is seldom pleasant). Women have no such luck. If they become pregnant, it presents a litany of restrictions and expectations at their feet right there and then, regardless of how ready or able they are to deal with them. Perhaps this is where slut shaming stems from. The fear that, after all the fighting for freedom and equality, women risk ending up back under the thumb of men and the pressures of society by being less selective about who they share intimacies with. While a valid fear, it is entirely unfounded. Men are traditionally seen as sexu-

“Girls are almost groomed to be objects of great sexual interest. A large amount of this stems from men and the openness with which they express their sexual desires” holding down a well paid job, and the other believes that women should rail against the stringencies of thousands of years of stereotyping and go on to be high powered professionals with noone to hold them back and the freedom to do as they please on their own dime. Both schools of thought have their merits, and the fact that both exist is a testament to how far we have come towards equalising the perceived gender gap between certain parts of our culture. The difficulty arises when the freedoms women enjoy are the very things they hold against one another. Not too long ago, contraception trains existed in this country. Throngs of women would travel north to buy forms of contraception that were legal across the border but illegal here, and this eventually led to the ban on contraception being repealed. Make no mistake; this was a great win for the women of this country. Women were free to enjoy continued sexual intimacy with their partners without the risk of

ally promiscuous creatures who will take any opportunity to bed a woman, and this has been true for a millennia. Now, however, women have levelled the playing field by introducing measures to safeguard themselves against unwanted consequences. Surely this should mean they can and should be allowed to match men in their sexual exploits, and yet there is still a taboo. The need for care and careful decision making appears to be so deep rooted in the female psyche that when a woman is seen to be enjoying the fruits of her hard fought battle to equality becomes the object of much hatred, seen to be giving women a bad name. Thus slut shaming exists, and it may be quite some time before women’s attitudes towards themselves and their freedoms can come to terms with the results they have wrought. The L&H are holding a panel discussion on Wednesday 30th January covering various issues concerning women and feminism.



The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Observer Features

Nursing discontent With the announcement of the HSE’s graduate training scheme for nurses, Aoife Valentine explores whether these positions are taking advantage of those new to the job market


n an already overcrowded job market, graduates in many industries will scramble to apply for any job announced in their area of expertise, often first spending a number of months doing unpaid internships or work experience to give themselves an edge. With the economic downturn has come a general acceptance of unpaid or lowly paid work for new graduates, until they can find their feet on the career ladder. However the announcement by the Health Service Executive (HSE) of 1,000 new jobs as part of a graduate training scheme for nurses has been met extremely negatively and with much derision, with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) calling for all graduate nurses to boycott the scheme. The controversy has largely been caused by the 80% pay rate, a yearly salary of €22,000, with no indication of a pay increment after the first year of the two year contract. Deputy Secretary General of the INMO Dave Hughes expressed his disappointment with both the announcement and the scheme: “On the face of it, it appears to offer nurses an opportunity, but in reality it turned out to be nothing more than a cheaper version of a nurse and now that it’s been extended to people who graduated in 2010, it really creates a lower grade of nurse.” Second year nursing student and Auditor of UCD NurSoc Tom Hef-

feron feels “insulted” by the pay-level, commenting: “It’s quite degrading. We’re thought so little of after working so hard for four years in university, and coming out with only an 80% pay when we’re 100% qualified.” Aside from being dissatisfied with the level of pay nurses will receive, Head of UCD’s School of Nursing and Midwifery Dr Martin McNamara is frustrated that this is being called a ‘training scheme’. “There has been no engagement with the higher education institutions in relation to the suggested educational elements of this so we’re not satisfied that there is a structured, adequate educational component to this scheme, so it does seem to be primarily about bringing in graduate nurses at a very, very low point, at a very low salary.” The scheme is designed to tackle the problem of an over-reliance on agency nurses and overtime, and it is hoped that it will save the HSE in the region of €10 million in 2013 alone. Hughes believes however, that hitting the payroll with cuts isn’t the answer to the HSE’s financial woes. He explained: “The costs overruns have nothing to do with the staff, they are all to do with the increasing levels of unemployment and higher levels of dependency on medical cards so that’s where the costs have gotten out of control. It isn’t that the pay budget went up or was overrun. The pay budget was lived within in its entirety, so that’s not where the costs

are increasing.” Dr McNamara added that large savings are still to be made if the HSE pay the nurses a full 100% salary, as “the reason for announcing these posts beyond the employment control framework is to cut down on the cost of overtime and of temporary agency staff… There are approximately 1,600 nurses being employed essentially on a full time basis in the Health Service every day of the week, on considerably higher salaries than a first year staff nurse at the appropriate salary, so considerable savings would be made in any case without reducing the salary to 80%.” The HSE’s National Director for Human Resources Barry O’Brien defended the scheme saying: “I find it very difficult to understand the INMO’s reaction to this initiative, as in the past, they and other unions have criticised the HSE for not retaining graduates in the health services, leaving them with no other option but to go abroad for work.” However, according to Hughes, this will only increase the level of emigration in the industry: “From talking to the graduates themselves, many of them because of this initiative, have given up on the Irish state and have basically said they’ll go where the money is better.” Dr McNamara feels similarly,

commenting: “I think it does send out an unwelcome message in relation to how they’re valued within the health system... We know from our students who do go abroad to countries like the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere, that they’re highly valued and the thing that’s always said about them is that they hit the ground running.” Hefferon is less sure of the impact of the scheme on his future prospects, however, saying: “I think it will certainly plant seeds in people’s heads and possibly plant an idea but I don’t know that it will increase the number of people emigrating.” While a number of students aren’t in a position to emigrate no matter what their job prospects are in Ireland, Hughes is keen to hammer home the point to graduate nurses that there is work available to them outside of this scheme. He explains: “The reality is that nurses can get work abroad or they can get work in Ireland [through agen-

cies] and this is an attempt to corral them into a situation where they have no choice but to take these positions. There’s a need for nurses; it isn’t that there’s a surplus.” Dr McNamara believes that it isn’t the School of Nursing and Midwifery’s position to decide for students whether or not they should apply for this scheme, however he is encouraging students to think about their place in the healthcare system. This is something that he feels is one of the most important factors for students considering applying for these positions. “I think each graduate need to know their own worth and I think nurses do need to value what they bring to the health system, and it’s a very considerable amount in relation to the quality of patient care, patient safety and patient satisfaction with healthcare delivery so I think it’s up to each and every nurse and midwife to value themselves and know what their value is as graduates and as registered professional people.”

Abandoning the high street As HMV enters into administration both at home and abroad, Nicole Casey looks at how consumers aren’t the only ones suffering at the hands of failing companies


rish and British consumers were shocked when, on January 15th, just weeks after the Christmas boom, and still in the midst of the January sales, HMV announced a move into administration in the United Kingdom, and after the National Consumer Agency declared that HMV must accept gift vouchers in Ireland, they were forced into the much worse position of receivership here, backed by Deloitte. HMV first opened its doors in 1921, with its landmark store on London’s Oxford Street. By 1976, the company had expanded its operations to about 25 stores across the United Kingdom, with Ireland opening its first HMV store in 1986. Jumping from strength to strength, the company at one stage owned the Hammersmith Apollo venue as well at the chain of book shops now defunct in Ireland, Waterstones. For over 90 years, HMV provided consumers across the world with records, tapes, CDs, DVDs, and electrical items. Before the emergence of online music streaming and digital downloads, it seemed HMV were unstoppable. However, in recent years, as debt began to escalate, HMV stores began selling everything from books to confectionery. January 2011 saw the closure of 20 HMV stores, with the Waterstones chain being sold off shortly after, and the Hammersmith Apollo was sold for £32m last June. As 2012 came to a close, HMV admitted it could possibly breach crucial banking agreements at the start of 2013 as a result of falling sales and increasing debt. Deloitte stepping in was almost inevitable. Administration is a powerful pro-

cess for gaining control when a company is insolvent and facing threat from creditors. It is hoped that an administrator will achieve a better result for the creditors of a company than by an immediate closure. This could be achieved by running the company, restructuring it, selling off parts, or even selling the company in its entirety. If administration proves futile, a company may move into liquidation, which consists of the selling off of every available asset in order to pay off creditors. Meanwhile in Ireland, receivership is often seen as the final nail in a company’s coffin, and involves closing down and beginning a process of trying to realise the company’s assets in order to pay secured creditors as quickly as possible. In both situations in HMV’s case, at the bottom of this list of creditors you’ll find one group of people: customers with unredeemed gift cards. Irish customers heading into HMV on Tuesday morning were shocked to discover that staff were unable to accept their gift vouchers, claiming that the administrators forbade it, until a clearer picture of the company’s finances had emerged. But consumers were not the only affected party in the fall of HMV,

as 4,350 jobs across the UK and Ireland have been put at risk since the company entered administration. While branches in the UK are still trading, all 16 Irish stores have been closed. In Ireland alone HMV employees 300 people, all of whom are now in a state of semi-unemployment as they wait for the future of their jobs to be revealed. Speaking anonymously to the University Observer, a long term employee of HMV commented: “Staff found out the company was going into administra-

tion on Monday evening. This was not from the company directly but rather through media outlets and Facebook. I personally found out on Sky News.” Employees were assured that trading would continue as normal until the issue was resolved, and that their next pay cheque would still arrive as normal. When asked about the reaction of the general public to the news of HMV’s financial problems, the staff member continued: “Staff worked the full day having to deal with abuse and irate customers wanting to cash in their gift cards. I had a man throw one in my face and tell me to fuck off. This all while the staff have no idea of their job security.” The National Consumer Agency (NCA) accused HMV of misleading consumers with its decision to stop accepting gift vouchers. With HMV in the UK being considered as a separate

entity to that of the Irish corporation, the NCA believe that Irish stores had no basis for vouchers refusal. In a public statement, the agency said: “There was no basis for HMV Ireland refusing to honour gift vouchers, as the company is not under the protection of the administration…process, despite what was indicated by the company to Irish consumers.” But where does that leave consumers? Under Irish law, voucher and gift card holders are considered unsecured creditors, and now find themselves at the bottom of the creditors list. The only hope of consumers receiving value for their vouchers is after both money owed to Revenue and employees is paid. “We have been told by some sources that we are ‘temporarily laid off’. We have no income... and we don’t know if we are unemployed so that we can claim redundancy. In one case Deloitte told someone if they wanted to claim unemployment so that they could go on social welfare, this would forfeit any redundancy payments as they would be leaving the company. To me that can’t be legal. So, we don’t have jobs, but we’re not unemployed?” Fine Gael TD Derek Keating has called for greater protection for consumers who purchase gift cards, both from sinking companies in the past, and in the future. He said that he will raise the issue in the Dáil, and ask that if consumers cannot be protected from HMV, that the Director of Consumer Affairs take action. Hopefully while looking out for wronged consumers, the government will also do something to protect the 300 staff members that HMV have left in an inescapable lurch.

HMV first opened its doors in 1921

The University Observer | 22 January 2012



Flight of the Jack Northern Ireland’s Nobel Laureate John Hume once said ‘you can’t eat a flag.’ However as Belfast resident Ryan Kiernan finds, you can cause a huge furore over them


p until the December 3rd 2012, Belfast seemed to be on the up: smart, cosmopolitan, a thriving city with a vibrant nightlife. Traders were looking forward to a strong Christmas and with the much loved Christmas market open at City Hall from late November, nothing seemed to challenge this image of an up and coming city. What has transpired since though is something unimaginably different. With the decision taken by Belfast City Council to remove the Union flag from City Hall, except for designated days, a crisis not seen in many years has erupted. On the face of it, it would not seem to be such a potent issue. That is not how some in the Loyalist and Unionist community have seen it and we are now into the seventh week of rioting on the streets of Belfast, with protests also being held across the North. The whole saga reflects well on neither Unionists nor Nationalists in Belfast. Sinn Féin and the Social, Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) knew full well what situation they were getting themselves into when they proposed that the flag be taken down forever from City Hall. Alliance came with a compromise that the flag be flown on designated days only, resulting in them being seen to take the side of the Nationalist parties and thus most of the ire and resulting protests has been directed towards them. Equally though, the behaviour of the two major Unionist parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) has been abhorrent. The realpolitik of the situation is that Naomi Long, MP for East Belfast, had taken Peter Robinson’s seat in the last election. This was a chance

to stir up old sentiments and remind people ‘who’ they had voted for and what they stood for. Sending upwards of 40,000 yellow leaflets, a colour normally associated with the Alliance Party, in Unionist areas riled up their base resulting in protests not seen in years. Moreover since the protests began they have prevaricated, condemning the violence on one hand but saying they have legitimate grievances on the other, with the DUP recently stating that they are seeking possible legal action on whether the decision the City Council took was permissible. The basic claim that the protesters are making is that their culture, traditions and beliefs are being trampled on by the Nationalists, now seemingly ever in the ascendancy; in politics, in the case of Belfast City Council and indeed in terms of educational attainment and

“The real issue is that the majority of those engaged in violent protests are those who have lost the most from the constructed peace in Northern Ireland” access to social housing. The Good Friday agreement has benefited only one side they say. This can only lead to one thing, their worst nightmare: a United

Riot police in Belfast Ireland. This claim though, for all their huff and puff, is, to put it lightly, a misnomer. With the latest Census figures recently released even a cursory study of them would tell you that there is no possibility of a United Ireland in the near to medium future. The figures show that the gap between the number of Catholics and Protestants in Belfast is slimming. The Protestant population has fallen to 48% while the resident Catholic community has increased to 45%. This is to say nothing of the statistics themselves that have asked people in the North what their opinion on a United Ireland actually is. And this is totally disregarding the economic ruin that the South currently finds itself in. Even the most hardened nationalist would find it hard to swap the NHS for the HSE.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) state that members of the UVF are orchestrating the violence with Mark Thomson of Channel 4 news noting where the majority of the violence is taking place is no coincidence. East Belfast is a working class, deprived area with strong Loyalist and UVF sympathies. According to authorities, individual members of the organisation are orchestrating the violence for ‘their own selfish motives’. Why though has this incitement to rioting being successful? The real issue is that the majority of those engaged in violent protests are those who have lost the most from the constructed peace in Northern Ireland. The level of educational attainment and dependency on welfare is striking. The middle class Unionist parties have done little or nothing to represent their grievances.

Their culture is of paramount importance to them. Michael Copeland, a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the UUP, has stated that Sinn Fein is carrying out a culture war. The metaphor is clear. For all the nihilistic commentary however, Northern Ireland has become a better place for many. Decommissioning from the IRA, allied with the formation of the PSNI has allowed for the Justice portfolio to be devolved from Westminster. While the schools system, though still divided along religious lines, has some of the best rates of literacy and numeracy in the world. Belfast has a lot to give and is a city of great beauty with a fascinating history. However, it is clear that there is some road to travel before Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole is a truly shared space.



