11th February 2014
KARLEY SCIORTINO DISCUSS SEX BLOG AND NEW CAMERON RUSInside SHOW, SELL ON MODELLING AND ITS POWER, MYANMAR THROUGH LOCALS’ EYES, AND THE OSCAR CAMPAIGN TRAIL.
NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2013
Leadership Race 2014
Photo: Samuel Verbi
Photo: Atalanta Copeman Papas
Consultant condemns RCSI “nepotism” and alleged relationship with Bahraini regime
T James Prendergast Deputy News Editor
TCD society told influence of Bahrain’s ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty reaches “all the way up to Stephen’s Green, the RCSI and the HSE” RSCI students in Bahrain forced to swear loyalty to king and sign non-protest pledge College allegedly “denied existence” of female doctor tortured and sexually abused in prison he influence of the Bahrain’s ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty reaches “all the way up to Stephen’s Green, the RCSI and the HSE,” a consultant with the Mater Private Hospital has claimed. Dr Damian McCormack made the comment at a discussion about the persecution of medical professionals in Bahrain held last Wednesday by the Society for International Affairs (SoFIA). Speaking to students, he called Bahrain an “outrageous black spot for human rights”, run by people “who have dinner with my colleagues”. He condemned the decision of RCSI’s Bahrain branch to force its students swear an oath of loyalty to the king and to sign a non-protest pledge. He also criticised the secrecy surrounding the salary paid to the RCSI’s CEO. Maurice Manning, the chancellor of NUI, he told the audience, flew to Bahrain “courtesy of the RCSI”. McCormack, who was part of an Irish delegation to Bahrain in 2011 with Senators Averil Power and Marian Harkin, went on to claim that the RCSI’s mature entry policy was marked by “nepotism”, in which applicants who “happen to be special” are admitted. He said that RCSI allows students who don’t have the right “skill-set” to “buy their way into medicine”. Some students don’t speak English or haven’t completed the Leaving Cert, he claimed. McCormack said that the events
“O’Grady called on Trinity’s Students’ Union to set up a “friends of Bahrain” society and show solidarity with the 400 students who had their scholarships rescinded by the Bahraini government in the previous week.”
in Bahrain had politicised him. He said he learnt that the United Nations is “about money” after the Bahraini government got a place for their own official on a UN human rights council after presenting a “large cheque” to the council. He also described the links between Irish business and Bahrain, mentioning Aer Rianta’s control of Bahrain Airport’s duty free and the ESB’s investments in the country’s electricity sector. Dr Fatima Haji, a former tutor with RCSI Bahrain who was tortured and sexually abused in prison after being among 30 nurses and doctors arrested in 2011 for treating protesters in Bahrain, also criticised RCSI for its involvement in the country. She said the college “denied her existence” in The Irish Times and told the paper she had “bad qualifications”. RCSI later backtracked, she said, claiming they would “stand by” her should she continue to be in jail or be re-arrested. The five year sentence given to her by a military court was later overturned by a civilian court. Human rights activist Tara O’Grady described how a study carried out by Professor David Grayson, the head of Trinity’s School of Chemistry on CS gas canisters brought back from Bahrain revealed the gas was ten times stronger than normal. She said the regime was firing tear gas canisters at head height and
“McCormack, who was part of an Irish delegation to Bahrain in 2011 with Senators Averil Power and Marian Harkin, went on to claim that the RCSI’s mature entry policy was marked by “nepotism...”
described how the gas can cause fatalities in children, the elderly and the infirm and induce the spontaneous abortion of foetuses. She said the protests remain largely peaceful and non-sectarian, but claimed that the Sunni dominated government was pursuing a sectarian policy towards Shia Muslims, citing the recent arrest of Shia political leaders. O’Grady praised the pro-active role taken by Irish nurses’ and teachers’ unions in support of their colleagues in Bahrain, and contrasted their stance with the inaction of the Irish Medical Association representing doctors and the employers’ organisation IBEC. She called on Trinity’s Students’ Union to set up a “friends of Bahrain” society and show solidarity with the 400 students who had their scholarships rescinded by the Bahraini government in the previous week. Andrew Anderson of the humanrights organisation Frontline Defenders called the arrest, torture and “show trial” of 50 medics in Bahrain unprecedented “in all of the history of the world”. He reproached Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Richard Bruton for praising Saudi Arabia’s human rights record as “moderate leadership” in the region during their recent trade mission, since Saudi forces have taken part in the suppression of protests in Bahrain. In 2000, the British government
Sarah Burns reports on DUFC’s 160th anniversary. Matthew Mulligan interviews Rory O’Neill aka Panti Bliss.
Luke McGuiness looks at the UN international year of crystallography.
Callum Jenkins argues that Edwrad Snowden should not be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
had, he alleged, “tipped off” the police officer Ian Henderson, who was accused of involvement in the torture of pro-democracy protesters while he was head of security in Bahrain, allowing him to flee to Bahrain and escape arrest in Britain. Another British police officer, John Yates, recently gone to Bahrain as an advisor had failed to eliminate the use of torture, Anderson added. Anderson said media coverage of Bahrain is “absent” compared to the coverage of Syria. Tara O’Grady denounced the BBC for its “pathetic” coverage and for its “subservience to the UK government’s connections in Saudi Arabia”, while Dr Damian McCormack pointed out the Bahraini governments large expenditure on PR and use of agents to follow activists. McCormack concluded the panel by asserting that human rights abuses are carried out with the “blessing of middle earth and middle society”, alluding to ownership by the Irish firm CRH of the company that built the wall in Palestine. He argued that only 10 per cent of the population of a country “can’t be bought” by the government, while four or five per cent is made up of “sociopaths” including bank managers and CEOs.
>> Comment -p.13
Tuesday 11th February 2014
What They Said
“ “ “ “ “ “They only started serving coffee in Kilkenny in the late 1980s...” Willliam Foley, Comment Editor
“Gay marriage IS A REALITY, it has been a reality for over 13 YEARS, in 17 COUNTRIES. Equality is the future, it’s going to happen.
“The simplest and most effective way to stop gay people calling you a homophobe is to stop campaigning against equality for gay people.”
Rory O’Neill, aka Panti Bliss
Matthew Mulligan, Online Editor
“Just seen a blog post of an open letter to the Provost about a @tcdsu referendum. Imagine if the Provost had a say in the SU? No thanks.”
“Ha, just remembered that back in the boom my aunt bought a racehorse with all her secondary teacher colleagues. We really did all party.”
Jack Leahy, Education officer
Auditor of the Hist distances himself from anonymous statement Catherine Healy
News Editor The auditor of the College Historical Society (Hist) has distanced himself from comments made by a committee member unhappy with the publication last week of a list of demands to end sexism within the society. Cormac McGuinness said the statement was “not helpful” and did not represent the views of the majority of committee members. In a statement issued to Trinity News on Thursday, a committee member wishing to remain anonymous said he wished to “give some details in order to clarify the situation and ensure journalistic accuracy and integrity.” The statement states that, “Without any prior warning a potentially slanderous ‘note’ was posted and disseminated online on Wednesday morning. This note caused extreme distress to many members of committee, and left the majority anger at the manner in which things had progressed. The note damaged the good name of all the male committee members, and continues to do so.” It went on to say that, “The justifications offered for the public posting of the note are felt to be untrue. In so far as the action aimed to encourage follow through on the already accepted demands, such encouragement clearly was meant to take the form of shaming people publicly. To claim anything else is patently false. This is particularly true considering that people have been named publicly without any ability to respond. There is a feel-
ing that no response can be made publicly to what is going on because the narrative that currently pervades the Society, the GMB and College (in no small part due to the articles written by your paper and the University Times) ensures that any response would leave the person likely be characterised as a misogynist, and a reactionary who doesn’t want to solve issues of sexism in the Hist. Indeed, every member of committee is willing to concede that a legacy of sexism exists in all organisations, and the Hist is no exception, and has committed to addressing any issues that exist within the society.” Trinity News was also contacted by another male member of the society on Saturday who said that “the statement of clarification would be an important indication that the story isn’t one-sided as is commonly perceived now.” He said he was “concerned” that if the statement wasn’t published as soon as possible “a rather problematic narrative will become entrenched.” The statement was issued a day after the publication on social media of a document signed by five female committee members of the society. The document referred to female members being criticised for wearing “the wrong thing”, for being “incompetent”, and being interrupted and undermined during committee meeting. It also suggested that there had been “gender-based discrimination” towards new female members. The signatories’ demands for the introduction of an equity officer and gender quotes for future
debates had been accepted at a committee meeting on Monday, but they published their requests on social media on Wednesday to highlight the issue of sexism to a wider audience. Dee Courtney, one of the document’s signatories, told Trinity News that, “The reason we went public is because we felt it was a society as well as a committee issue. It’s important for freshers to know that things are going to change and it will be different for them if they run for committee. The reason we went public wasn’t to put pressure on people.” Trinity News interviewed Courtney, Alex Trant, Alexa Donnelly and Naoise Dolan, four of the five signatories of the document, on Thursday about their experiences of sexism in debating. One of the major issues they related was the difficulty of being taken seriously by male debaters when raising the issue of sexism. “The debating scene can make you feel stupid for trying to bring up those small examples of sexism,” Trant said. “Several people experienced sexism but never realised it.” Courtney added that, “Debating as a whole is so male dominated. All of the best debaters are usually male. A lot of the qualities we attribute to good debaters, like aggression, are ones we attribute to men before we do to women. The best young speakers are always the ones we consider most similar to older speakers and most of those older speakers are male. It’s really important that we’ll get to see different types of speakers because of these quotas. You often find young female debaters who stop debating after a year. There’s
Wednesday afternoon classes could be scrapped Lia Flattery
Staff Writer Wednesday afternoon classes could be abolished during the next academic year as part of College’s five-year strategic plan, Trinity News has learned. The re-introduction of a “Trinity Wednesday” could see an end to afternoon classes so that students will have more time to participate in clubs and societies. The suggestion is one among a number put to students in a survey outlining a range of proposed changes
to the educational experience both inside and outside the classroom at undergraduate level in Trinity. The survey was emailed to students at the beginning of February by Senior Lecturer, Dr Patrick Geoghegan, as part of an effort, he said, to “rearticulate our vision of the Trinity education for the 21st century.” Speaking to Trinity News about the feasibility of the “Trinity Wednesday” proposal, Geoghegan said that it was originally suggested to him by the provost and that class-free Wednesdays were a feature of Trinity life in the 1980s and still take place in some British universities today. He said,
“It would be difficult to run it in health sciences, and we’d need to have a good timetabling structure for it to work across College, but if there was support from students for it we would definitely like to explore it and see if it could work across all courses.” Geoghegan has been working on the Trinity education project since September 2012 when the provost initially approached him with the idea. He said that both the previous SU education officer, Dan Ferrick, and the current officer, Jack Leahy, had assisted him in formulating the proposals presented in the student survey. Speaking to Trinity News, Jack
Scholars in controversy over refusal to stand for Latin prayers Scholars called to Junior Dean for refusing to stand Concern raised over role of faith in Irish education Henry Longden
Tn2 Editor A group of scholars have been criticised for remaining seated during prayers at Commons; the three-course meal served to scholars and fellows each weekday in the dining hall. Trinity News understands that a fellow has condemned the situation, and students have been called to the Junior Dean. Over the past four weeks, a break from custom has grown in number, as a few scholars have refused to stand the Latin psalm and grace, which take place before and after food is served. This has consisted of as many as 10 people remaining seated. Intentions are split, but some scholars have taken issue with the Christian doctrine present in the grace. Psalm 145 of the SixtoClementine Vulgate, the Latin edition of the Bible published by Pope Clement VIII, has been delivered since Bishop William Bedell introduced it to the college in 1627. One of the scholars who has decided to sit during prayers, links the issue to their wider concern about the role of faith in Irish ed-
ucation. “In our country, schools have the power to determine admission policies based on religious denomination. Taxpayers pay [teachers] for citizens to be prepared for religious rituals, and faith is systematically misrepresented as fact,” they said. “It is in this cultural context that the tradition of ten Latin prayers a week at dinnertime exists.” Others have pointed to the colonial issues which are present in the grace. After the meal, a grace is given to The Holy Trinity along with thanks for the “most serene ones”: Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I. Elizabeth I is given thanks as founder, James I as gifter of much land to the college, and Charles I as king when Bedell composed the graces. All three issued charters to the new Trinity College. One anonymous scholar commented: “There’s an extent to which the grace rightly acknowledges Trinity’s history. However, this acknowledgement is a wholly positive glorification and glosses over the complex, and often negative, colonial issues that are inextricable connected to that history. People should have a choice on how to consider these issues.” There is a question now as to whether these scholars’ actions
“Others have pointed to the colonial issues which are present in the grace. After the meal, a grace is given to The Holy Trinity along with thanks for the “most serene ones”: Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I.”