The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Gallaghergate With the recent confirmation that Sean Gallagher plans to sue RTÉ, Mark Holt examines the affair


ctober 24th 2011 will forever be synonymous with the widespread flooding in Dublin. But in the safe, dry surroundings of Studio 4 in RTÉ that night, another washout was imminent. Before the eyes of a studio audience, 750,000 viewers and the course of Irish political history, an electoral campaign that had the potential and the popularity to be a runaway victory came crashing down. In the presidential race, seven candidates managed to fight through some gutter journalism, harsh accusations and one “assassination attempt” to stand at their respective podiums for the final debate on The Frontline. With a rating in an Irish Times poll the previous Saturday of 40%, it was independent candidate Seán Gallagher’s to lose. Just before the first commercial break, Sinn Féin’s presidential candidate, Martin McGuinness, accused Gallagher of transferring a large donation from an Armagh-based fuel smuggler to Fianna Fáil. Gallagher’s links to Fianna Fáil were constantly pulling at the strings of his campaign and this new revelation was not well received. At first Gallagher denied the claims. When the break finished, and the programme returned, presenter Pat Kenny read out a tweet from the account @­mcguinness4pres claiming that the donor would be presented at a press conference the following day. This led to a shocking revelation from Gallagher where he mentioned the word ‘envelope’ throwing his whole campaign into jeopardy. Immediately people began to realise this tweet was not from an official account. Gallagher was unable to recover from this disaster with only 48 hours to the opening of the ballot, and lost the election to Michael D. Higgins. Although the Director General of RTÉ, Noel Curran claimed this de-

bate did “not change the course of the election”, a BAI report found that had an undeniable influence on the result. Professor David Farrell, Head of UCD’s School of Politics says it’s impossible to draw any conclusion. “The only way that we would be able to assess if it had changed the people’s minds is to have carried out survey work before and after the event to measure the impact on viewers or anyone else who heard about it and whether that impacted on the vote. We have no data of any kind and therefore don’t have evidence, so it’s impossible to say if it had any impact at all.” As the broadcast was being repeatedly scrutinised by the BAI, Gallagher’s solicitors and an Oireachtas committee, it was quickly realised that no question over the course of the debate was directly put to Michael D. Higgins, raising the age-old question of bias in RTÉ, particularly in conjunction with the Labour party. When questioned before an Oireachtas committee, Curran announced that a man who had planned to ask Higgins a question “changed his mind half way through” the broadcast. Farrell believes that bias in the media isn’t really an issue anymore; it comes and goes in phases. “Every single generation of media coverage and commentator’s views in RTÉ, and other such organisations, go through phases of bias. It was the ‘stickies’ in the seventies, Sinn Féin over the decades, Labour today. It could be Fianna Fáil next time. Who knows? Of course journalists are human beings and a journalist may have certain leanings, but to suggest there’s a systematic bias in RTÉ which favours one party over the other is ridiculous.” John O’Dowd, a lecturer in the UCD School of Law points out that while RTÉ’s internal report, issued by Robert Morrison, did not find any evidence of

“Of course journalists are human beings and a journalist may have certain leanings, but to suggest there’s a systematic bias in RTÉ which favours one party over the other is ridiculous”

Martin McGuinness and Sean Gallagher bias, the debate exposed a lot of problems within RTÉ News and Current Affairs. “[Robson’s] observation that there wasn’t a sufficient level of control over the programme by an off-screen producer is probably the most plausible explanation for why the broadcast went off the rails; combined with the station’s desire to make the debate as dramatic as possible.” The latest turn of events in “Tweetgate” has led to the decision made by Gallagher to bring RTÉ to the High Court. He seeks a declaration by the court to say that the debate was deliberately and unfairly “edited, presented and directed to RTÉ.” O’Dowd explains that RTÉ has strong arguments working in its favour: “It is not clear that the relevant provisions of the Broadcasting Act 2009, even those related to being ‘fair to all interests concerned’, are intended to create a statutory duty in favour of the particular people involved

in a broadcast, as opposed to benefiting the public at large. In addition, the Act creates a specific mechanism, by way of complaint to the Compliance Committee of the BAI, for dealing with claims that these duties have been breached.” The next few months will be challenging for both Gallagher and the national broadcaster. Even a year on, RTÉ is still reeling from the ‘Mission to Prey’ fiasco. Gallagher’s initial BAI complaint was issued at the height of that incident which only added insult to the broadcaster’s biggest blow in 50 years. Meanwhile, Gallagher has a tough fight on his hands. He’s facing strong arguments from the opposition, putting his own damaged reputation on the line and appears to be entering this case in a difficult position. It can only be hoped that this court case ends the scrutiny for both parties and exposes all that is left in this endless scenario.

The University Observer | 22 January 2012



and enduring part of an all-nighter is the inability to concentrate. According to the US National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health, sleep deprivation affects the brain’s frontal lobes, which in turn slows down their communication. Essentially, this is the impairment of special, auditory and visual attention, which equates to feeling like the living dead for a 9am lecture. If our overall vigilance is so highly impaired, and our performance in more demanding cognitive functions is lacking after a night of no sleep, surely there’s not a good word to be said for pulling an all-nighter right before an exam. But somehow, we still do it, probably because it feels like it maximises our time. But all sleep researchers have stated that the opposite is true – in stressing our neuron function and

pushing the brain to its limits. In fact, it was found that polyphasic sleep, the gain of at least a few hours sleep, sporadically and unstructured, is better than no sleep at all. Additionally, there is evidence that shows how our working memory is significantly impaired by sleep deprivation, as well as our ability to multi-task or recognise faces. When all of this is put together, despite the lack of conclusive agreement over how exactly sleep keeps our body’s ticking among scientists, it still doesn’t seem to make sense to pull an all-nighter. Where all known disadvantages significantly outweigh the advantages of no sleep, we can agree that putting the books away and replacing them with snores is the wise student’s choice.

All night long Deadlines and exams often tempt us to maximise our time by pulling all-nighters, but Emily Longworth explains why this is a counter-intuitive method


ven the most sane and responsible among us have pulled an all-nighter during the college term. With the accumulative stress of mid-terms and exam times peaking more than once throughout the year, it often seems like a better option to deprive yourself of sleep for the sake of a few more hours’ cramming. Anyone can assess that this is a bad tactic, as all humans are partial enough to sleep to dedicate a third of their lives to it, but somehow the world of science still hasn’t pinpointed what exactly sleep does. It is also still under discussion as to what the effects are of getting little sleep regularly; are they as damaging of one night of getting no sleep at all? Most studies deal with both separately, as each have uniquely complex effects on the body and mind. An all-nighter is defined as an incidence of acute total sleep deprivation (essentially, going straight into college after poweringthrough a night of partying and/or cramming). But regular sleep loss is termed chronic partial sleep restriction, which is inarguably more common amongst students. The effects of the all-nighter are more extensively researched, but both models of examtime sleep for students have their detrimental side-effects. Despite the unanswered questions surrounding the exact function of sleep, we do know that it’s vital to body restitution, in the same way that energy conservation, thermoregulation and tissue recovery are. It’s essential to cognitive performance too; this is especially relevant to memory conservation. These effects just haven’t been directly seen under a microscope, the

study of memory in itself is a multi-layered field with many inconclusive theories still. So how does sleep directly affect memory? “Memory recall and ability to maintain concentration are much improved when an individual is rested,” says Dr. Philip Alapat, medical director at the Harris Health Sleep Disorders Center in the US. But the technicalities of why are only partially explained. Sleep loss does activate the sympathetic nervous system, one of the main parts of our body’s autonomic nervous systems which generally functions to maintain the body’s fight-or-flight response. When the normal function of the sympathetic nervous system is interrupted by sleep deprivation, blood pressure rises and stress increases. This is owing to cortisol (the “stress hormone”) which is released when we haven’t slept. Cortisol has an intrinsic effect on our stress levels, and our continued health. One study showed that in people who had repeatedly gotten less sleep than the prescribed 8-hours, having undergone 6 days of restricted sleep, the cortisol concentrations in their bodies were 6 times higher than those who were well-rested. This shows that even getting a poor sleep on a regular basis will mitigate the body’s stress balance. In sleep deprivation, increased cortisol levels are one of the bigger parts of our understanding of insomnia. The less we restore cortisol levels to what they should be, the more likely it is we’ll be unable to sleep again, as our internal hormonal rhythm is wholly disturbed. Mood alterations and insomnia are said to be directly caused by repeated disruption to our cortisol levels. Essentially, even if you pull an all-nighter and

somehow battle to stay awake through the entirety of the next day, you still may not feel tired come nightfall. This is the curse of the insomniac. Aside from this, sleep loss and sleep deprivation can cause weight gain, both long-and short term. One function of cortisol is to release glucose into the blood system when blood sugar gets too low. When cortisol is too high, unnecessary glucose is released and cannot be burned up, ultimately being stored as fat. Where another study concluded that: “Elevations of evening cortisol levels in chronic sleep loss are likely to promote the development of insulin resistance, a risk factor for obesity and diabetes.” The body’s immediate and accumulative response to sleep loss is conducive to putting on weight. But the most immediately noticeable

The Medical Mechanoid: Robotic Surgery by ethan troy-barnes


ost of us know that if we ever found ourselves afflicted by some sort of lifethreatening tumour or deadly traumatic injury, we could take comfort in the fact that while we lay critically ill on the operating table, half a dozen concerned doctors could be found clamouring over us, scalpels and sponges in hand, doing their best to cure whatever ailed us. How would we feel then, if we were to awake from a life-saving operation, only to be greeted by an assemblage of robotic appendages and mechanised implements looming overhead instead of flesh-and-blood surgeons? Before being dismissed as the fictional imaginings of a Ridley Scott film, however, robotic surgery has more than a few advantages over its traditional humanoid equivalent. So much so, in fact, that it is already being implemented in many operating theatres around the world today. When considering robotic surgery, it’s important to distinguish between robotically assisted surgery (also

known as remote surgery or telesurgery) and truly autonomous robotic surgery. The former is already in use in many hospitals around Europe and the US, and refers to systems that enhance the surgeon’s ability to carry out a procedure. This is used particularly for a minimally invasive procedure, also known as keyhole surgery, in which the initial incision creates a very small access point into the body through which a surgeon inserts endoscopes and miniature instruments which the surgeon controls externally via manual manipulators and which must be visualised entirely via a 2D monitor. The use of robotically-assisted surgical systems, whose instruments are controlled by remote, just like playing a video game, is intended to improve these techniques by carrying out the surgeon’s actions to a greater degree of accuracy than is possible by manual control. A remote system also filters out any natural tremors the surgeon experiences in their hand while using the instruments. Furthermore, the cameras used in a robotically assisted operation would have two lenses, with the surgeon looking through a special visor, producing a 3D image of the op-

eration site, which gives the surgeon better a better sense of what they are doing. The da Vinci Surgical System is an example of one such FDA-approved device that has been around for a few years now. It was used to conduct an estimated 200,000 surgeries in 2012 alone. These were mostly gynaecological procedures and prostatectomies, where the need to make an incision is virtually eliminated by virtue of the fact that most procedures can be carried out entirely via existing anatomical orifices thanks to the accuracy, flexibility and small size of the system’s manipulators. Put simply, robotic surgery offers more precision during surgical procedures. This allows for fewer and smaller incisions to be made, more efficient placing of instruments, and a greater accuracy and range of motion than manual instruments. This, purportedly, results in quicker and less invasive operations overall, which should in theory reduce the rates of surgical complications and reduce the time taken for a patient to get back on their feet following the procedure. Due to the cost of the systems how-

ever (the current da Vinci model costs around $1.3 million, excluding running costs) the jury is still out on whether it’s actually worth a hospital’s while to spend money installing these systems and training personnel in their use. Robotically assisted surgery aside, the idea of a fully autonomous system is much more tantalising, but also much more difficult to realise. Such a system would be able to carry out a range of procedures without the need to be operated by a surgeon. The doctor would simply need to decide which procedure the patient requires, input various parameters specific to the patient being operated on (e.g. tumour size, exact location, preferred point of entry etc.) and the robotic machinery could do

“The use of autonomous systems would also create a more equal healthcare system worldwide”

the rest, potentially to a much greater degree of accuracy and safety than human hands would normally allow. In particular, a robotic system can respond directly a greater degree of sensory information at any given time than a human can. For example, when resecting a tumour, a robotic cutting device might be designed to respond directly to some sort of radioactive marker expressed only in tumour cells, and therefore be able to distinguish between cancerous and normal tissue on a cell-to-cell basis in real-time, ensuring no tumour tissue is left behind. While similar radiological techniques could be utilised by human surgeons, they would still be visualising the situation by eye on a monitor and perform the resection to a much lesser degree of accuracy. The use of autonomous systems would also create a more equal healthcare system worldwide, where success rates would depend less on the ability of your surgeon or how many of a given operation your hospital carries out each year. The doctor would assume the role of a director and be able to devote more time to caring for and planning the treatment of a patient, as well as treating more patients. While fully autonomous units are a while away yet, the development of some sort of rudimentary AI being the major obstacle right now, there’s a lot of interest into improving remote systems for more routine use in the near future. The use of such systems for longdistance procedures is of particular interest. In this case, the surgical robot is located at the site of surgery (for example, remote locations such as military field hospitals, where a specialist surgeon may not be available) while the control unit is located in a major care centre and controlled by a specially trained surgeon. The first such operation was conducted over a dedicated fibre optic network between New York and Strasburg, France in 2001. Further developments in this area could revolutionise surgery worldwide, and particularly improve the outlook for immobilised or seriously ill patients, who would no longer need to travel to receive life-saving care.



The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Research UCD Professor appointed President of the Federation of in Brief European Societies of Plant Biology by michael o’sullivan

by emer sugrue · editor

Fertile Swimming Patterns Scientists at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom have figured out how sperm cells change their swimming patterns while en route to the egg. The cells appear to become activated normally when calcium ions enter the cell through channels in the tail. Should the neck of the cell begin to release calcium into the surrounding cytoplasm, the cell becomes hyper activated and it is this state of motion (loosely described as wild thrashing) that allows the sperm cell to break into and fertilise the egg. While it’s an odd discovery on its own, the study could have many important repercussions. Men suffering from sperm-motion related fertility problems could be treated with calcium based medication, or the study could be used to develop new methods of contraception that prevent the sperm becoming hyper activated and so, unable to fertilise the egg.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy found to affect foetal IQ Its official, alcohol does knock off IQ points; in unborn children. Foetal Alcohol syndrome is a well-known and well-documented condition, but until now there was no conclusive evidence to show that moderate alcohol consumption can affect a baby’s IQ. In an experiment performed at Oxford University, scientists checked babies for mutations in their alcohol dehydrogenase genes. Alcohol dehydrogenase is the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the body and the mutations the study looked for would result in the enzyme being less efficient and the alcohol in the child’s system taking longer to break down. In summary, children with more mutations are less able to break down the alcohol. Therefore, if alcohol reduces IQ, the IQ of those children with high numbers of mutations should be lowest. The results showed children with four or more of the mutations averaged 3.5 points lower on a standard IQ test than children with two or fewer, but only if their mothers drank 1 to 6 units per week during the pregnancy. No such difference was seen in children of non-drinkers, regardless of their genes. Though there is no way of knowing if the odd glass of champagne will cause a reduction in IQ, the findings may have an impact on the high numbers of women who admit to drinking during pregnancy, of whom one in five binge drink.