never a clear reason until you ask them personally, and the answer is often that they’re intimidated out of it. People have often talked about the nature of sexism [in debating], but I feel like what we’re doing now is different. We have demands which are going to be able to change things.” Auditor Cormac McGuinness has since told Trinity News that, “Some of the issues were raised previously, and attempts were made to address them obviously weren’t always effective. Admit-
tedly some of those issues were flagged as general problems, as distinct from specifically ones related to sexism (e.g. conduct in meetings). It’s worth remembering that once the extent of the problem was pointed out in a committee meeting in the understanding that they were unintentionally sexist, we unanimously agreed to adopt the demands, and are firmly committed to a long term change in our culture.” He said, “A lot of the more subtle forms of sexism are ones that
usually correct themselves after being pointed out. For those that persist the committee has agreed to identify it as a problem and deal with it accordingly. Considering that it is such a big issue now, subtly sexist behaviour is likely to be picked up on.” McGuinness was also careful to point out that the signatories had not accused the majority of committee members of being sexist. “The unintended negative consequences [of the note] have unfortunately caused some distress
to certain people wrongly being labelled as sexist,” he said. “This is mainly a result of people half reading or half hearing the story and understanding that all men on committee were rampant sexists, and/or that the note was intended to shame those involved. This is untrue, as stated by Naoise Dolan [on Facebook] on behalf of the signatories.”
Leahy said that he fully supported the project and had helped to formulate some of the ideas, including the proposal of a “Trinity Wednesday”. He said that the proposals are “an expression of aspiration that we’re going to have to spend the next five years trying to put ourselves in place to achieve.” When asked for his opinion on the current state of Trinity education, he said that, “I think the current Trinity education is very traditional, so there’s a lot of focus on academic performance and measuring academic performance in very old fashioned ways.” The project aims to adapt it to the demands of the 21st century, he said. In drafting the proposed changes, Geoghegan also said he had gone through a lengthy consultation process with many different bodies across college, including all 24 schools and representatives of
staff, students and various clubs and societies. He stated that in reviewing Trinity’s educational vision over the past 422 years, he had found it to be “remarkably consistent” and that in the previous two centuries “a Trinity education didn’t just prepare you for your first job, it was about giving you the range of skills that would prepare you for life.” The goal now, according to Geoghegan, is to further develop this vision for the modern day. When asked about the overall aim of this initiative, Geoghegan told Trinity News that, “At a time when there is a global debate about the nature and purpose of third-level education, he (the provost) felt that this was the time for Trinity to engage with the debate and articulate what it does best, and what it aims to deliver in its undergraduate curriculum, and ensure that we continue to provide
a world-class education to our students.” Other proposals listed in the survey include the provision of an introductory module to each course in first year to help students cope with the transition from second to third level education; the introduction of a mandatory dissertation or individual research project for every student in every course in their final year; and the formation of a ‘T-shaped’ or ‘Trinity-shaped’ education whereby each course would subscribe to a shared philosophy and aim to foster in its students both course-specific skills (the vertical part of the T) as well as ‘more general transferable’ skills (the horizontal bar of the T).
constitute a breaking of college rules which all students must assent to when receiving scholarship. Sub-section 3 of section 4, chapter 6, of the college statutes state that, “By tradition and where possible, a Scholar shall say Grace at Commons pursuant to the Chapter on the College Community.” By that chapter it is required that “Grace shall be said both before and after Commons with propriety.” The situation for many centres around whether scholars should have the choice to sit or stand, and not on the existence of the grace in general. Another scholar wanted to make clear that no disrespectful is meant towards the Scholarship, explaining that “I think that the debate about whether or not such a prayer should be said in a university context is appropriate and necessary.I want the right to not participate. I cannot say whether the prayer should go completely.” Although most are trying refusing to take action or enter discussion, one Scholar sees this as the necessary solution; “I think the debate about whether or not a religious prayer said ten times a week literally from a podium is compatible with the notion of an inclusive and modern university is absolutely worth having.” Some within the community are disappointed with this break from custom. One scholar described it as a “borderline arrogant and disrespectful misunderstanding of a harmless and historic tradition”. Secretary to the Fellows Frank Bannister added that “Grace is a propriety or protocol, a tradition which, inter alia, is a sign of respect for the head of High Table. It has absolutely no religious
significance (indeed many people sit for grace in other circumstances).” A number of the individuals involved have received the brunt of consternation, and have been “surprised” by the reactions of those around them. “We didn’t expect to be treated with scorn
for simply not participating in a religious observance,” one participant has commented. Many see scholarship as an institution steeped in tradition and majesty. Recently it has fought against change, especially in light of budget restraints. Scholarships
and fellowships are awarded to students and staff every year on the basis of academic achievement. Throughout the year, scholars are paid to recite a Latin psalm and grace at a lectern during Commons.
“The re-introduction of a “Trinity Wednesday” could see an end to afternoon classes so that students will have more time to participate in clubs and societies.”
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Students threaten to leave SU over abortion issue
T Catherine Healy News Editor
T Catherine Healy News Editor
A spokesperson for a group campaigning in this week’s abortion referendum has claimed that the SU could face an “exodus of students” if it adopts a long-term pro-choice policy. Gavin Rothwell told Trinity News that the union is likely to face a costly legal battle over student disaffiliation if it is mandated to campaign for legislation for abortion to be on request of the woman. It is understood that at least five students have expressed their intention to seek to leave the union if the referendum is passed. David Briar, one such student, told Trinity News that, “Should the SU choose to support one side over the other, they will be significantly misrepresenting a sizeable minority of their electorate, myself included. The choice, then, is ours - be misrepresented or leave.” Adam Hobson, another student who intends to disaffiliate if the referendum is passed, said that, “Remaining in a union which will advocate in my name, as a student of the University of Dublin, for abortion upon request isn’t logical. I don’t support abortion on demand; therefore I don’t want
an association that I am a member of to advocate for abortion on my behalf.” Student Karen Jeffery also told Trinity News that, “If this referendum is passed, I would not feel comfortable promoting or even belonging to a union that supported something I feel strongly against. To completely stand for my beliefs, leaving the SU would be the only option.” Trinity News understands that Gavin Rothwell and Emily Murtagh, the student who wrote an open letter to the provost last week outlining her opposition to a long-term pro-choice policy, will both also seek to leave the union if the referendum is passed. In a statement issued on behalf of all member of the campaign team, Rothwell said, “We on the No campaign feel that the SU can be united in diversity, by respecting the views of all students. The passing of this referendum would bring about the real threat of people leaving the union on the precept that they no longer feel they are being represented by the SU. Trinity has a commitment to diversity and constantly seeks to attract students from a wide
“If this referendum is passed, I would not feel comfortable promoting or even belonging to a union that supported something I feel strongly against.”
variety of cultural, religious and political backgrounds, from both Ireland and across the world. Trinity talks about its desire to be a welcoming environment for students from “non-traditional backgrounds”, but how alienating would it be for someone coming from a minority group or what Trinity refers to as a ‘non-traditional background’ which advocates a particular moral stance on this issue as something that is central to their worldview to find that the union that claims to be representing them is actively advocating a position that goes against this?” However, there is uncertainty as to whether students will be legally permitted to disaffiliate from the SU. Trinity News understands that College regulation is clear enough to require all students to have SU representation. In December, a UCD student who threatened to disaffiliate from UCD’s SU after their abortion referendum was also prevented from doing so by the union’s constitution.
Irish Copy Editor
Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill
Aonghus Ó Cochláin
Pro-choice campaign manager responds to open letter
The campaign manager for the ‘Yes’ side of this week’s SU abortion referendum has criticised an open letter published on social media last week by a campaigner for the ‘No’ side. Claire Donlon, who is campaigning for the SU to be mandated to campaign for abortion on demand, has refuted points made in the letter by Emily Murtagh, a student who intends to leave the SU if the referendum is passed and it adopts a longterm pro-choice policy. In an open letter to the provost on Thursday, Murtagh outlined her opposition to the union campaigning for any one side of the
Deputy Photo Editor
debate. Among the reasons she lists are the university’s “great emphasis on the promotion of independent thought and enquiry” and the risk that a pro-choice policy could alienate students from “non-traditional backgrounds”. Such a policy would defy the right of religious students “to hold and pursue their moral and political stances as they see fit”, she said. Speaking to Trinity News, Claire Donlon, campaign manager for the ‘Yes’ side, said that Murtagh’s points were “anti-democratic”. “Minorities are usually defined by the fact that they are socially excluded, persecuted and/or
oppressed in a way that causes harm,” she said. “Christian views are not minority views, rather views that have defined our country since the foundation of the State. These ‘minority’ views are enshrined in our laws. These are laws that are outdated and harmful.” Donlon said that the passing of the abortion referendum would ensure that the union “is working for the betterment of our students who are faced and forced into really, really awful situations. Our laws are shit. They treat women like shit. They make women feel like shit for having to go to the
lengths they do to do what they feel is what is best for them. [The “no” side] want their views to be minded and as a consequence are happy to ignore the fact that their actions are harmful. This isn’t some abstract thought experiment. This is real life.” Education officer Jack Leahy also commented on the open letter on social media. In a tweet to his 1,867 followers on Sunday, he said, “Just seen a blog post of an open letter to the Provost about a @tcdsu referendum. Imagine if the Provost had a say in the SU? No thanks.”
Pav manager denies closure claimsW
T Johnny Byrne Staff Writer
he Pavilion Bar manager has dismissed rumours that it would face closure if Trinity were to become a tobacco-free university. Speaking to Trinity News, Jason Lynch disputed the claim made by Brady Manning, campaign manager for the ‘No’ to tobacco-free Trinity side, that the bar would be forced to shut its doors if smoking is banned from campus. However, he agreed that the Pavilion would be confronted with a steep drop in revenue as groups with smokers among their number would relocate to off-campus bars. He also said that this could lead to job losses at the bar and lower revenue for DUCAC, the sports body which receive significant funding from the bar. The claim is one among a number of arguments made by the
campaign team. Another argument put forward by the ‘No’ side is that forcing students to leave campus to smoke constitutes an unreasonable restriction on their freedom. In place of the allegedly excessive prohibition across college, the ‘No’ campaign is in favour of restricting legal smoking to specific zones on campus. This would assuage fears that the status quo jeopardises the health of non-smokers, Bradley Manning told Trinity News. Manning also argued that requiring students to leave campus to smoke would lead to a high concentration of smokers at the limited number of campus entrances, increasing the risk of exposure to second-hand smoke. The point was at centre of a protest held by his team last Wednesday, when a number of
smoker activists congregated outside Front Gate to demonstrate what a “tobacco-free Trinity” could look like. Speaking to Trinity News, Manning also argued that a campuswide ban on smoking would be impossible to enforce. The constant stream of tourists on campus would make maintaining a tobacco-free Trinity difficult, he said. In addition, Manning cites as evidence for the policy’s unenforceability the fact that technically it is prohibited to smoke within four feet of the arts block. As this comparatively minor regulation goes completely unenforced, Manning is dubious that college will be able to prohibit smoking completely. However, Gabriel Adewusi, the human health and disease stu-
dent and campaign manager for the ‘Yes’ to tobacco-free Trinity side, is confident that a smoking ban can be rolled out across Trinity. He points to the fact that smoke-free policies have been successfully implemented in over 1,000 colleges across the USA. Manning remains confident that student opinion is on his side. As such, his small team’s strategy for success at a potential referendum is to maximise turnout. However, in an April 2013 survey of 5,500 members of the college community, 54% supported TFT. Among undergraduates, this figure was lower, just over 50%; but among staff and postgraduates, support for the policy was much higher, at 65% and 58% respectively.
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Student nurses protest against “training” wage of €6.49 an hour Graduate nurses salariy cut by ¤4000 HSE increase working hours INMO claim management in breach of national minimum wage legislation James Prendergast
Deputy News Editor The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has launched its “Everybody Loves Nurses” campaign against the reduction in starting salary of graduate nurses by ¤4,000 to ¤22,000 and the payment of below minimum wage salaries to nurses on their final year work placements. The campaign began with a demonstration outside Leinster House last Friday, with student nurses and representatives from ten colleges and from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) participating, with some arriving dressed in hospital props and scrubs. A further protest outside HSE headquarters is planned for Thursday the 20th of February, which the USI hopes will be attended by around 500 student nurses. The campaign aims to draw attention to the contrast between society’s dependence on healthcare staff and the pay they receive, with campaigners brandishing lapel-pins labelled “Am I worth ¤6.49?” USI President Joe O’Connor called on the Minister for Health James Reilly to “change the starting salary back to ¤26,000”. The USI claims that nursing graduates in Canada earn a starting salary of ¤43,600 and O’Connor said the cut in the starting salary “is actively encouraging young
graduate nurses to emigrate.” He called understaffing in healthcare a “massive issue” and declared that “everyone has a right to a living wage, especially hard working nurses”. In January 2013 the INMO organised a boycott of the HSE’s plan to recruit 1,000 nursing graduates at the new lower starting salaries. Pay for student nurses on their 36 week fourth year placements has been set at ¤6.49 for the first 12 weeks of their placement, before rising to ¤6.92 for the next 12 weeks and ¤7.79 in the last 12 weeks, still well below the national minimum wage of ¤8.65 per hour. On average over the placement, students are paid about 53 per cent of the minimum wage. The government announced in 2011 that it planned to reduce student nurses’ pay to 50 per cent of the minimum wage in 2013 and to continue reducing it each year, with the target of zero pay by 2015. The HSE described the payment of trainee nurses as “unique” to Ireland. The HSE has since increased working hours for nurses and midwives from 37.5 to 39 hours per week, in a move which the HSE said was part of the Haddington Road Agreement between the government and public sector unions. The INMO maintains that management is in breach of national minimum wage legislation, and says it has filed a complaint against the HSE to the Labour Relations Commission.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Comment Editor, William Foley argues that homophobia is a matter of structures, not intentions. Comment
Election Poll Results Trinity News polled 771 students in its second election survey on Thursday and Friday. The survey was conducted online and restricted to Trinity Facebook groups. Here are the results.