Water-wrinkled skin found to have evolutionary advantage Wrinkly fingers are an evolutionary superpower. Researchers at Newcastle University asked people to pick up a variety of objects, both wet and dry, after having their hand submerged in water for half an hour. They found that, when the fingertips were wrinkly, it made it easier for people to hold onto wet objects, but gave no advantage when handling dry ones. The wrinkles develop when blood vessels inside the fingertips constrict to conserve heat, shrinking the finger and causing the skin to get pulled in. It is believed that this may be an evolutionary quirk that developed during humanity’s hunter-gatherer days, possibly helping people to gather food in wet, marshy areas. Wrinkling of the toes may have been useful in helping us to walk on wet and slippery surfaces, though this has yet to be researched.

Professor Bruce Osbourne, of UCD School of Biology and Environmental Sciences, has been appointed the first Irish President of the Federation of European Societies of Plant Biology (FESPB), Europe’s biggest society of plant scientists.

Under the Presidency of Professor Osborne, the FESPB scientific congress will be held in Ireland for the first time in the history of the organisation. The meeting which will take place in the Convention Centre in Dublin, in 2014, is expected to attract over 1,000 participants from around the world. The Federation of European Societies of Plant Biology was originally founded in 1978 in Edinburgh, with the aim to promote up to date plant physiology in European countries and today works to advance research, education, and the exchange of information amongst plant biologists across the whole of Europe and beyond. It also supports the publication of the results of research through its six affiliated international journals: Journal of Experimental Botany, Journal of Plant Physiology, Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, Physiologia Plantarum, Plant Biology, Functional Plant

Biology. Professor Osborne is also the first Irish-based plant scientist to be elected to the board of the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO), an independent academic organisation currently representing 61 institutional members bringing together more than 204 research institutes, departments and universities from 29 countries. The EPSO and FESBP have become more interlinked in recent years, with the two organisations joining forces in 2012 the previous bi-annual congress in Freiburg, Germany. During his term of office as FESPB President, Professor Osborne plans to foster greater co-operation and integration between the two organisations and their links with the Global Plant Council, an organisation established in July 2009 with the goal of defining and and engaging in coordinated strategies to increase awareness of the central importance of plant science in addressing issues of world hunger, energy, climate change, health and well-being, sustainability and environmental protection. Currently the Head of Subject and Botany Programme Coordinator in the Plant Sciences Department, Professor Osborne was appointed to UCD firstly as an assistant lecturer before

Professor Bruce Osbourne

progressing to lecturer then senior lecturer and finally associate professor in 2003, following his original BA in Biology from the University of Stirling and postgraduate research at the University of Nottingham. He is also a former Ray Lankester fellow at the Marine Biological Association of the UK and British Council Visiting Lecturer at the University Of Khartoum, Sudan.

Cork students win €5,000 for plant germination project at Young Scientist Exhibition by michael o’sullivan

This year’s winners of the Young Scientist Exhibition may have stumbled onto a new way to improve crop yields. Students Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow from Kinsale Community School, Cork carried out an experiment that observed the influence of a bacterium called rhizobium on the germination of crops such as wheat and barley. The girls are no strangers to the competition; Ciara’s older sister Aisling was a winner in 2006, and even president Michael D. Higgins was quick to congratulate the girls for their ingenuity and creative thinking. Rhizobium is commonly found in legume plants, where it helps in the release of nutrients, and the girls wanted to see if it would have similar effects on certain important crops without harming the seeds germination. Their research was extensive, taking in more than 12,000 individual test results observed over a period of several months. The results were impressive. The girls concluded that the bacteria didn’t have any detrimental effect on the germination of crops such as wheat and barley. In fact, it helped them to germinate faster. The prize for their work was a grand sum of €5,000 and the chance to represent Ireland at the next

European Union Contest for Young Scientists this autumn in Prague. The project could prove to be much more than simply a clever youth experiment. The results the girls have come up with could have huge implications in the food industry, possibly allowing for crops to be grown in much shorter seasonal windows and helping them to dodge the effects of certain diseases that can decimate food supplies. In a world that is more crowded than ever before and food shortages are beginning to become major problems across the globe. Just this year, a severe drought in the USA caused an international shortage of corn, driving up food prices worldwide. In this age of economic decline, even small increases can be the difference between eating and going hungry for some people. Any research at all that can help fight the global shortage of food is welcome and, potentially, very lucrative for the researchers. Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Dr Ronan McNulty of the UCD School of Physics said scientists in Ireland lead the way in Europe at age 16 but are way behind at 40, a problem that can only be addressed by the continued investment in science that, thus far, seems to be yielding fantastic results with the youth of our country.

Early twenties peak of suicide risk by michael o’sullivan

A new study by UCD researchers in conjunction with St Vincent’s University Hospital, appears to have identified a pattern in suicide rates that coincides with age. In a report published in the Cambridge Journal of Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, researchers found that suicide risk patterns accelerate up to the age of 20 before moderately levelling off. The study examined almost 12,000 suicide (and undetermined) deaths between the ages of 15 and 35 for Ireland and the UK between 2000 and 2006. Suicide reporting is usually delivered in age bands of 5 years and this could be concealing further trends within these age bands, particularly when it comes to people under the age of 21 and so, could hinder the efforts of suicide prevention programmes for those age groups. The study shows that males have a significant rate of increase in suicides up to age 20, with a rate of increase of 94.6 cases per year before 20, compared with 23.7 cases per year after age 20. The difference for females was shown to be in the same direction but not statistically significant, with a rate of increase of 10.6 cases per year before age 20 and 5.7 cases per year after age 20.

The authors of the study themselves have noted however, that the increase present in the young male population could coincide with the onset of various disorders such as depression and psychosis in men as symptoms tend to appear during the early twenties. This theory cannot be confirmed by the research however, as they were ‘unable to explore this possibility due to the aggregation of data across age ranges of possible confounds such as mental illness and alcohol use in the

existing international data’. “Our findings challenge current international practice in which suicide mortality is reported in 5-year age bands, in that such reporting may eclipse age-related risk factors for suicide such as that we have identified,” said Professor Kevin Malone from the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, and St Vincent’s University Hospital. Researchers hope that their findings could be used to change the

way in which suicide rates are reported and targeted by prevention programmes.“We suggest that future reporting of national suicide rates in years, as opposed to 5-year age bands, will facilitate more in-depth research and understanding of possible age-related periods of increased suicide risk in young adults, where an epidemiological transition is apparent for young men before versus after age 21,” added Professor Malone.

St. Vincent’s University Hospital

The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Observer Gaeilge



Buntáistí na hainmhithe: Ón chliabhán go dtí an uaigh Le pearsantachtaí mar Dr Phil go mór i dtacaí ar pheataí, cuimhníonn Cian Ó Tuathaláin ar na héifeachtaí a bhaineann le peataí as a thaithí féin


hí a lán daoine ag ceapadh go mbeadh deireadh an domhain ar an 21ú Nollaig, agus bhí mórán eile ag ceapadh nach raibh tada ann ach seafóid. Cheap mise go raibh an rud ar fad aisteach, mar, ar ndóigh, bhí daoine áirithe chun deireadh an domhain a fheiceáil ar an lá sin ar aon nós. Faigheann daoine bás chuile lá agus, ar an drochuair, bhí fírinne sa ráfla do na daoine a gheofar bás ar an 21ú lá. Ní raibh tuairim dá laghad agam go mbeadh an teoiric sin fíor do mo chomrádaí beag i bhfionnadh féin, agus in ainneoin na féile a bhí ag teacht aníos, bhí orm slán a rá le mo chara fadré, Fluff an cat. Bhí Fluff beagnach 12 nuair a chuireamar síos é. Saighdiúir ab ea é, agus dá mbeadh 9 saolta ag aon chat amháin, bhí siad aige. Ní raibh ach súil amháin ag an gcréatúr ó bhí sé ina phuisín, agus nuair a bhí mise i mo pháiste féin, bhí Fluff mar chara, mar laoch, agus mar mhúinteoir dom. Rinneadh an-chuid staidéir a léiríonn go bhfuil peataí iontach tairbheach do pháistí, agus ní amháin cait agus madaí ach coiníní, iasc órga, nó turtair. Tá meon an pháiste ar nós spúinse, a n-ionsúnn gach uile unsa a tharlaíonn timpeall orthu, agus is féidir le cara fionnaidh eicínt rudaí áirithe a mhúineadh do leanaí nach bhfuil éinne ar bith eile in ann. Spreagfaidh peataí freagracht. Beidh a fhios ag páiste ag cúig bliana d’aois go bhfuil an cat le cothú chuile lá, agus beidh a fhios ag an

déagóir óg go mbíonn siúlóid ag teastáil ón mada chun sult a bhaint as buntáistí na haclaíochta. Spreagann an grá agus an fhreagracht atá ag an bpáiste don pheata mórán atrua, agus ní amháin do pheataí ach do pháistí eile agus daoine fásta chomh maith. Taispeánann peataí grá neamhchoinníollach dá máistir, agus tá a fhios ag m’inpháiste go maith cé chomh tábhachtach is atá sé seo. Braithfidh páistí a thuilleadh slándála go meabhrach, mar is ‘bodyguard’ mothucánach é do pheata i gcónaí; “they’ve got your back” mar a deirtear sa Bhéarla. Do pháistí hipirghníomhach, nó páistí atá ag fulaingt le fadhbanna imní, is leigheas den scoth é an peata. Ceadaíonn imirt leanúnach spás agus slí do shuaimhneas agus do chiúnas. Cinnte, seachas le bheith sásta, tosaíocht an pháiste ná oideachas. Cuidíonn peataí samhlaíocht agus fiosracht, agus tosaíonn an páiste le bláth sa seomra ranga – ag scríobh aistí cruthaitheach le comhráite spéisiúil nó ag tarraingt pictiúir ag ardleibhéal. Ag 19 bliana d’aois, d’fhoghlaim mé céard ba bhrí le Fluff do mo thuistí is mo dheirfiúracha níos sine, fad is a bhí sé ag feabhsú m’óige. Mar fhear, feabhsaigh a chompánachas mo shaol go huile is go hiomlán agus cruthaíonn taighde na buanna a fhásann ó pheata a bheith ag an duine sna blianta mar dhuine fásta. Tá seans níos fearr ag daoine an galar dubhach a sheachaint má tá cara ceathairchosach acu chun braith orthu.

Beidh a gcuid sláinte i bhfad níos fearr, agus rachaidh siad go dtí an dochtúir 30% níos lú ná daoine eile. Ciallaíonn an caidreamh suaimhneasach idir mháistir agus pheata go mbeidh brú fola níos lú acu, buillí croí níos aclaí acu, agus ardóidh imirt le peata séireatoinin agus dopaimín, a socraíonn daoine. Thairis sin, bíonn an colaistéaról agus baol taoma croí níos ísle. Maireann othair théis taomanna croí níos faide má tá peataí acu, fad is atá an ghruaig sin i ngach áit glanta suas! D’obair mo dhaideo le capaill a shaol ar fad, agus is dócha gurb é an seanduine is sásta a bhfaca mé ariamh. Ardaíonn ainmhithe meanman de bheogacht an seanduine, agus feabhsaíonn an croí agus an tsoghluaisteacht nuair a théann siad ar siúlóidí le peataí go minic. Faigheann baintreacha agus daoine singil an-shólás sna peataí, agus fiú nuair atá saol gnéis níos ciúine ag daoine pósta, ní mhothaíonn siad folúntas uaireanta nuair atá peata acu. Leabhraíonn an síceolaí clúiteach agus pearsantacht teilifíse, An Dr Phil McGraw (Dr Phil) faoin ngrá atá aige agus a bhean chéile, Robin, do Mhaggie, a mada tarrthála a chodlaíonn in éineacht leo gach oíche. Luaigh Dr Phil ar chlár áirithe go bhfaigheann codladh le peataí an-chuid cáineadh, mar cuireann sé isteach leis an gcodladh agus leannáin a tharraingt as a chéile. Dúirt sé go mbraitheann sé ar an gcúpla, áfach, agus tá a ghrá do Robin níos láidre mar gheall ar an comhghrá atá eatarthu do Mhaggie. Fuair Fluff bás agus é i mo chuid lámha; mise ag rá leis go raibh sé i mo chroí, ach bhí a fhios aige cheana féin. Théis millte comhrá leis ó bhí mé ocht mbliana d’aois, luaigh mé dó nach raibh mórán eolais aige ar chait eile, ach go raibh “decent go of it” aige. Fuaireamar na coinnle agus an t-uisce coisricthe agus bhí tórramh Gaelach ag Fluff, ní raibh tada eile tuillte aige. Tá a fhios

agamsa go bhfuil jab ceart déanta aige anseo mar táim fós in ann mo sheanchomrádaí a fheiceáil i ngach áit, ag cosaint an áit agus ag tabhairt aire dúinn i gcónaí, fiú nuair atá sé imithe uainn.

Bhí sé dlúthchara dom mar bhuachaill, mar dhéagóir agus mar fhear, agus táim fíorbhuíoch dó as sin. Má cheapann tú nach ‘duine ainmhí’ thú, tá mise ag rá leat nach raibh peata ariamh agat!


Teoiric...............................................................Theory (I bh)fionnadh.....................................................Furry Spúinse................................................................Sponge Inpháiste..................................................Inner Child Tosaíocht........................................................Priority Ceatharchosach.....................................Four Legged

Conas mar a bhraithníonn an toghchán go dtí seo? Scríobhann Stiofán Ó hIfearnáin ar chúpla iarrthóir an toghchán i mbliana


thbheochan Fhianna Fáil: níos luaithe ná mar a cheapamar? Níor chreid éinne sa tír seo dhá bhliain ó shin go mbeimís ag caint faoi h-athbheochan Fhianna Fáil chomh luath agus atá muid faoi láithir. Ach tá athruithe móra tar éis teacht orainn mar tír i gcoitinne tar éis an toghchán deireanach a bhí sa tír seo againn. Ba thragóid ollmhór é bás Shane McEntee an mhí seo chaite, agus in ainneoin an méid trua a bhí le rá ag polaiteoirí móra Fhianna Fáil, is cinnte go raibh daoine san Fheidhmeannas Náisiúnta ag screadaíl le háthas go raibh spás nua sa Rialtas, mar tá seans an-láidir ann go mbeidh an bua acu san fhothoghchán a tharlóidh i mbliana sa Mhí Thoir. Is rud déistineach é nuair atá daoine ag smaoineamh faoi bua an thoghchán nuair a chuir post den saghas seo le bás fear iontach. Sean-náth gránna is ea é, ach tá Fianna Fáil ag crosbhóthar faoin am seo agus beidís in ann a lán úsáide a bhaint as bua san fhothoghchán, agus mar thoradh ar iarrachtaí Pearse Doherty sa bhliain 2010, nuair a cheist sé an chúis de fhothoghchán a mhoiliú, beidh Teachta Dála (TD) nua sa dáilcheantar faoi mhí an Mheithimh. Tá an-mheas ag daoine na háite ar an tSeanadóir Thomas Byrne, fear fíor óg ag braithniú ar aois ginearálta polaitheoirí a bhí ar ‘wish list’ Mhicheál Martin don tSeanad i 2011. I gcomparáid le háiteanna eile ar fud na tíre, níl an méid céanna deacrachtaí le deileáil ag Fianna Fáil sa dáilcheantar seo, bhí dhá Theachta Dála acu anseo go dtí 2011, agus feictear ar Thomas Byrne mar fhear gan dlúthbhaint láidir leis an ancien regime, agus is cinnte go dtabharfadh a leithéid sin a lán chabhair dó. Maidir leis na páirtí eile, níl morán taithí ag na hiarrthóirí, is cinnte go mbeadh aithne de shaghas éigin ag daoine ar Catherine Yore (Fine

Gael), ceann de na lovely girls a rith sa toghchán dhá bhliain ó shin agus a ghlac páirt sa chlár teilifíse ‘You’re A Star’ roimhe sin. Ach chuirfeadh sí isteach ar Regina Doherty, an bhean atá fágtha mar TD Fine Gael anseo faoi láthair, agus tá seans maith ann go mbeadh daoine ag gearán da mbeadh beirt bhan sa dáilcheantar chéanna don pháirtí céanna. Tá seans freisin ann go rithfeadh Catherine Yore le polaitheoir baineann eile, ar nós Sirena Campbell nó b’fhéidir Mairéad McGuinness fiú, cé gur as Contae an Lú í, tá a háit dhúchais, Droim Conrach, ar imeall Mí Thoir agus bheadh seans níos láidre aici ná na hiarrthóirí áitiúla. Tá próifíl aici atá bunaithe ar níos mó ná polaitíocht tobair an pharóiste, agus de bharr a hoibre mar láithreoir ar RTÉ agus mar pholaiteoir sa Bhruiséal tá sé soiléir gur féidir léi deileáil le brú náisiúnta. Is buntáiste ollmhór é seo di i gcomparáid leis na bean eile sa thoghachán i mbliana, mar is eol dúinn, tá daoine atá in ann obair faoi bhrú ollmhór ag taisteál go mórmhór sa tír faoi láithir. Fear eile a luaitear ná John Vincent Farrelly, fear a chaith cuid mhór dá h-am sna 80idí agus na 90idí mar TD go dtí gur chaill sé a shuíochán san ollchliseadh sa bhliain 2002 agus atá fós ina chomhairleoir contae. Seasfadh sé do ghuth traidisiúnta Fhine Gael sa cheantar, agus is cinnte go bhfuil go leor taithí aige. Arís, tá buntáiste aige os cionn daoine eile maidir leis an taithí atá aige bainte leis an bpost. Is cath é an fothoghchán seo idir Fianna Fáil agus Fine Gael don chuid is mó: cé go bhfuil TD ag Páirtí an Lucht Oibre níl éinne eile láidir acu taobh amuigh de Dominic Hannigan, agus tá an chuma ar an scéal go rithfeadh Eoin Holmes sa toghchán, an fear a bhfuair suíochán Hannigan nuair a bhuaigh Holmes suíochán sa tSeanad sa bhliain 2007.


Thomas Byrne

Iarrthóir.....................................................candidate I general Athbheochán...................................................rebirth Níl seans ar bith ag Sinn Féin, ní bhfuair siad ach 9% den vóta dhá bhliain ó shin, agus chaill Michael Gallagher, iarrthóir Shinn Féin i 2011, a shuíochán ar an gcomhairle contae dhá bhliain roimhe sin. Nuair a déantar comparáid leo is lena gcomharsan i Mhí Thiar, áit ina bhfuil TD acu, tá siad an-lag ar fad. Mar fhocal scoir, beidh sé anshuimiúil féachaint ar thorthaí an fhothoghcháin seo. Má tá an bua ag Thomas Byrne, taispeánfaidh sé do mhuintir na tíre go bhfuil Fianna Fáil fós beo faoin tuath agus gur féidir leo a bheith dóchasach don toghchán rialtais áitiúil an bhliain seo chugainn. Nó is mar sin atá taca an toghachán ag baint as.

Déistineach...........................disgusting, despicable Fothoghchá Dáilcheantar.......................................constituency Sean-náth...........................................................cliché Tobar...................well (which you get water from) Paróiste..............................................................Parish Cath...........................................................war/ battle Taithí..........................................................experience Taca a bhaint as....lean against, leaning towards



The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Observer Opinion How to not be cool and alienate yourself

The Valentimes: Brain fail

As friends and other assorted members of her Facebook feed announce summer plans, Aoife Valentine tries and fails to secure her own

Killian Woods revels in being cool… for about ten seconds


ersonally, the start of a New Year has always been about hitting new lows. Usually when I was younger that meant the inevitable countdown until the day I broke my latest New Year’s resolution aimed at improving myself as a human being. This year, my main resolution is to be more attentive. A big ask, admittedly, but something that I should try to aspire to. I’ve been reminded on countless occasions that I’m a terrible listener and will admit I’m quite selective with information I retain in general. That goes for everything, even simple stuff like words. The other day when I was attempting to finish reading The Hobbit for the 22nd time, I had to have Google fired up and ready to look up the meanings of basic words that I should know like, lament. On three separate occasions I forgot what the word lament meant. That’s exactly three times too many. It’s a paradox because my memory is good enough to remember that I looked up the definition of, for example, narcissistic about three minutes ago, but not remember its meaning. Or is it even a paradox? I couldn’t explain to you what a paradox is, but it sounds right so I’m going to go with it. My memory knows to enter a different gear around study weeks though. During those intense periods I’m all about learning the intricacies of EHV-4 (Equine Herpes Viris-4) and the structural composition of a horse’s stay apparatus. Although I’m a poor listener, I think I would be excellent at having a conversation with myself because I know the key words and sentences that spike my interest in a conversation, like “Star Wars”, “Glee” and “Did you hear there’s a new Call of Duty coming out?” This means the best way to assure that I take in an important piece of information is to litter it with these words. An example being, “Hey Killian, did you hear there’s a new Call of Duty game coming out on the same day that it’s MY BIRTHDAY?” or “Star Wars, you promised that you’d wash the DISHES before you watched this week’s episode of Glee”. Nowadays, in my mid-early twenties, I find that I have much less time to be dedicating to New Year’s resolutions. That’s mostly because counting up a few months’ worth of Dublin Bus receipts to buy a week’s supply of frozen pizzas from Tesco and washing off the colonies of bacteria that have festered on my bedroom wall takes paramount importance. Remarkably, these are two grim realities that I’m glad were forced upon me on the first week back living in Dublin after the open-buffet lifestyle I enjoyed while I was at home for the Christmas holidays. Not only did I

need something demoralising to kick myself back into my Love/Hate-esque lifestyle, I was in dire need of what the youths would call an “anti-banter explosion” after enjoying my time off a little bit too much. It started off with me being called “cool” at a New Year’s Eve celebration. This was a mighty shock to my system because it caught me well and truly off guard. Normally I like to think that I see these drastic life-changing events coming from way off in the distance, but there are two reasons that make up for me being caught off guard. First of all, it was a girl who called me cool, and at that, a girl I had only just been introduced to. Let me be clear, this doesn’t often happen. In fact, the definition of often would imply that sometimes it does often happen; more often than rare, and definitely more regular than never. However, on that spectrum of often to never, the amount of times I’ve been called cool, by a girl in particular, is firmly and unequivocally planted in Room 101 of the never ever zone. That’s due to a multitude of reasons that all conspire to affirm my permanent state of being uncool. Reasons like Star Wars, Glee and wondering when the next Call of Duty game will be released. However, the second, and main, reason I was caught off guard for being called cool was that she thought writing for the college newspaper was cool. Inherently I tried to protect any fragments of cool I had by adamantly protesting that she was wrong and that there was no way in hell that I’m cool. The worst possible thing you can do after being called cool is buy into it. Never buy into it. That is a one-way ticket back to being uncool. Eventually though, I bought into it and went back to being inattentive to anything and everything she was talking about while reflecting on how I was now cool. All in all, I’d say I was cool for about ten seconds. It was after those ten seconds, I started questioning the fact that I was questioning whether I was actually cool and began buying into the fallacy that I was cool. Actually, there’s another case in point to prove I’m not cool. A cool person would just say “stupid idea” instead of fallacy and not search the word “misconception” on More to the point, a cool person wouldn’t write a column about being called cool in a passing remark by a stranger at a party. A cool columnist would regal about their latest soirée in Café en Seine with a group of friends after an art exhibition dedicated to a pastiche of whatever that painting in the image below is meant to be. And now I’ve forgotten what cool means. Thanks memory.

“I no longer struggle to come up with ideas for something to write about, even if sometimes I spend a few days vetoing out the boring ones”

“On that spectrum of often to never, the amount of times I’ve been called cool, by a girl in particular, is firmly and unequivocally planted in Room 101 of the never ever zone”


’m sure I’m not alone is the masses of UCD students in spending some time over Christmas trying to decide what to fill those four long summer month’s with. While the ideal would be one long holiday in the sunniest of destinations, it seems more likely that I will find myself at home for the majority of the summer break. Ideally this time would be filled with a job or an internship of some description, but it seems my brain is currently acting as my own worst enemy on that front. I can only assume it is in favour of the ‘constant holiday’ plan. Working for the newspaper that is bringing you your fortnightly instalment of this column has done many things for my writing. Not only has my writing greatly improved from that first ill-fated CD review I wrote two years ago, but also as Deputy Editor, I no longer have time to ponder over what is the most perfect possible way to write whatever it is I have chosen to write. This applies broadly across all sections of the paper; as editorial staff are often called on to write very last minute articles to fill any of the empty spaces which routinely crop up when you rely on a network of unpaid students who have many more important commitments in their lives to attend to. This time pressure, particularly as we approach the print deadline, means there is no period in which I can be too afraid to write something. When I first began writing, it could take me several days to write a 150-word piece, as I would fear that my opinion of an album from a band only their parents knew about, would be ‘wrong’. More than that though, I assumed that the sub-editors, much more knowledgeable about music than I, would think I was very silly indeed, and either chuck me out of the paper or laugh at my amateurish abilities to string sentences together that would even be close to acceptable for print. The former never happened, and presumably I got away lightly when it came to the latter, as I am still here, now in some cases the person whose opinion new contributors consider. If I still had that fear, I would never get the chance to write a single article. If I bowed to my constant impulses not to write about anything I think is a good idea until I have the time to do it complete and proper justice, those ideas would forever remain unexpressed to the masses. A complete travesty, obviously. I no longer struggle to come up with ideas for something to write about, even if sometimes I spend a few days vetoing out the boring ones before I settle on the one interesting enough to write about. It’s rare for me to start an article and realise when I’m almost complete that I took a wrong turn near the start and have now reached a dead end and need to scrap the entire thing. After realising that, by and large, the

people who take the time to send me emails letting me know exactly how wrong I am are mostly completely bonkers and have too much time on their hands, I have stopped thinking about what those people might say or think upon reading what I’ve written. And while I used to agonise over the perfect way to phrase every sentence, for the most part now I can just trust that whatever spills out of my brain is probably in the correct order. All of that aside, however, I still dread the start of an article. Even after filing hundreds of articles on every topic imaginable, the sight of a blank Word document is still a little scary. It’s not the writing generally that’s scary, just those first few tentative sentences where I have to not only decide the probable direction the article will eventually take, but set the tone so the rest makes sense. I’ll usually do anything possible to avoid the first paragraph, resorting to many of the procrastination techniques that I once thought were reserved solely for exam time. I think it’s partly to do with the time constraints in this job. Most writing starts with a somewhat ropey first draft, that you can later edit and tidy into the article you imagined it to be in your head. Here, I only have one draft, and usually if an article starts off on the right foot, it will continue in the same vein until the end. This puts a lot of pressure on those first few sentences because if they don’t pull together nicely, the whole article will be scrapped. Over Christmas, I had found an almost inconveniently perfect job that would occupy me for the summer, and my responsibilities wouldn’t stretch much further than doing exactly what I do with this column every fortnight, except I’d have to do it a little more regularly than that. The application simply involved writing an article by way of example of the type of thing they could expect from me, should they choose to give it to me. Perhaps I was a little rusty as we had been on holiday from the paper for a number of weeks at that stage and I hadn’t written more than a Christmas card or two in that time, but the blank page psyched me out. I procrastinated so much and put it off for so long, that by the time I’d decided it was time to cop on and just put some words on a page, the application deadline had passed. Perhaps it was a fear of failure, or a fear of imperfection, but either way, my brain failed me. We could have been paid well to do just what we do every issue here, but instead, now we have to look for another job. One that probably has more problems than being ‘inconveniently perfect’. We’ll probably even have to write about things we don’t care about at all. It’s that or go back to retail. Nice work, brain.

The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Postcards from abroad:

BERLIN With impending exams on the cards for Pat de Brún, he turns his mind to fireworks, volunteer work and gaining a little perspective


fter a brilliant, albeit somewhat rushed Christmas spent at home in Ireland with friends and family, I made my way back to Germany on December 31st to check out Berlin’s famous New Year’s celebrations, with two friends from Ireland in tow. Somewhat strangely, or at least I thought so at the time, I had been warned by quite a few people to be careful on the streets of Berlin on New Year’s night. Those warnings had been long forgotten by the time I emerged from the subway near my apartment, excited for the planned celebrations

ahead. Within 30 seconds of the winter air hitting by face however, I was given a stark reminder in the form of a ‘screamer’ firework that whizzed past my head from behind and filled my nostrils with smoke. The place was absolute mayhem. It felt more like Beirut than Berlin. On every corner, groups of kids lit fireworks in their hands and hurled them at any moving targets. Countless balconies overhead became ideal points of attack as more and more fireworks rained down on anyone unlucky or stupid enough to be strolling past. Fortunately enough, we survived the short walk (or in this case, run) to

my apartment unscathed, and set out preparing ourselves for the festivities ahead. The anticipated celebrations didn’t disappoint, as we joined up with some friends from college and took it from there. As planned, we strolled to a nearby bridge that offered panoramic views of Berlin in time for the countdown. The firework displays all across the city were incredible, and the atmosphere on the streets was something special. The New Year’s festivities, like all good things, came to an end with my two friends returning home (limbs and eyes intact, thankfully), and I had to immediately turn my thoughts to the somewhat less appealing prospect of my impending exams. The academic calendar operates differently in Germany, meaning that I will be sitting my semester one exams in early February. When I first hit the library, the prospect of doing the exams through German panicked me. I got the head down reasonably quickly however and I’m glad to say that I’m facing into the exams pretty calmly at this point. Thankfully I only have four exams, and unlike in UCD, many professors in Humboldt University offer separate, less challenging exams for Erasmus students.