Chair of DUGES criticises candidate for frat involvement James Wilson Staff Writer The chair of the Dublin University Gender Equality Society, Oilbhe Cahill Reid, has expressed disapproval of the SU candidacy of Jasper Pickersgill, a former member of Theta Omicron, the elite Zeta Psi fraternity’s Dublin branch. Speaking to Trinity News, Cahill Reid said that, “The fact that a future SU presidential candidate was a member of a widely unpopular and controversial institution that excludes a large number of the student population -both male and female, suggests the candidate is unsuitable to hold a position that represents all Trinity students equally.” She was keen to stress that the elitism of the organisation, which, as well as excluding women, “is not for all men, and excludes a large majority of the male population of Trinity, deemed ineligible of invitation.” The existence of the fraternity has been a matter of perennial controversy since the Dublin chapter’s foundation in 2012. At the time, the SU Council decreed that the organisation was “elitist and sexist” and mandated all sabbatical officers to “publicly and actively campaign against College recognition of any fraternity or sorority, should any such organisation apply for recognition from any of College’s capitated bodies.” The motion enjoyed such strong support from students in attendance that it was passed unanimously after speaker upon speaker lined up to denounce, in the strongest terms, the all-male organisation. In an interview with this paper, Jasper Pickersgill admitted that whilst he joined the fraternity in first year to make friends and combat feelings of isolation, he began having problems with its “policies” in second year. He added that he knew the issue would “sink or swim this whole [presidential] campaign” and that he had taken advice from his campaign manager on the issue. He said that he thought the organisation was “quite elitist” and that students should be “discouraged” from joining it. However, when pressed, he added that “if we [the SU] did [try and discourage that], it would kind of make them want to make them join it more.” At the time of writing, six SU
Illustration: Aoife Comey candidates had responded to questioning on the issue. Presidential candidate Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne stated that he felt it “incompatible to be a member of an inherently exclusive organisation and simultaneously to lead an organisation fundamentally based on inclusivity. They represent completely conflicting principles.” However, he stressed that he would “take Jasper at face value when he says that making some friends and having fun were the motivation for signing up. I empathise with him that he didn't necessarily consider the deeper ramifications of doing so.” Welfare candidate Ian Mooney told Trinity News, "To be honest I know very little of the frat, the goings on inside the frat and the activities they get up to. I have nothing to judge Jasper on personally, as I don't know him particularly well, and so I won't. I've no interest in joining myself but his membership is his own
choice. If anything though, I think the attention that his frat membership is attracting is doing something that's been a real struggle to do in the past and is actually encouraging a lot of women to consider applying for leadership roles in college." Katie Byrne, an unopposed candidates in the education race, admitted that, “To be honest, I don't know much about the frat and I have only known Jasper since the start of the campaigns so I'm not really in a position to pass any comment.” Communications candidate, PJ Moloney, insisted that he was “happy to let the student voters judge Jasper on his record. For my part I think it is crazy that anyone thinks that even a whiff of sexist behaviour is ok. If I win [the election], there will no tolerance for it.” Ents candidate Aleksandra Giersz said, “Personally, I think the idea of a ‘men’s only organisation’ is a bit ridiculous in the 21st century. But Jasper stated
during the husting that he was an active member in first year to ‘make friends’, and not having much insight into the case, I feel that I can’t judge him based on his past.”Communications candidate Samuel Riggs said, “I am opposed, of course, to any groups and societies that do not uphold the ideals of equality, and operate on a basis of elitism or exclusivity.” The Zeta Psi fraternity was founded in the United States in 1847 and describes itself as striving to be “the premier international men’s fraternal organization” and an “historic, elite, and intimate brotherhood.” Membership benefits, according to the organisation’s website, include the offer of “top undergrads high-quality internships” in New York and Washington D.C. through access to the organisation’s “vast network of contacts”. Theta Omicron is its only branch in Ireland.
Presidential candidates hesitant to discuss abortion issue Eva Short Staff Writer In the lead-up to this week’s abortion referendum, SU presidential candidates, Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne and Jasper Pickersgill, have both been hesitant to align themselves with a particular side of the debate. This comes despite the union potentially being mandated to campaign for legislation for abortion to be upon request of the woman if the referendum is passed by a majority of students. When asked in an interview last week with Trinity News about his opinion on the issue of abortion, Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne said he "didn't run to discuss abortion" and "genuinely [didn't]
know". He said, "I haven't got [my stance on the issue] entirely sorted in my head". He later went on to say that he would take time to "mull over the issue" before the polling. He also explained his concerns about the referendum, stating the importance of "striking a balance" between acting on behalf of the students and alienating those who do not agree with the abortion referendum's outcome, citing the "profound tension" pervading the issue. However, he said that he "would be comfortable" campaigning in favour of the “yes” stance, were that the prevailing stance in the referendum vote. Jasper Pickersgill meanwhile told Trinity News that he "personally won't take a stance" in advance of the referendum as he feels he would be "misrepre-
senting students". He also said that, even in the event of a “yes” vote, he could "be actively campaigning for the 'yes' campaign and actively campaigning for the ‘no’ campaign". When asked whether he felt campaigning for the “no” side in the event of a prevailing “yes” vote would be railing against the referendum's mandate, he explained that he "would be going against what the majority decided, but we can't forget about the minority". He acknowledged that he "would have to make a decision" regarding his official stance on abortion at some point and explained that he "would definitely be campaigning for whatever the majority of students decided", but also explained that he "would be campaigning for the other side as well". However, he appeared
to later retract this statement in conceding that campaigning simultaneously for both sides would be "impossible to do". Neither candidate in the race expressed enthusiasm for the referendum in general, with Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne deeming the abortion debate "a uniquely emotive issue" which has "deep ramifications" for the SU and the students within it. Jasper Pickersgill expressed similar sentiments, saying that many students are "very adamant" on the topic and that the referendum could potentially "split the students". Pickersgill also said that he does not "think [this referendum] was a good idea in the first place"
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Tuesday 11th February 2014
Online Editor, Matthew Mulligan interviews Drag Queen and activist, Rory O'Neill aka Panti Bliss about oppression the man on the street, and the marriage referendum.