That’s the case for three of mine, and naturally it’s contributing greatly to my sense of calm. Another major difference in the German academic calendar is the incredibly generous seven-week break that we get from mid-February. I had been planning on doing some travelling during this period since I arrived in Berlin, and eventually decided that I wanted to do some voluntary work abroad, ideally working in human rights. After a long search, I managed to find an organisation in northern India that fit the bill perfectly. I’ll be working with an NGO that helps recently arrived Tibetan political-refugees with a variety of social and educational projects. The little town where I’ll be based is the home of the Dalai Lama and the rest of the Ti-

raise awareness of the cause of the Tibetan people. I’m expecting the work to be challenging, but I can’t wait to get going and to learn more about a culture that I’ve always been fascinated with. Aside from planning my travels, the last couple of weeks have been pretty quiet here, as I’ve tried to get into study mode and put in long shifts at the library. Last Saturday evening however, some college friends and I decided to treat ourselves to a few quiet beers after a long and very well-behaved week of study. On this particular occasion, the conversation turned toward the economic crisis and how it’s affecting various countries in Europe and beyond. Studying with students from all across Europe has given me a great insight into how the crisis is taking effect

“The place was absolute mayhem. It felt more like Beirut than Berlin” betan Government in Exile and is situated at the foot of the Himalayas, next to the Nepalese border. I’ll primarily be involved with teaching English and computer skills, as well as helping to

New Year’s celebrations at Brandenburg Gate

problems while I’m really secretly obsessing about them, chronicling my pain journey in an anonymous blog. I am literally going to ignore anything that I think I did wrong last year and just continue on, floating in a stream of indifference. The key phrases I am going to use for this state of mind will be “ah, there’s always someone worse,” “I suppose we’ll have to wait and see,” and my favourite “at least none of this will matter in five years.” In five years I will be 28 and if I am still struggling to get a BA in randomly Following a less than stellar first semester, Lucy Montague Moffat chosen subjects, all of this will definitely matter, but tackles the future head-on by ignoring the past that is exactly the wrong attitude to have. If I have to live in a world where he world didn’t end in sports bra while holding a Davina McKe$ha is allowed to be a successful 2012 which means only Call ab-buster DVD or sit at a Dunnes ‘artist’ then I think that the world one thing; semester two cash register with an electronic owes me some sort of compensation, is really going to hapcigarette hanging out of your mouth. hopefully in the form of making sure pen. Maybe I should have The media shouts at us to write a list of everything turns out alright. That’s all thought about this before spending all the things we hate about ourselves I ask! the entire first semester building an and then give us a month to strive to For example, I’m almost positive apocalypse bunker instead of being change them all, which inevitably ends that I failed a class last term. Basia good student. I actually wish I had in failure. cally I didn’t do the main essay for the used my time to build some sort of You see the thing people don’t tell module which held all the grades, so impressive panic room, at least then I you about fitness DVDs is that after lis- I have a slight inkling that I may not would have something to show for all tening to Davina McCall say the same have passed. I don’t know, I might be my hours of avoiding study. The only jokes over and over as you spend your wrong! Maybe I got some extra grades evidence from my days and weeks evenings doing jumping jacks alone in for turning up to some of the lectures spent procrastinating in bed last year a dim room, the only thing you want to and sitting at the back of the 400-peoare the food stains on my sheets and do is to eat and drink your way into a ple full hall downloading Hello Kitty the Netflix history on my Facebook coma. Most resolutions end this way: page: “Lucy has watched 10 Things I in a heap of cigarette ash, vodka shots Hate About You. Again. For the second and regret on the floor of Zaytoon, time. Today.” Thanks Facebook! I as you try to order a second bucket might as well write “Save me, I’m of garlic mayonnaise at three in the lonely” on my face in lipstick and Insmorning. The only people who have tagram a million photos of myself lying successfully changed their unhealthy in under my Christmas tree looking lifestyle, habits or activities did so on ironic, hashtag lol. a random day on a random month that But apparently there’s hope. There’s was nowhere near the pressure-centre hope for me, and there’s hope for you, of January 1st, and that is a fact! (Probnice reader person. It’s a new year, and ably not a fact). therefore a new start. January is the And so I have decided to do the universal clean slate for the people of complete opposite of what society asks the world who celebrate the New Year as I enter the scary abyss of semesat this time of year. It is officially the ter two. I am going to ignore almost only time when it is socially accepteverything and trust that things will able to say “I’m not drinking for the work out ok. This isn’t one of those next four weeks” or to spend €60 on a half assed attempts to ignore all my

The FirstYear Experience


“After listening to Davina McCall say the same jokes over and over as you spend your evenings doing jumping jacks alone in a dim room, the only thing you want to do is to eat and drink your way into a coma”

wallpapers for my phone. Fingers crossed. So with my newly acquired attitude I have decided to completely forget that class ever existed. When people ask me what Arts subjects I am taking I don’t even mention it. Out of sight out of mind; and other phrases that make this sound like a very clever thing to do. I am also not going to start striving for As and Bs, or put any pressure on myself at all. “Putting unhealthy pressure on yourself is the worst thing you can do in college,” you may overhear me say to water fountain friends over the next few weeks.

in individual countries, and particularly interesting is the vastly diverse range of political reactions to it. While things haven’t changed too much for most German people since the recession hit, the impact can be seen in other ways. In recent months, the number of young Spanish people coming to Berlin in search of work has noticeably spiked, where they join the huge numbers of Italians and Greeks that are here already. I was shocked to learn that Spain’s unemployment rate is way ahead of Ireland’s at 26%, and double that for the under-30 age-bracket. When I explain the Irish situation to friends here, one of the most common reactions I get is genuine shock about the lack of civil unrest and protest that occurs in response. It is something I struggle to understand myself, particularly when I see the combative responses that our European neighbours have in the fact of severe austerity. It’s always so interesting to hear a variety of perspectives on these issues and I really believe that this type of cultural exchange is one of the best selling points of the Erasmus programme. It’s certainly given me a fresh perspective on the world and has influenced my thinking in a much bigger way than I ever expected, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

I am not settling for mediocre, I am sorting out my life priorities. There’s no need to write a list of all the worst things about you and then proceed to scold yourself with tree branches and diet pills. We need to all start being good to ourselves, trying to be more laid back and letting what happens happen. We need to stand naked in front of the mirror and shout “There’s people worse than me” at ourselves as we just in the air Busted-style. Everyone deserves to feel happy about themselves. Well except Ke$ha. What a whore.


The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Observer OpEd editor @

With criticisms of unpaid internships mounting and the government’s JobBridge scheme being met with scepticism, freelance television researcher and journalist Amy Bracken explains why working for free can be crucial for your career prospects there are certainly employers who exploit their interns and that needs to change. However, I don’t think I would be where I am today without the various placements I have done, both paid and unpaid. In the debate about paying interns, the question of ‘equal pay for equal work’ crops up often, but in reality, interns rarely if ever do the same work as employees, or at the very least, they are not capable of doing it to the same standard due to lack of experience. When I started interning at the Farmers Journal, it soon became clear that despite my previous journalism experience, I had virtually no idea of how a national weekly commercial newspaper worked, and it was also clear that I simply did not have the same professional experience as the other journalists. What I received in return was much more than a wage packet. The company risked its reputation by offering me, their intern, the experience of representing it at a variety of events and conferences around the country, affording me the chance to build networking skills, communication skills and, most of all, help me decide whether or not that career path was for me. Among other things, I got to properly experience working in a 9-5 office environment. In short, considering how little I knew about the profession when I started, and considering what I learned there, it was merely a very kind


he term ‘unpaid internship’ is on everyone’s lips at the moment, and with the summer holidays and graduations just around corner, many students are likely to be investigating summer internships, or perhaps longer-term options. There are many negative opinions being circulated regarding unpaid internships, but from my experience, when you go at it with the right attitude, the benefits for interns can be better than a degree. I graduated from UCD in 2011, and completed a Masters in Trinity College in September 2012. I’m currently working as a freelance television researcher and journalist. I have done many internships and work experience placements, both paid and unpaid, in this field. It began with a two-week stint at a local newspaper, followed by con-

As the students of UCD regretfully sweep up discarded Roses wrappers and sullenly slump back to campus to receive their results after the Christmas break, little do they know that they are to spend the next six weeks being bombarded on all sides by the creme-de-lascum of our most ambitious Hacklings. The Sabbatical Elections have returned like a syphilitic boomerang and with the abolition of the two least work-like positions, the fight for the remaining three will be all the fiercer. The battle to be the new King of the Hacks has already begun, with Mícheál “Kang” Gallagher and Paddy “Kodos” Guiney trying to out-do one another at looking busy. Michael “Down a Welfare Mine” Gallagher’s tactic has been to come into the office almost constantly, appearing several times over the Christmas holidays and even working New Year’s Day. Crafty plan; few officers try to win votes through working harder but it won’t do much for his PR drive when no one else is around

that has proven to be a major bone of contention for JobBridge graduates. It’s clear that paid work was the motivating factor for them deciding to intern, and it shouldn’t be. I think these people need to take a step back and re-assess what they learned on their internship, and after all, if you are being exploited then you shouldn’t stay in your position. The essence of interning is to lay the foundations for your career, and to build on the skills that you have already, and you need to be realistic and accept that the employer doesn’t owe you anything. It may seem that internships are majorly beneficial to the employer but nine times out of ten they are not. Employers need to train an unskilled person, supervise them closely, and accept the fact that the duties being performed by the intern will take twice as long to complete than they would if a skilled person was doing them. Admittedly, more allowance for expenses such as travel to and from work and lunch would be welcomed, but probably 90% of the gain goes to the intern and not the employer. I am writing this from London, where I live and work now, thanks to the contacts I made while doing several stints of unpaid work experience. I truly believe that interning, whether paid or unpaid, has taught me more about my chosen career area than my BA and my MPhil degrees put together did. Ob-

“Living in England has taught me how lucky we are in Ireland. One of my friends here has debts of around £20,000 from her student days and now she has turned to unpaid interning” tributing to the University Observer, of which I became News Editor in my final year. After finishing my finals at UCD, I spent four months on a paid journalism internship with the Irish Farmers Journal. In October 2012, I did some unpaid work experience in London, which has since led to paid work, but I would still consider unpaid work again, because I know what I can achieve from it. I have witnessed both sides of the internships debate. Paid internships are almost unheard of, and having a monthly pay packet at the Farmers Journal was certainly a nice benefit, but the experience taught me that there are very few recent graduates who are ready to walk into a career upon finishing college. For this reason, employers are often unfairly judged for not paying their interns from the start. That opinion comes with a word of caution:


Fáilte Fuckwits!

A while ago I was offered a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity to do unpaid work experience at Sky News in London. I had applied for that particular placement before and was very disappointed when I got an automated email stating my skills and experience were not up to scratch. Instead of being disheartened, I paid attention to the feedback, got experience as a Runner, and then applied again. My debts mounted while I did it, but what I learned there, and the contacts I made (through which I have gotten some paid work), are immeasurable. Another of many criticisms of internships that we are hearing is that only those with some skills and experience are hired, but as I learned with the above mentioned placement, some people simply have high expectations and are not willing to start at the bottom. I think an internship should be treated like a career ladder: you need to climb the ladder as an intern before climbing it as a professional. Some definitely require prior skills and experience, just like a job does. My advice? Swallow your pride and start at the bottom, because, as I’ve discovered, a two-week stint at a local newspaper was the catalyst for many things to come. I would never have gotten my internship in the Farmers Journal without it, let alone the internships I have done since. Many graduates claim that by offering unpaid work experience place-

to see him. Paddy “Day in the Limelight” Guiney has taken the opposite approach, printing posters for the various campaigns he’s been almost running for the last couple of months, ensuring maximum campus coverage through poor use of printing space. Guiney’s poster visibility however is countered by his complete lack of communication of his activities, as he was the only officer not to give any interviews or send any press releases this year. His refusal to give interviews may have hidden him from the Observer’s shrewd gaze, but it has also hidden him from everyone else’s gaze, proving the redundancy of his soon to be scrapped office. The battle inside the corridor however has been overshadowed by the arrival of Brendan “Me Too” Lacey, who has slithered onto the scene with his already infamous “I Was There” campaign. His big push for publicity with this anti-bullying campaign is an attempt to get back in the public gaze following the end of his year long “I Wasn’t There” campaign as Campaigns

gesture on the company’s behalf to pay me. If anything, I think I was paid to reflect the length of time I was interning, but in my experience, being unpaid motivates you to work even harder, and encourages you to learn as much as possible. Money, it seems, is a distraction from the true meaning of the word ‘internship’. However, I am not overlooking the financial problems being faced by graduates. I know only too well. I am currently in debt, but living in England has taught me how lucky we are in Ireland. One of my friends here has debts of around £20,000 from her student days and now she has turned to unpaid interning, so that will continue to rise. Why is she doing it? She knows that she is simply not qualified to do the job she eventually wants to get, so by interning she is learning and build relationships at the same time.

and Communications Officer. His presidential ambitions were delayed last year following a confrontation in his office by current President Rachel “Might is Right” Breslin. While neither have spoken of the details of the incident, it is rumoured that she merely had to look at him with her trademarked icy stare, and he wasn’t seen again until December. It’s hardly a coincidence he is backing up his renewed bid for office with an anti-bullying venture. On the lighter side of things, it looks like the UCD Ball might go the way of all drinking in UCD. Eoin “€3 Pints” Heffernan is fighting back against Gárdaí claims that the Ball is health and safety hazard due to muddy shoe’d binge drinkers, with a new drinking awareness campaign, “Take It Handy”. Eoin “Handyman” Heffernan advises students to take matters into their own hands and instead of drinking in groups to find more... solo activities. The matter will be reinforced through a poster campaign around campus featuring a single outfacing hand reminding everyone that Heffo Says No. In other news, rumour is that Shane “Take it Easy” Comer plans to run for USI Education Officer, so that he can continue to do nothing in a slightly bigger office. Talley Ho! Talleyrand

ments, companies are able to avail of free labour. The Government’s JobBridge scheme has been the source of much criticism since its initiation, with some companies advertising positions such as baristas, waitresses and barmaids as internships. While certainly positions such as these are often a means for an employer to get free labour in a position where two days of training is sufficient, the success stories from the scheme, especially for graduate interns, speak volumes. You just need to research it properly, and common sense will tell you when it’s a reputable company and when it’s merely free labour. I’m not saying that JobBridge is perfect because it certainly isn’t, but I cannot understand some of criticisms of it that we’re hearing. The employer is under no obligation to take you on permanently at the end of the internship, but

viously, you shouldn’t expect your two weeks in your local newspaper, or the equivalent in whatever industry you decide to intern in, to suddenly make you the right candidate for the graduate position you want. As I said before, interning should be seen positively as a step up the ladder. But as you can probably guess, my number one tip is not to let the financial aspect put you off the idea. There is definitely more of an incentive to work hard when unpaid, which you will be thankful for in years to come. Amy Bracken completed her BA in UCD, graduating in 2011. She also holds an M.Phil from Trinity College Dublin, from which she graduated in 2012. She is currently working as a freelance television researcher and journalist in London.

The University Observer | 22 January 2012


Observer Editorial editor @

“While not wanting to perpetrate the idea of the Irish fondness for alcohol, however blatantly true it may be, the bars really just gave us an ideal venue for any sort of casual social gathering”


eading back to UCD, you may reflect on the various changes the college has seen over the last few years. There have been some developments even since we left for Christmas. Complaints about the library that dominated semester one have been more or less solved. Long time criticisms about the lack of textbooks, and out of date materials have been aided by a one million euro injection by the college and after much protesting, there will be a return to seven-day library openings. Things are also looking up regarding the Students’ Union’s financial problems with reports that both the shops and the Union as a whole have begun to be profitable again. The Gym has opened a new gym to solve problems which arose from restricting access to students at peak times after work and class hours, to make way for paying customers. They’ve even dropped the charge for the popular ‘Get in Gear’ program to give students free access to fitness classes. But despite this, it still feels like many areas of student life here have been in decline. One of the most attractive elements of a large university such as UCD is the promise of a vibrant social and extracurricular life. The hundreds of clubs and societies and the new Student Centre are a badge of honour for the University. While societies should be better than ever with their new

home, things just seems to have gone off the boil somewhat. Attendance at events and debates has reportedly been dropping steadily, and social activity as a whole has almost crumbled. There are a few reasons this could be. Perhaps it’s that now that all events are relegated to the Student Centre at the opposite end of campus to most people, or at least to the Arts Block and the library, people can’t be bothered going over. As a former Arts student, this seems very likely. I skipped events because they were on 30 minutes later than I originally thought and waiting was too much hassle. That could just be me, but it’s unlikely; students have been lazy since the invention of tertiary education. Events have always required you to bring yourself at least to an adjacent room and societies have historically thrived. Furthermore, the sports clubs are doing well and that involves some manner of exertion. The more likely culprit for the decline in UCD social life is the closure of the bars. While not wanting to perpetrate the idea of the Irish fondness for alcohol, however blatantly true it may be, the bars really just gave us an ideal venue for any sort of casual social gathering. Very organised events are actually not that easy to get to know people in, at first. For example, if you go to a debate, you will just be sitting in a room-watching people talk at you. It was the post-debate sojourn to the bar that allowed people to make friends.

Letters to the Dear Editor In relation to your Editorial on November 13th: I share your frustration with the antics of the SU officers. A Campaign officer who can’t manage a single-issue agenda, and an Education officer who refuses to meet the Minister for Education - Guiney and Comer confirm that we should set our expectations very low when it comes to SU sabbatical sybarites. I’m still trying to find out who mystudent rep is, but neither the officers nor their website can help me with that. However, I don’t think it’s correct to conclude from these mediocrities that “the attitude of ‘Yes we can’ has evaporated.” I saw at least two examples to the contrary yesterday. The high standards of DramSoc’s production of “The History Boys” (it’s a great

Once you know a few people in an organisation, even just as acquaintances, getting more involved with the society is not intimidating. I have found the lack of bars on campus a huge problem this year. While promises of re-openings have been constant, it seems clear now that it won’t happen this year. Following the receivership of the builders working on the Forum Bar in August, the University has only just found a company to start working on it again and the plans to reopen the Student Club for events has received another devastating setback recently. This has been a dry academic year, and all UCD groups have felt the blow, even us. The University Observer unfortunately lacks the natural sociability of most societies. I didn’t make friends at the paper until I became a sub-editor, a whole year after I started writing. With email and Facebook it has become completely possible to be one of our best writers and never have stepped into the office. Most editorial teams strive to make the paper more social, but it’s actually much more difficult than you would expect, especially this year. With no bars, and with casual drinks in the office now a chucking-out offence, the options are either book a room with an alcohol license so you can provide a maximum of two drinks of weak beer to people before leaving at 10.45; or go to town. Neither option is ideal. For someone wanting to get more


play, wonderfully rendered) and the selfless action of the Saint Vincent de Paul members and their sleep-out to help homeless people is are fine examples of positive action by students, supported by students.

Yours sincerely, Mike Norris


It is the policy of the University Observer to rectify any errors as soon as they arise.

Queries and clarifications can be addressed to

Letters should be sent by email to or by mail to The Editor, The University Observer, UCD Student Centre, Belfield, Dublin 4

University Observer Volume XIX Issue VII Telephone: (01) 716 3835/3837 Email:

The University Observer is printed at Webprint Concepts Limited Mahon Retail Park Cork Ireland

Deputy Editor Aoife Valentine Art, Design and Technology Director Conor Kevin O’Nolan Chief Designer Gary Kealy News Editor Daniel Keenan Deputy News Editor Sean O’Grady Comment Editor Evan O’Quigley Features Editor Sean Finnan Deputy Features Editor Nicole Casey

“My new years resolution is to stop reading the Sun” Rachel Breslin, UCDSU President

“ report to the University Management Team, so Hugh Brady and the boys” Mícheál Gallagher, UCDSU Welfare Officer

“The venue was a little barn in the middle of the Welsh countryside. We literally did a soundcheck to two ducks and three chickens. Everyone was trying to figure out if they liked it” Ritzy Bryan, The Joy Formidable on Welsh gigs



Editor Emer Sugrue


involved in a society or group but who doesn’t know anyone that well, going into town to hope to meet up with them needs a lot of courage. Courage I don’t even think I have now, never mind as a first year. This trend has become more worrying with the news this week that the UCD Ball may be in trouble. The running track has been ruled out as a site for the event, and little effort is being made by the University to suggest an alternative. The Gardai are concerned about drinking at the Ball, which tends to be quite high. I imagine it will be even higher this year should the ball go ahead considering it’s the first time people will have been able to purchase a drink on-campus since the year before. If the UCD Ball 2013 cannot go ahead or needs to be moved off campus, it will be the death knell for UCD’s social side. Although not the reason we are here, the social side of college is much more important than it seems UCD realise. The things people remember about their time in college are not the lectures and tutorials, it not exams (other than the man who makes announcements in the RDS, he is memorable), it’s the people they meet and the passions they find that have nothing to do with their degree. And it seems, as per our stereotype, students’ passions dim without out a bar.

Quotes of the Fortnight

“Mainly they have a huge issue with the level of drunkenness… with people acting in a way which I would call giddiness. For example, someone fell off that fly-over last year, over the side part down the bank. It was only due to the fact that they hit a tree that they didn’t roll down onto the road” Eoin Heffernan on why alcohol wasn’t really a problem at UCD Ball 2012

Science & Health Editor Emily Longworth Irish Editor Charlotte Ní Eatún Sports Editor Kevin Beirne Chief Writers Bronagh Carvill Shane Hannon Matthew Morrow Sean O’Neill Michael O’Sullivan Victoria Sewell Staff Writers Bronagh Carvill David Farrell Shane Hannon Micheal O’Sullivan Sylvester Phelan Victoria Sewell

Contributors The Badger Katelyn Cook Fergus Carroll Pat de Brún Simon Dennis Roisin Finn Anne Marie Flynn Emma Healy Mahon Mark Holt Ryan Kane Ryan Kiernan Donal Lucey Hugh McGowan Claudine Murphy Darragh Ó Tuathail Mary Meadhbh Park Eimear Reilly Talleyrand Donal Woods Chief Photographer Caoimhe McDonnell

Special Thanks Eilis O’Brien Dominic Martella Giselle Jiang Deirdre Carr Dominic, Grace, Charlie, Jason, Aifric and all the Student Centre Staff Tony, Laura and all the Webprint staff Very Special Thanks Balazs Pete and all the robots at NetSoc, Teresa Alonso Cortes, Dave Connolly, Amy Bracken, Katie Hughes, Ciara Johnson, Emily Longworth, Michael O’Sullivan and Gav Reilly.


The University Observer | 22 January 2012

The University Observer | 22 January 2012



2012 a year in review


Leinster dominate Europe


wickenham was the host of what was supposed to be a record-breaking performance for New Zealand on December 1st 2012. The All Blacks were coming off a successful year, going unbeaten through 20 consecutive games, winning 19, with an 18-18 draw with Australia earlier in the year the sole mark on an otherwise perfect record. On the other hand, the English team had lost two in a row, even though they pushed South Africa to their limits in their last outing. The All Blacks seemed to be the stronger team on paper, with 788 test caps between the starting XV compared to

“There are chinks in the armour of the great Richie McCaw and his followers”

the 206 caps shared by their English opponents. The New Zealand media had this test marked as a victory, a regular pre-match occurrence. The previous test on the All Blacks’ European tour included a match against Wales; who were marked as the Northern Hemisphere’s greatest chance of overcoming the mighty All Blacks. Meanwhile, the English were touted as walkovers; the very title the All Blacks could have been given after their performance. Outside of the fanatic New Zealand rugby supporters, the mantra that the All Blacks cannot be beaten has become frustrating. The complacency of the men in black for this test, as well as during the draw against the Wallabies, shone through too brightly for any chance of a good result. Their experience and skill, as well as fitness and confidence, proved fickle in the hands of a resolute and fiery English team, powered by the strong running of Manu Tuilagi. New Zealand’s answer to the powerful Samoan-born centre was

n the last five years, no team has been able to dominate European Rugby in the way Leinster has. For Irish Rugby, the Heineken Cup Tournament of 2012 was hands down the highlight of the last year. It was the first time that all four provinces were able to be represented at the highest level of European rugby, with the season eventually capped by the All-Irish final between Leinster and Ulster. The tournament’s dramatic moments would not be repeated in the final, as it was the ways in which each team would get there that would prove to be the more enduring. Leinster, the defending champions, had emerged from the group stages undefeated, collecting five wins and a draw in Pool 3 and amassing twice the points earned by second place Glasgow Warriors. Leinster, whilst dominant, utilised survival tactics and showcased true grit, most notably in their game against the aforementioned Glasgow side. Following this, the defending champions advanced to the semi-finals with an undeniable, 31-point mauling of Cardiff Blues. Ulster, on the other hand, could only manage second place in Pool 4 behind French side Clermont Auvergne, who it must be mentioned appeared to be the toughest test for each team. Ulster, with a record of four wins with two losses, took part in the best series of matches within the tournament, when they and Clermont took a win apiece from their two games. Ulster’s quarter final victory over Munster, an

emphatic odds defying victory, was essentially a battle of the outhalves between Munster’s Ronan O’Gara and Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar. In the following game, the Ulstermen treated the Aviva Stadium to a narrow three point victory over Edinburgh in the semi-finals. Pienaar once again coming through for the Northern side, scoring six out of six for penalties and a conversion of Wannenburg’s sole try. The pace was frenetic for the duration, with Edinburgh attacking in emphatic fashion, with tries coming by way of Jim Thompson and Greig Laidlaw Looking back, no match could equal the visceral tour de force that was the semi-final between Clermont and Leinster. The pressure brought on by Leinster’s search of a Rabo Pro 12 and Heineken Cup double created a blood and guts contest with a notable display by Clermont’s Brock James, while Leinster’s Rob Kearney, Cian Healy and Jonathan Sexton combined to set up an all-Irish final. Leinster’s comeback against Northampton the previous year was in the minds of the fans coming into the final. Leinster had asserted their dominance by half-time, with tries from O’Brien and Healy, although Ulster proved to be dangerous and always at the ready to pulsate an attack. Despite this, Leinster would reign supreme with a final score of 42-14, in a match that ultimately was far less exciting than the previous final, yet Leinster’s performance was so clinical, so cold and unfeeling in their duties that it was almost hypnotic to watch. By Jack Walsh

The Destructible All Blacks Julian Savea, who made a flying start to his own career on the wing, but against the tougher Tuilagi, little headway was made towards stopping the English hero of the day. This test holds great importance for the New Zealand All Blacks and their future, as it shows that there are chinks in the armour of the great Richie McCaw and his followers. The world number one rankings does not look to be changing hands any time soon, yet it makes for a more entertaining game to not know who will win any given match before it has even started. The English had many chances throughout 2012 to push themselves further up the IRB rankings into a top four spot before the draw for the Rugby World Cup in 2015 in England, and they

showcased their ability for all to see against the All Blacks, however their inability to convert earlier in the year means that they were drawn in Pool A with both Australia and Wales; a tough pool to advance from. A top four ranking would have seen them push France into the 5 spot, leaving the English with a pool consisting of Ireland and Italy, a significant difference. The true importance of this test match will be decided when international rugby begins again in 2013, but at least the All Blacks have been beaten by an underdog. Next time the teams meet, there may be a more nervous air about the New Zealand dressing room.

that Armstrong is confessing purely for monetary reasons. This is certainly credible now that his sponsors have distanced themselves from him and race promoters are asking for prize money to be returned. There are still many developments

to come in the Armstrong Saga and, who knows, maybe more secrets to be revealed.

By Simon Dennis

True Colours Revealed


n 2012 we experienced many positive and uplifting stories in the world of sport but many of these were overshadowed by the allegations of doping levelled against Lance Armstrong and his subsequent admission of guilt in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Thursday January 17th 2013. He is not the first cyclist to be convicted of doping charges, but most certainly the most high profile. Despite a Federal investigation into Armstrong being dropped in February, the United States Anti-Doping Agency charged him with being involved in a doping conspiracy over the course of his career. At first, Armstrong came out on the attack, repeating the familiar mantra that he had never doped nor failed a drugs test in his career. Accompanying this was a lawsuit claiming that USADA did not have the right to charge him or strip him of his titles. In August 2012 this lawsuit was dismissed and with this development Armstrong conceded defeat, citing fatigue, while denouncing USADA’s charges as a ‘charade’ and ‘nonsense’. The fact that Armstrong had maintained his innocence throughout his career made this decision not to contest the USADA charges all the more surprising. If the story had ended at this point it may not have risen to the prominence it


he Olympic Games is without doubt the greatest showcase of sporting talent on Earth, and London 2012 was no exception. Between July 27th and August 12th this year, heroes were created and former greats fell in the 302 events in 26 different sports. This year, 32 world records were broken in eight of those sports, as the Olympic Games once again provided the platform for athletes to excel after four rigorous years of training and preparation. There were so many moments that left the millions of viewers worldwide astounded. There was Kenya’s David Rudisha (trained by Irish priest Brother Colm O’Connell) and his win in the men’s