Leadership Race: President Only two candidates remain in this year’s Students’ Union (SU) Presidential race after Neil Cronin left the race last week. The successful candidate will be charged with the task of co-ordinating the campaigns and the day-to-day activities of the SU, maintaining and improving SU services and voicing students’ concerns on campus. Trinity News interviewed both candidates last week.
J James Prendergast Deputy News Editor
asper Pickersgill, campaigning under his nickname “The Pig” is a third year engineering student, who has held many positions in student societies. But he dismissed this experience as largely irrelevant, instead underlining his experience of running a marquee company each summer since the age of 18. Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne is a third year medicine student and is currently Health Science Faculty Convenor who has been involved in the SU since first year. He rejected the idea that he’s an insider. “A fresh perspective is not the opposite of experience”, he argued. Pickersgill said that he expected the controversy surrounding his past membership of the Zeta Psi fraternity and wasn’t annoyed by it. He claimed he felt isolated in his first year and joined after friends told him about how the fraternity would “get together and go drinking”. He insisted that he is not a member of the fraternity and said the exclusion of women is his biggest criticism. He called the fraternity “quite elitist” and said that it looked for members to fit a particular “mould”, with rugby players like him being an especial favourite. As President, he said he would educate students to discourage them from joining. Both manifestos are noticeable for being short on politics. Pickersgill said that many students are “not interested in politics”, and claimed an emphasis on practical policies would engender interest in SU campaigns. He also recommended the use of college email for voting, a policy which he said has been implemented in other universities. McGlacken-Byrne insisted radicalisation wouldn’t be his “first port of call”. He described himself as “not a megaphone-type person”. Greater student representation on the committees that make decisions in college would allow the SU to “nip things in the
"Trinity has failed, McGlacken-Byrne said, to fulfil the pledge made in its 2009-2014 strategic plan to ensure equality of access and the fostering of talent wherever it exists. This “pretty much does not happen in Trinity”, he claimed. For Trinity, he added, talent “is particularly handy if it exists in a south Dublin private school”.
bud”, he claimed. He pointed out that the finance committee that hiked international student fees in September had zero student representation. Pickersgill appeared more receptive to radical action, claiming “my personality would come across that way”. While sit-ins would probably indicate the SU is a “bit late”, he said the action would show “great defiance” by students. McGlacken-Byrne placed great importance on his proposal to introduce a four-year strategic plan. “Admitting that some issues can’t be dealt with in one year“ is, he said, “the first step towards noticing that these issues are inherently long term”. He promised the plan would be put to referendum before next Christmas giving students the opportunity to “throw it back in my face”. This “powerful” document, he said would be drawn up in consultation with “students, some staff, and maybe some prior sabbatical officers”. However, he conceded that the document wouldn’t be binding on his successor. When it comes to communicating with students, Pickersgill hopes to take quite a traditional approach. A previous SU President had, he said, stood outside the front entrance of college in a bright-red suit every second morning between 8.30 and 9.30 to talk to students. Pickersgill committed to wearing a similarly brightly coloured outfit and making himself available to talk to students for an hour. He also proposed employing students at below minimum wages to go about campus representing the SU a couple of times a week talking to students before reporting directly back to him as President. McGlacken-Byrne plans to use a new Feedback App, a “What Annoys You about College?” section on the SU website, and a prominent suggestion box, which students can use to suggest practical
improvements. He said that while office hours are a good idea, sabbatical officers often get “bogged down in meetings”. Trinity has failed, McGlackenByrne said, to fulfil the pledge made in its 2009-2014 strategic plan to ensure equality of access and the fostering of talent wherever it exists. This “pretty much does not happen in Trinity”, he claimed. For Trinity, he added, talent “is particularly handy if it exists in a south Dublin private school”. He proposed that students should get credits for visiting and making presentations about Trinity to disadvantaged schools. This policy was praised by Pickersgill, who said that these presentations would allow students with little work experience improve their CVs. He said he would make signing up to an SUsponsored employment agency; to which students could upload their LinkedIn profiles, an option that students could choose when they pay their registration fee. Neither candidate clearly came out with a pro-life or pro-choice stance. While McGlacken-Byrne said that while he would be comfortable running a campaign for one side in an abortion referendum in his role as the Students’ Union’s chief campaigns officer, he stressed that it was important for the SU to find a “fuzzy middle ground” between including all students and making stances. Pickersgill said the SU referendum wasn’t “a good idea in the first place”. He emphasised that he would actively support both sides of the debate, no matter what the outcome of next week’s referendum. If he only campaigned for one side, a large number of students would, he said, feel “incredibly left out”. He expressed the same desire for compromise in his policy towards tobacco on campus. While, personally he thought a smokefree campus would be “great”, as President he said he could not
"Pickersgill said that he expected the controversy surrounding his past membership of the Zeta Psi fraternity and wasn’t annoyed by it. He claimed he felt isolated in his first year and joined after friends told him about how the fraternity would “get together and go drinking”. He insisted that he is not a member of the fraternity and said the exclusion of women is his biggest criticism."
support the ban as it would be a “misrepresentation” of the student body as whole. Instead, he proposed the building of smoking areas with seating and covers. In his manifesto McGlackenByrne calls “a large scale voter registration drive” ahead of the referendum in 2015 on extending marriage to same-sex couples “a priority for me”. He said that he would like next year’s Rainbow Week to coincide with the referendum. By contrast, Pickersgill admitted that he hadn’t thought much before about LGBT issues before the issues the community faces “really hit home” when he saw the speech that drag performer Panti Bliss had made in the Abbey Theatre. He expressed his desire to further the “fulfilment” of LGBT people in society and said he would actively campaign for marriage equality. Mental-health issues were absent from both manifestos. McGlacken-Byrne said he had “no specific orientation” regarding mental health. He maintained the issue had progressed in “leaps and bounds”, alluding to the work of Tom Lenihan. Meanwhile, Pickersgill disclosed that he had a “lot of experience” with mental health and said he understood “how important it is to get people talking”. The candidates were in agreement about the possible privatisation of college. McGlacken –Byrne had defiant words for the Provost. His “agenda” to “drag us up the rankings by any means necessary“ had, McGlacken-Byrne said, “become clear”. He warned that the Provost is “batting us away very easily”, aided by the fact that seven different SU Presidents will hold office during the remainder of the Provost’s term. Pickersgill plainly described privatisation as a “bad idea” involving “a lot of negatives” such as “dramatically increased fees”. Additional reporting by Eva Short
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Education Education is one of the most important roles within the SU but this year sees only one candidate vying for the position. Editor, Elaine McCahill interviews SS Katie Byrne on her policies, women within in the SU and her plans for next year assuming she defeats Ron.
S Elaine McCahill Editor
enior sophister, Katie Byrne, may be the only candidate running for the position of Education officer but this does not detract from her realistic manifesto and ability to do the job. Her manifesto, which outlines her policies for the position, may be relatively simple but if enacted, these policies will truly make a great deal of difference to that average student’s life. Too often during these campaigns, huge promises are thrown around in order to secure votes, often never to be brought up again once the reality of the job hits home. Katie’s aims are clear and concise and for the most part are achievable policies. Her plans for Blackboard, timetables and appeals processes, if enacted, will relieve a lot of stress on students and ensure a better framework is in place for incoming students. While aspirational policies are also important and necessary in order to believe in a greater vision for the SU in the future, we need real policies that can be enacted without huge sums of money or reluctance from College administration. In speaking to Trinity News, Katie outlines her views on her manifesto, why more women don’t run for positions and how frustrating rising fees are. When asked about her policies and which one she really wants to see enacted, Katie describes how her policies are based on issues herself and her friends were confronted with: “Most of my policies have been taken from my own and my friend’s experiences, it’s just very practical problems that a lot of students would come across in college, which are relatively simple to solve, it’s just nothing has been done about them.” In particular, it’s her desire to reform of class rep training that comes to the fore: “I would really love to improve the class rep training, just because a lot of reps underestimate how much they can do for their class or what an influence
they can have on their class, they are the first port of call if someone does have an issue, they see the students every day so they can keep tabs on those who may be struggling a little bit, they can make sure they’re coping, I’d really love to push the point of view that they have a responsibility to their class but also that they can make a real difference.” When questioned further about how rep training could be changed, Katie argues in favour of more structured and directed training, as well as a reduction in costs: " The training could be far more directed, there’s a lot of skills that will apply to all courses, but the kind of problems that I would have as a zoolology student are miles away from the problems that nurses or med students are having, more directed training is necessary. In later years it’s about helping students manage stress, to make those last two years as easy possible. The training needs to be more directed so that reps can look after their classes specifically. Class rep training also needs to be more cost effective. I feel that by keeping class rep training closer to Dublin it will reduce costs and it will also attract a better choice of speakers, as they possibly won't have to travel as far. it needs to be value for money, having them al together for that one weekend is great, it allows them all to interact and spread ideas and work together during the year so it is quite practical to get them all together like that but it needs to be run efficiently so that you’re not wasting any time throughout the day, and that they come out of it really prepared for looking after their class for that year and understand the responsibility that they’ve taken on." As most students know, the Blackboard resource is chronically under-used in Trinity, and as one of her main campiagn policies, I wonder how Katie is going to change this trend. Katie claims
it's all about how it is marketed to both faculty and students: " I know a lot of people are not fans of using it but If it’s used properly it is a really good resource. We really just need to get lectures on board. There 15,000 students who’ve had to get used to using it and adjust to it and lecturers should be obliged to do the same, that’s what it’s there for. If we can get lecturers really on board with it, and using it as a resource, it’s such an efficient way for students to have all their lecture materials in one place but also that the discussion board facility on it would be a much more efficient way of
lecturers communicating with students. Lecturers probably get fifty emails from students asking them the same question and they just don’t have time to get back to them all and if the discussion board was utilised the way it was intended, one student ask the question, everyone can see that it’s been asked and the lecturer only has to answer it once and it’s far more efficient, more practical and if it’s sold to them in a way that it’s going to reduce their workload then hopefully we’ll get them on board." With regard to the SU as a whole, Katie really wants to see the the SU website
utilised more and plans to change the education page to include relevant information depending on the time of the year. Much has been said about the lack of women running for positions within the SU and it is something that Katie hopes will change in the future: "Jack tried to address it this year, he tried to open a discussion at student council to see if anyone did have any ideas about how to encourage girls to go for it but not much came of it, so hopefully as a female Sabat next year, I might be able to inspire more girls to run. I think a lot of the issue is that we need to inspire women
to run for these positions, if they can see other girls putting themselves forward or if they’re made aware of the amount of unbelievable women professors that are in our college, it might really inspire them to go for it." Katie also hopes to push forward national ccampaigns with regard to issues such as fees and LGBTQ rights as well as internal campaigns to advertise the Student Learning and Counselling centres.
Entertainment Ents is the most hotly contested race this year, at least numerically, with three candidates – Aleksandra Giersz, Finn Murphy, and Ben Ó Mathúin – battling it out for the position. Ents is, regrettably or otherwise, the branch of the SU that (with the exception of Communications perhaps) students have the most contact with. Ents officers command a large budget and control a huge turnover and must possess reasonably sophisticated organisational skills.