Of course, the Olympic Games aren’t all about winning gold

enjoys today. Many would have accepted Armstrong’s claims. However, in October, USADA released a report in which it called Armstrong a serial doper who also forced his teammates to cheat while leading them in the ‘most sophisticated’ doping program in the history of any sport. The report exceeded 1,000 pages in length and included the testimony of 11 of Armstrong former teammates. Unlike Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, none of these 11 had been convicted of doping in the past. Barely a fortnight later, the sport of cycling’s governing body accepted this report and stripped Armstrong of all his victories since August 1, 1998. The extent to which this report has damaged Armstrong’s reputation can be seen in the swiftness of his sponsors, including Nike and Oakley, and even his own Livestrong charity distancing themselves from him. This will come as scant commiseration to the men and women, such as Christophe Bassons and Emma O’Reilly, whose careers and reputations he destroyed. Despite Armstrong’s confession, don’t expect this story to go away. Questions will be raised as to whether this is simply a ploy to recover some credibility or to ensure that by his confession he drags his accomplices down with him. One column posted on claims 800m final, in which he smashed the world record. In fact, the race was so fast that the athlete in last place would have won gold in any of the previous three Games. Mo Farah’s incredible 5,000m/10,000m double, and his now trademark ‘Mobot’ celebration delighted the British public. Poster-girl Jessica Ennis also captured the host nation’s imagination, as the Sheffield-born superstar lived up to the hype by winning gold in the gruelling two-day event known as the heptathlon. Jamaica, led by the personality that is Usain Bolt, dominated the men’s sprinting events as so many had predicted. They took a clean sweep in the 200m, while Bolt and Yohan Blake took gold and silver respectively in the 100m before the 4x100m relay team romped home in another world record time. Bolt was his usual entertaining self throughout the tournament, even being pictured with 3 Swedish handball players at 3am the night before his 200m heat. In the pool, Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time by winning

By Fergus Carroll

The 2012 London Olympic Games his 22nd medal, while 15 year-old American Katie Ledecky stunned the world by winning gold in the women’s 800m freestyle. In the ring, women’s boxing became an Olympic event for the first time and Bray’s Katie Taylor, Ireland’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony, attracted media attention the world over as she won Ireland’s first gold in 16 years. Elsewhere for the Irish team, Paddy Barnes defended his bronze medal from Beijing in the light flyweight division. John Joe Nevin also won silver in the bantamweight division, and our other achievements included bronze medals for both Michael Conlan in the men’s flyweight and last minute Olympian Cian O’Connor in the individual jumping equestrian event. There were many other stand-out athletes from the Games, such as British cyclists Sir Chris Hoy,

who dominated in the Velodrome once again, and Bradley Wiggins, who won the time trial event to add to his Tour de France win earlier in the year. Of course, the Olympic Games aren’t all about winning gold. There were moments of sportsmanship too, like when Grenadian Kirani James swapped name badges with the controversial Oscar Pistorius after the latter had finished last in a 400m semi-final. There were tears of joy and despair, moments of triumph and disappointment. London 2012 has inspired a generation and left many waiting anxiously and excitedly for Rio in 2016. These Olympic Games were not just a sporting highlight of 2012, but perhaps the greatest two weeks of sport in modern times. By Shane Hannon



The University Observer | 22 January 2012

Battle for Europe

wales The 2012 Six Nations championship win for Wales was impressive for a number of reasons; key among them the idea of such a young team being able to dominate in such a fashion. The young Welsh side were able to stick to their game plan, allowing them to rank first in the amount of points conceded (58), least errors made (44) and lineouts won (56). One year ago, so many people saw this as the beginning of a dominant era, yet much has changed in since. Wales currently sit on a seven game losing streak, with the aura and talk surrounding the Welsh camp being the almost daily plight of interim head coach Rob Howley as player after player succumbs to injury. The team has had bad luck with twelve players currently injured, with seven of those likely to be out of the Six Nations entirely. Among the notable injuries are Bradley Davis, Rhys Priestland, Aaron Jarvis and Ashley Beck. Wales are without three of their four leading second rows, with Ian Evans an uncertainty. Factor in the absence

The University Observer’s best and brightest preview an exciting Six Nations campaign

england England will enter the tournament in good spirits after demolishing the world champions, New Zealand, 3821 at Twickenham in December. The victory was all the more satisfying as it was the All Blacks’ first defeat since August 2011. This certainly shows the potential of the English team as they simply brushed aside the powerhouse of international rugby in such thrilling fashion. The high expectations of English fans have weighed down on the team since their World Cup victory nearly ten years ago, with only one Championship and no Triple Crowns during the most barren period for English rugby since the professional era began. Since the victory in the 2011 Championship, Stuart Lancaster has taken the helm as English head coach. Under Lancaster’s stewardship, England have continued their resurgence in the 2012 Championship, with impressive victories over Ireland in Twickenham and France in Paris last year cementing the fact that this English team has the po-

france The French enter the 2013 Championship as favourites, owing to the excellent form of their clubs in Europe. Clermont and Toulon have excelled, with Clermont in particular, impressive in their back-to-back victories over reigning champions Leinster in December. The national team also impressed in the autumn internationals, with comprehensive victories over Argentina and Australia. Philippe Saint-André has an embarrassment of riches with which to select his squad from, so even if the French were struck by injuries the quality and depth of his squad should still shine through. Nicolas Mas and Dimitri Szarzewski will look to dominate opponents at scrum-time, with new cap-

tential to beat any team in any stadium. England will hope to build on the promise they have shown in the previous two Championships and expectations will be extremely high after they dismantled the seemingly unbeatable All Blacks. It will be interesting to see if this young English side can handle the weight of expectation thrust upon them. If they can pass this mental examination, England could prevail with their first Grand Slam in ten years. The English have developed an exciting backline with potent finishers such as Ben Foden and Chris Ashton. Youngsters such as Manu Tuilagi and outhalf Owen Farrell have been added to the backs to add more options and quality. Farrell looks like being the key man for England, as he looks to build on an impressive first Championship in 2012. Farrell has the potential to become the long-term replacement for Jonny Wilkinson at flyhalf, an issue England have struggled with since the legend left for France. Despite his tender years, Farrell has provided mature performances and, if he is on form, he can tain Pascal Papé and Yoann Maestri forming a formidable duo in the engine room. Ex-captain Thierry Dusautoir forms a back-row with Louis Picamoles and Yannick Nyanga that is both athletic and destructive. Morgan Parra, Frédéric Michalak and François TrinhDuc will vie for the half back roles, with Michalak enjoying his best rugby since the 2003 World Cup. The recalled battering ram, Mathieu Basteraud, could well make his return to the fold with either Wesley Fofana or the exciting, uncapped Gaël Fickou as his partner. Maxime Mermoz and Florian Fritz add serious competition for these places. On the wing, Vincent Clerc is only two tries behind the French record while Yoann Huget and Benjamin Fall look set to complete the

scotland Scotland come into the 2013 Championship heavily favoured for the dreaded Wooden Spoon. A disastrous autumn campaign, resulting in the resignation of Andy Robinson as coach, saw the Scots fall to the bottom of the third tier of nations for the 2015 World Cup draw. The new coach, Australian Scot Johnson, will look to turn the fortunes of this ailing rugby nation around. Up front, Scotland will rely heavily on the ball-carrying ability of their one world-class forward: second row Richie Gray. They will look to try and play a game based on set piece, with Gray and Alastair Kellock especially effective come lineout time. Prop Euan Murray and hooker Ross Ford will aim for at least parity in the scrum. A back-row combining Kelly Brown, John Barclay and the re-called John Beattie make for a strong unit on paper. Indeed looking at the Scottish pack, this could be said for them all. In spite of this strength up front, the Scottish backline is possibly the weakest in European rugby. The retirement of Mike Blair means

ireland The Irish team will go into the Six Nations on the back of a positive autumn series, where they won two of their three games, losing narrowly to South Africa by four points. Kidney’s men finished their autumn on a high, with a convincing 46-24 win over old foe, Argentina. The victory over the South Americans was all the more impressive as it was achieved without seasoned campaigners such as Rob Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll and Stephen Ferris. In their absence, Craig Gilroy has emerged as an option on the wing and Mike McCarthy stood out as an alternative for the second row. The Grand Slam of 2009 is quickly becoming a faded memory and this team will want to ensure their status as one of Ireland’s greatest ever with another Championship. Ireland will garnish hope from the fact that England and France, traditional giants in the northern hemisphere, will visit the

“Ireland will enter the 2013 Six Nations in hope rather than expectation, but with worldclass players still at Declan Kidney’s disposal, they will believe they can win a second Grand Slam in 5 years” Aviva Stadium in February and March. A tough opener is expected though in Cardiff against a Welsh team who will be attempting to prove a point after a dismal autumn. The central figure is Ireland’s push

“One year ago, so many people saw this as the beginning of a dominant era, yet much has changed in since”

lay the platform for the potent backline outside him to wreak havoc. If Farrell’s development as one of world rugby’s brightest stars continues on an upward curve, England could be looking at a return to the fruitful times reminiscent of a decade ago. By Sean O’Neill back three. The French remain an enigma; able to either delight or frustrate their fans, and sometimes both, on any given day. Saint-André will look to focus a French team that is capable of dominating Europe, if only they could find some consistency. The key games for the French will be the back-to-back away games to England and Ireland. A potential Grand Slam decider looms in Dublin, but only if the French can overcome the English at Twickenham. If they can, they will be riding a wave of momentum into the Aviva Stadium against an Irish team that has underachieved since the 2009 Grand Slam apart from a couple of games here and there. By Matthew Morrow

that Greg Laidlaw is the favourite for the scrumhalf position. Laidlaw is a solid kicking halfback, capable of playing both nine and ten, and helped guide Edinburgh to the Heineken Cup semi-finals last year. Outhalf remains a problem, with the inexperienced duo of Duncan Weir and Ruaridh Jackson vying for the 10 jersey. Centre is another area of difficulty, with Sean Lamont the probable favourite for the 12 jersey. In truth, Lamont is best utilised as a wing. He is a decent ball carrier but, with poor handling skills and a limited kicking game, is really not an ideal 12 to have outside of an inexperienced 10. Max Evans, whose career has really not lived up to early expectations, will fill the 13 slot. Meanwhile, the Scottish back three is arguably their most exciting in years; with New Zealand-born Sean Maitland likely to make his debut with try-scoring machine Tim Visser on the opposite side and the attacking Stuart Hogg at fullback. With Scottish rugby in general at an all-time low, they will do well to beat even Italy at Murrayfield. By Matthew Morrow to regain the Six Nations Championship this year will be Jonathan Sexton. Much of the burden will rest on the broad shoulders of the flyhalf who will be constantly scrutinised due to his key position on the paddock. This pressure will be even heavier due to the loss of Tommy Bowe and Paul O’Connell. If Sexton can get his kicking and playmaking correct, Ireland could be close to the top of the table come St. Patrick’s weekend. It will also be interesting to see how Heaslip will handle the weight of expectation on him as he replaces a legend as captain, despite O’Driscoll’s insistence that he would like to continue to hold the position. Ireland will enter the 2013 Six Nations in hope rather than expectation, but with world-class players still at Declan Kidney’s disposal, they will believe they can win a second Grand Slam in five years. With Kidney’s contract due to expire this year, a strong Irish performance is needed to secure another few years for the Munsterman. By Sean O’Neill

italy Coming into this year’s Six Nations, Italy are realistic in their goals and fans should be content with the idea of a second straight fifth place finish. Having broken a three-in-a-row chain of last place finishes, head coach Jacques Brunel will have the 2015 World Cup in mind. Expect Brunel to utilise this tournament to test the waters and replicate the results that allowed the Frenchman to put Italy into the world’s top ten rankings and into Group D of the World Cup (alongside France and Ireland). An indicator of what can be expected from the Italian side can be found in the Autumn Internationals, which began with a grinded out victory over Tonga. Whilst not wholly impressive, the performance was a display of resiliency and fortitude, as well as admittances of failing to provide suitable pressure and an unfocused approach to ball control. Comparing Italy’s game plans against New Zealand and Australia not only shows a maturity in the Italian game, it also saw the Azzuri being highly competitive in a narrow defeat to Australia, a game in which many believe the Italians were unlucky to walk away as the losers. Italy attempted an attacking strategy, which held a promising amount of success on the top two ranked teams in the world. With New Zealand, Italy were thoroughly outmatched, with any mistakes being continually capitalised by the All Blacks, despite the score line being every indication of a sweep, a lost lineout attack and a New Zealand try were really all that clinched the game. With Australia, Italy came out fully aggressive, particularly in the way they dominated the scrum, yet it took them well into the second half until they could find their confidence, and truly establish a working rhythm.

of Dan Lydiate, the man of last year’s campaign, and a serious problem faces the interim Welsh coach. To accommodate such losses, five uncapped players have now been added to the squad, including two second rows; James King and Andrew Coombs. The back-row has seen its own resurgence; two uncapped players, Josh Navidi and Andries Pretorius, are due to meet up with the impressive Sam Warburton, Justin Tupiric and Toby Faletau. Wales’s five locks have 32 caps between them, and Ian Evans holds 25 of those alone. Lions tight-head prop Adam Jones will also make a return, and is expected to add strength to the Wales scrum, and important facet of Wales’ overall game. In terms of management and strategy, Rob Howley has stated that he has completely taken to his role as head coach, in comparison to the Autumn Internationals, in which he divided duties with Warren Gatland. Mark Jones of the Scarlets has been added as the team’s attack coach, yet Wales must not forgot what won them the Six Nations, in essence, the highly prized scrum, as well as a solid kicking game. By Jack Walsh

From these performances, a basis for Italy’s general strategy can be discovered; first and foremost being an aggressive output, yet a polishing and refining in terms of passing and ball control could create a formidable side. Italy comes into this Six Nations from a very interesting perspective. Freed from the notions of history, they are attempting to wipe the slate clean and build an effective attacking squad, with 27 players who featured last November picked for this year’s tournament. By Jack Walsh

The University Observer | 22 January 2012



The Badger:

by kevin beirne

The Badger starts the new year with some nostalgia and ends on a uncharacteristically positive note

Football Nine key players from the 2012 season have re-signed with UCD AFC for the 2013 campaign, due to begin on Friday March 8th away to Bohemians. Goalkeeper Ger Barron was first to sign, and was followed the next day by defender Hughie Douglas, winger/full back Sean Russell, defender/midfielder James Kavanagh and striker/ winger Dean Clarke. A few days later, UCD AFC announced that captain Mick Leahy would return alongside David O’Connor in defense while striker Dave McMillan and midfielder Robbie Creevy would also be re-joining the Students for another year. UCD will be looking to build on a strong finish to the 2012 campaign, which saw them earn twenty points from their last twelve games after a less than impressive beginning to the campaign. UCD’s first home game of the season will be against Derry City in the Belfield Bowl, on the evening of Friday March 15th.

League still plays second fiddle to Sam Kevin Beirne previews the 2013 National Football League

G Rugby UCD J1 recorded an impressive away victory over Old Belvedere in the J1 League on Sunday 13th of January. Paddy Dix grabbed a hat-trick of tries for Collidge as they ran out 12-19 winners in the first game of the new year in the league. Meanwhile, the under-21s also recorded an impressive victory, this time away to Lansdowne in the JP Fangan League. UCD overcame a 11-0 deficit at half time to eventually run out as 11-15 victors thanks to a brilliant solo try from James Carroll and a try from Chris Best, after perfectly-timed offload from Philip O’Neil. The win means UCD leapfrog Lansdowne in to first place in the group, but their lead is only one point. In the J1 League, UCD lie in fifth place out of the seven teams, although they are comfortably ahead of sixth place.

Athletics EAA scholarship, athlete Ciara Everard, spent some time over the Christmas break training in South Africa at altitude in order to avail of the warm weather in a camp in which she was accompanied by 2011 club captain Richard Owens and UCD MD coach James Nolan. There are high hopes for Everard, whose first race is planned for January 27th, as is Owens’. Everard broke Sonia O’Sullivan’s national record over 800m in her 2012 indoor season. Two other UCD athletes, Dan King and Cathal Daly, were also undertaking warm weather training during the Christmas break, this time in Grand Canaria in Spain.


aelic football and hurling are two very unusual sports in their rejection of a league campaign as the decider for who is the champion in that sport. Although the Heineken Cup and Champions League are seen as the pinnacle of their respective codes, that it more to do with the inclusion of the best from all the countries, as a league system would simply not work. American sports rely heavily on the playoff system, with the Superbowl being one of the most recognisable games in world sport. But even though the playoffs are what determines the eventual winner of the highest prize in their sport, an initial league phase precedes all that drama. Only in the GAA is the league format shunned so much and the brutality of a knock-out contest championed so greatly, although the introduction of the qualifiers has reduced the harshness somewhat compared to what it once was. It is no secret that the Championship in the summer is where the true champions and legends of GAA are decided, but since the league was reformatted in 2002, five of the nine winners have gone on to win the All-Ireland Football Final the following summer. In the league, Cork are searching for their fourth straight title, having won the last three leagues. During this time they have only won one All-Ireland, which followed their first league title in 2010. They will kick off the new season when they face-off against 2011 AllIreland Champions Dublin in a repeat of the 2011 league final. Both Cork and Dublin will be disappointed with their respective performances in the 2012 All-Ireland Championship, as both would have gone in to it with hopes of bringing Sam home with them. Cork won the Munster Championship, following an impressive five-point victory over Kerry in the semi-final, only to lose out to eventual winners Donegal in the All-Ireland semi-final. Dublin also won their provincial championship, meaning they took their seventh Leinster title in eight years, but the defending All-Ireland Champions never seemed to get out of first gear throughout the summer. They eventually limped out of the competition after losing to Mayo in the All-Ireland semifinal. Dublin have a lot to answer for, after such a poor outing in the summer, and will hope that a good league campaign can help put the 2012 Championship behind them and ensure it was a blip as opposed to the new norm. That being said, it shows how much expectations have risen in the capital that a semi-

final berth is seen as a complete failure. Another team who failed to live up to their pre-summer hype were Kerry, who usually come alive around the time the race for Sam kicks off. Two losses in the one summer will have

“Only in the GAA is the league format shunned so much and the brutality of a knock-out contest championed so greatly”

“Two losses in the one summer will have hurt the Kingdom’s pride more than it would for most counties”

hurt the Kingdom’s pride more than it would for most counties. There is a sense that this Kerry team’s days are done and that new blood is badly needed. While Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy both turn 30 this year, it would be a brave man who writes them off now. Kerry finished the last National Football League campaign on top of the table, but lost out in the playoffs to Mayo. During the season, Kerry had only lost once, to the eventually relegated Armagh. Kerry have not won either the league or the summer Championship since 2009, when they did the double. Down in the Kingdom, four years without a trophy is an eternity and it will be interesting to see how the players handle the pressure. The All-Ireland champions from Ulster, Donegal, will look to use the league to try some new things in anticipation of the defense of their crown in the summer. The Donegal faithful will hope that Jim McGuinness finds a way to balance his new role with Glasgow Celtic with coaching their heroes. Teams like Kildare, Tyrone and Down will be hoping that they can use a successful year in the league to give them momentum going in to the summer’s Championship. Kildare, in particular, will hope that they can be in the mix by the end of the season as they attempt to end Dublin’s Leinster dominance. Mayo’s 2012 season was a successful, but ultimately bitterly disappointing campaign as they managed to lose in the final of both the National Football League and the All-Ireland, with their sole victory in a final coming in a two-point victory over Sligo in the Connacht Championship. Despite the disappointment of losing the two biggest finals of the year, Mayo should take solace in the fact that they beat Kerry in knockout football and also overcame the defending champions Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final. In truth, both finals were a stretch too far for a team that is lacking a true superstar. It is sure to be an interesting season in the National Football League. All eight teams are capable of beating any of the other seven on their day. Regardless of who wins, it is hard to see a team from the other divisions mounting a real challenge for Sam in the summer. Tyrone are the only team in the top division not to have made the All-Ireland quarter-finals last time around, having lost to Kerry in the qualifiers. In fact, since the 2002 reformatting of the league, every single All-Ireland champion has come from the First Division. Just a quick glance at this year’s teams gives you no reason to think that trend won’t continue.


his Christmas was a particularly interesting one for The Badger, with all the amazing sporting news that has occurred since the last column. The Badger is having a hard time deciding what was the most unbelievable thing to have occurred over the last month, but it may have taken place this weekend. Last Saturday, without any warning from above, Michael Owen scored a Premier League goal. An actual goal. Granted, Stoke still lost 3-1 to Swansea (and were, in fact, losing 3-0 at the time), but they all count and now Michael Owen joins the likes of Theirry Henry and Alan Shearer with 150 Premier League goals. In fact, Owen is only the eighth person to ever reach this milestone, alongside Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler, Andy Cole and Frank Lampard. What’s that? The Badger forgot someone? Oh no, you’ll just have to waste time googling who the final player is instead of doing some work… Already… And it’s only the first week; shame on you! Anyway, it is easy for The Badger to sit here and laugh at Michael Owen for going a year and a half without a Premier League goal. Very easy in fact, and The Badger knows that there is no fun in laughing at an easy target. The Badger remembers a time when Michael Owen was one of the most feared strikers in the world. In fact, there was a time when Michael Owen was so popular that he not only had his own breakfast cereal (the main ingredients were childhood obesity and diabetes), and he even had his own TV show. According to a Facebook fan page demanding a second season (which is, in The Badger’s opinion, horrifically under-supported), Owen’s TV show Hero to Zero depicts an alternate reality in which “Michael Owen emerges from a poster at night to talk to a pre-pubescent child” about life and football. For a brief moment in the year 2000, Michael Owen was such a huge superstar that the BBC actually sanctioned a six-episode series starring him, and that was a whole year before he scored two goals in the FA Cup final to beat an Arsenal team that won the double next year. Since then, The Badger has seen Owen’s stock fall so low that he is now a substitute for Stoke City, a club who lost to Colchester in the old Division Two full days before Hero to Zero’s premiere. So if you’re ever sad about the fact that Owen has wasted all that potential he showed us in his youth, just put on your old Carlsberg Liverpool jersey, curl up in bed with a bowl of Michael Owen’s Sporties and find a low-quality stream of Hero to Zero and let all your problems fade away.


OSbserver P O R T SPORT

The University Observer | 22 January 2012

UCD attack fails to fire once more UCD Marian 65 - 79 Dublin Inter


he UCD Marian basketball team let a valuable opportunity to save face slip by as they continued their losing streak and fell to the bottom of the Nivea for Men Superleague table. Dublin Inter came back from a six point deficit at the end of the first quarter to secure a sizeable lead by the time the final quarter began. Inter capitalised on their superior shooting, knocking back numerous three-pointers whereas Marian’s inaccuracy meant they left a large chunk of points on the court on Saturday night. UCD tried to mount a comeback in the last quarter, but the difference between the two sides was too great for them to overcome. It was not the result that Marian needed, considering their poor performances so far this season, giving Inter victory in their first ever Superleague match in UCD. This result followed a change in head coach for Marian after former coach Sasa Punosevac left by mutual agreement earlier in the season.

New coach Frank Ryan seems to be having as much difficulty as his predecessor in trying to get the club back into its previously winning form. This was clear from the get-go as the first quarter was dominated by a large amount of missed shots from both sides, with Inter being the bigger culprits. The home side seemed shaky from the start and missed a number of shots that they would have usually scored from. Conor Meany broke through the centre to score a basket from below to open the scoring for Marian. This score was soon followed by Neil Baynes, who made a skilful long shot for their second point which was followed shortly with a dunk from Paddy Young. It took Inter three minutes to collect themselves and finally register a score. This seemed to bring both teams to life as Mindaugas Tamusaukas soared up for Inter’s second basket, which was quickly followed by the teams trading scores. Inter soon had their first lead of the night, with UCD trailing by two points at the end of the fifth minute of play. Liam Conroy ran in a couple of points

for UCD before the end of the quarter which gave UCD the lead, but not before Aurimas Statkus could close the gap to 20-14 in Marian’s favour by the end of the first quarter. The new American player for UCD; Thomas Viglianco missed a shot with four seconds left, missing an opportunity to give UCD a buffer for the second quarter and Dublin Inter came alive in the second quarter, showing none of the apparent nervousness that they had before the break. They scored the first three baskets of the quarter, countered by an interception-fed field goal by Conor Meany. An impressive dunk by Audrius Pauliukenas and a brilliant three-pointer by Inter meant that UCD now trailed 27-20, with three minutes gone of the second quarter. Inter got three free throws for an infringement by UCD which saw them sinking two out of three for a seven point lead with 6:23 to go in the half. At this stage, the Marian coach had to be told to return to his seat after a heated argument with the referee over what Coach Ryan perceived to be a foul by Statkus. It was not long before Kevin Foley was able to make both free throws after being fouled, bringing the score to 30-24 to Inter. Another three-pointer followed by a basket by Remigijus Dimiciukas brought Inter into a comfortable lead with 3:50 left. Marian were visibly un-

settled by this spate of scores and started missing a number of shots. Conor James, uncharacteristically, missed his next few shots, clearly nervous by the way the game was turning and the heckling of the supporters from Dublin Inter. UCD picked it up during the last few minutes of the half, but it was not enough as by the end of the second quarter they were ten points down, leaving Inter leading by 40 points to 30. The third quarter was largely illdisciplined on both sides, mainly due to frustration by the home players. Kevin

“The Marian coach had to be told to return to his seat after a heated argument with the referee over what Coach Ryan perceived to be a foul by Statkus”

Foley was involved in a scuffle for the ball on the floor of the middle of the court, which resulted in his glasses breaking. He opted to stay on while those on the side-line worked with fervour to fix them. During his time without his glasses, he missed a couple of shots, possibly because of impaired vision, but most likely due to the impressive defence of Audrius Dimiciukas and Mazvydas Cepliauskas. Inter slotted home another two three-pointers and a number of field goals with UCD struggling to catch up. Audrius Pauliukenas was integral to the Inter offense, scoring the majority of the points for his team during a period of dominance for his team that saw the score sit at 60-42 at the end of the third. Kevin Foley managed to get his glasses fixed in time for the last quarter and buried a much-needed threepointer. Conor James also made up for his previous follies by bagging a sweet three-pointer for his team and it appeared that UCD might stage a comeback, but it was too little too late as Inter’s lead was too great for UCD to make any meaningful difference. Mariusz Landos hit the final nail in the UCD coffin when he sprinted behind the Marian defence in the last few seconds to extend their lead to 14 points. By Dónal Woods

Hero to Zero: Armstrong’s ungraceful fall Kevin Beirne warns against idolising sports stars


ast weekend, an interview between Oprah Winfrey and Lance Armstrong was viewed by millions of people around the world. No doubt you know the outcome of that interview; Lance Armstrong, once thought by some to be the greatest athlete ever, admitted to using performanceenhancing drugs to help him win his seven Tour de France titles. For most of us, the only thing shocking about Armstrong’s admission was that he actually made a confession. The USADA report into Armstrong’s doping, in which it claimed he was the orchestrator of the most sophisticated doping program in the history of sport, has received worldwide coverage since its release a few months ago.

Even before USADA disclosed their findings, there was evidence to suggest that Armstrong had doped his way into the history books. For journalists such as Paul Kimmage and David Walsh, Armstrong’s admission was a confirmation of what they had been telling us since 1999: Armstrong is a cheater and a liar. But for so many people, Armstrong’s admission has caused a great deal of pain. Millions of people idolised him. He was a textbook sporting fairytale after he came back from the brink of death to defeat cancer and win the most physically-demanding race in sport seven times in a row. Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. Millions of people were inspired by his story; they went out and bought his

“He played up the cancer story because it took him from being a sporting hero to being a humanitarian legend”

book It’s Not About the Bike (the title of which has become a punch-line itself) and covered themselves in yellow LIVESTRONG bracelets. He was the poster-boy for cancer recovery, but now all this inspiration feels somewhat hollow. Armstrong’s recovery from cancer and subsequent dominance of cycling were highly impressive to those who did not suspect any foul play, but how does being talented at a sport automatically make someone a good role model to follow? Armstrong is certainly not the first (and he most definitely won’t be the last) sports star to be hyped up to a godlike level as the pinnacle of humanity that we should all strive to emulate. Time and time again we build up athletes to be these perfect human beings, and yet we never stop to think that maybe this person is just a good athlete, not necessarily a good person. With Lance Armstrong, this was half the problem. He had built up a sort of cult of personality which protected him from attacks. He tied his victories so closely to his recovery that any criticism of him immediately became a criticism of those suffering from a horrendous illness. When asked if he ever took performance enhancing drugs, Armstrong would not hesitate to frame the conversation around his past illness, claiming that he was so close to death that he would never do anything to put his body at risk like that again. Of course, these were all lies to, as he put it himself, “control the narrative”. Armstrong lied for years, even under oath, about his drug-taking, which is why it is hard to believe anything he said in his interview with Oprah that contradicts the reports of others. For years, Armstrong went as far as to sue anyone who said he wasn’t clean. When reminded that he sued his former masseuse, Emma O’Reilly, (as well as calling her an alcoholic whore in an attempt to discredit her) he simply laughed and said “To be honest Oprah, we sued so many people, I don’t even… I’m sure we did.”

“It is almost taboo to admit this, but in order to reach the top of your sport, or any field for that matter, you need some sense of ego” Armstrong’s delivery, brushing it off so casually, is more suitable to forgetting the sandwiches on a picnic and not to ruining a former friend’s career. In the end, all he cared about was his own career. It is almost taboo to admit this, but in order to reach the top of your sport, or any field for that matter, you need some sense of ego. People love to laugh at players like Nicklas Bendtner, who has come out and said he believes he is the best footballer in the world despite not even starting for Sunderland last season, but the truth is that confidence plays a huge part in sport. This is why so many athletes are actually terrible role models and this is why Armstrong did what he did. He took drugs to improve his performance and feed his own ego. He played up the cancer story because it took him from

being a sporting hero to being a humanitarian legend. It was all about him, and anyone who got in his way was shoved out of it hard enough to make sure they wouldn’t cross him again. So does this mean it is time to stop idolising our athletes? Maybe we can finally accept that they aren’t going out on that pitch to beat the other team for us, they are doing it for themselves. Perhaps it is time we realised that, although there are some good, kindhearted athletes out there, we should not idolise someone simply because they can swing a club better or kick a ball harder than anyone else. While this sort of behaviour won’t stop the Lance Armstrongs of the world from cheating to be the best, it may save us from being so blind to the truth when they do.

University Observer - Volume XIX - Issue 7  
University Observer - Volume XIX - Issue 7