F William Foley Comment Editor
inn Murphy, a third year mechanical engineering student, is the only Sophister in the running. Murphy enjoys organising events and he cites this as being the main motivating factor in his going for the position. His main organisational experience has derived from various positions in the Ents Exec, DU Snowsports, Trinity Sailing Club and Fish Soc, and he cites his familiarity with the inner workings of the SU as being the reason why he alone of the three Ents candidates has escaped sanctions from the electoral commission. His leaflet is reasonably well produced and the prose doesn’t leave you with the urge to shove a biro up your nose (a significant accomplishment for an SU candidate). Some of his more novel policies include a Trinity Film Festival, an Ents Red Card which could be bought at the start of term and would give free access to all Ents events throughout the year, and modifications to the Ents revenue model. He plans to begin, as soon as he is elected, to search for new sponsorship deals for Ents. This will involve renegotiating a larger deal with Vodafone which has progressively cut the value of its sponsorship over the last few years. He has also pledged to “bring back” Pav Fridays. This will involve some infrastructural investment including the purchase of big screens as well as awnings and outdoor heaters (which the Pav have told Murphy will cost around five thousand euro). This money will, due to the guidelines governing capitated bodies, have to be fundraised. The student voter may thus be left impressed by Murphy’s ambition but also suspicious of his ability to pull off his promises. Murphy may have more experience in student society affairs but, if Ben Ó Mathúin is to be believed, he has the edge when it comes to his experience in the “Dublin nightclub scene”, in which he has been “heavily involved” for the past three years (an impressive bullet point on the resumé of any second year student). Whereas Murphy comes across as solid and sober in person, Ó Mathúin is animated and eager to express the enjoyment he takes in organising parties and events. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm comes across a bit too strongly in his election leaflet where Ó Mathúin can’t resist repeatedly using double exclamation marks. (This writer almost resorted to the old bironose treatment.) Nevertheless, this is a minor quibble and while Ó Mathúin may not have many new ideas (“keeping up the good
work” is the title of one section in his leaflet), his experience is certainly impressive. Ó Mathúin is involved in a senior position in Nightlife, a commercial enterprise for which he organises “hundreds of class parties for students in UCD, DIT and TCD on a weekly basis.” This helps Ó Mathúin to earn his daily crust but it pains him that he has to put an extra “two or three euro per head” on every booking in order to make a living. Being Ents officer will allow him to cut the markup and offer students cheaper nights out while salving his conscience. Ó Mathúin promises to organise “annual cross-course nights.” He has plans, like Murphy, to revitalise Pav Fridays. When drawn on whether he would commit to making the kind of large infrastructural investments which Murphy is touting, Ó Mathúin is reticent – he says that he would prefer not to make big promises which may turn out to be impossible to keep. He also plans to organise “more non-
"All candidates, when asked, expressed their concern with Ireland’s drinking problem. Nevertheless, this concern has not really transferred into policy. "
alcoholic events!!” as he puts it in the leaflet, such as “football tournaments, yoga and Zumba classes!!” When drawn on the issue of sponsorship, Ó Mathúin alluded to some informal conversations which he has had with “entertainment firms”, particularly drinks companies. It is unclear as to how a sponsorship firm with a drinks company will gel with college strictures on alcohol advertising. He has also promised “bigger and better balls.” Aleksandra Giersz, the third candidate, is, sadly, a somewhat exceptional figure in the “leadership race”, by virtue of her youth (she is a first year), her gender, and her non-Irish nationality. Her personal motivation for running is that she aims to have a career in event and backstage management. It is very clear that running for election is part of some sort of career plan, which involves putting down a marker for subsequent elections, should she not be elected this time. Unfortunately this has inspired her to make some curious moves in
her campaign. She refuses to give definite and detailed policies as she is worried that people would “steal her ideas”, thus disadvantaging her if she were to run for election again. As a result, her leaflet is fairly small and contains only a fraction of the text of Ó Mathúin’s and Murphy’s leaflets. What promises that are there are quite vague and are, moreover, standard fare for any candidate – she wants to organise more inclusive events, she wants to hear students’ suggestions on improving Ents, pledges better communication and promises to “arrange events in new and unusual venues.” Though having said that, her leaflet is my personal favourite; its aesthetics are pleasing, there is no contrived slogan (unlike Ó Mathúin’s groan-worthy #Bentertainment), there are no lame attempts at humour, chumminess is kept to a bearable level, and it is small and thus easily pocketable (and binnable). At any rate, her deliberate obliqueness with respect to
policies may leave many students wondering, firstly, what exactly they are voting for, and, secondly, whether she actually has any well-defined policies at all. On the sponsorship issue, she expressed a desire to renegotiate with Vodafone or, failing that, look elsewhere for sponsorship, but she also admitted to having no definite or particular plans. She is also enthusiastic about revitalising the Pav. She does not accept that she is relatively inexperienced compared to the other two and cites her volunteering experience at festivals around Ireland. Certainly she is an impressive candidate when you consider that she has only been in Trinity for four months. Regardless of how she does in the elections (and she has done well in TN’s opinion poll), we will certainly be hearing more from her soon. All candidates, when asked, expressed their concern with Ireland’s drinking problem. Nevertheless, this concern has not really transferred into policy. Ó Mathúin states in his leaflet that “Alcohol is a serious problem in Ireland, especially when it comes to events!” As such, he has pledged, as mentioned above, to hold more non-alcoholic events because “There’s no reason why we can’t have the same fun sober!! “Nevertheless, he has also promised to move to a more frequent weekly club night and to hold “dirt-cheap events!” Murphy also wants a “weekly affordable night for Trinity students.” As mentioned above, Murphy is the only candidate who has not been sanctioned by the electoral committee. Both Giersz and Ó Mathúin have been sanctioned for accidental infringements and Ó Mathúin’s punishment – the removal of his online presence for a week – was particularly harsh. Nevertheless, both students have remained sanguine in the face of the sanctions. Ó Mathúin in particular believes that he has converted the curse into a blessing by using word of mouth to spread the “Bentertainment message.” How successfully all candidates have spread their own message will be revealed in due course. Unfortunately, Ben Ó Mathúin was unable to attend the Trinity News photoshoot.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Communications For seasoned observers of SU elections, the race for Communications Officer is usually the most exciting and unpredictable. The prospect of defining the SU's communications policy and holding the reigns over the University Times usually result in some interesting ideas, and this years candidates may possibly be the last ones to be elected both Communications Officer and UT Editor.
I Eva Short Staff Writer
t is always interesting to note how the people vying for the position of Communications Officer present themselves; how it is they choose to 'communicate' their message and ultimately to see who emerges successful, and why. This year, two have stepped forward in the hopes of becoming next year’s Communications Officer; Samuel Riggs, 3rd Year English Student and PJ Moloney, 4th Year Film Student. There is both a crossover in their policies and stark contrast in how both candidates have decided to get their 'message' to the student body. It wasn't hard to track Sam Riggs down in the Arts Block, as he was flanked by a crowd of his forest green campaigners. Some of these campaigners were engaging passing Arts block students, pointing to Sam's crooked close-lipped smile on the cover of his flier; the others peered up as Sam talked strategy with them. He greeted me with a wide smile as I pulled him aside to conduct the interview. When I asked him how he had been finding the campaign trial, he gushed "It is very stressful, but I absolutely love campaigning. The main thing I think I love is the lecture addresses, especially when they're first years." He emphasised how much he enjoyed meeting people, stating simply "I'm a people person", and his eminent charisma from the very start of our conversation was testimony to this. Later, PJ Moloney arrived for our interview in the Publications Office and adjusted himself quietly into his chair. PJ was a composed presence amid the busyness of the office, unperturbed by the activity around him. His measured countenance mirrors his choice of campaign strategy - PJ's presence cannot be felt to the same extent in the Arts Block as Sam's, bar some striking, unadorned yellow and black posters simply bearing "PJ Moloney for Communications". PJ has opted to focus his energies on the online platform, most notably through his video Trinity Can Be Happy, which has as of now garnered over 3,000 views. When asked why he made this choice, and whether he felt that not presenting in person was taking a risk, he explained "I think campaigning online has been an interesting experience. I think it has highlighted the issues that need to be dealt with regarding the the EC's
rules of campaigning. I can absolutely see why someone would think it has damaged my reputation but at the same time I think I went into this campaign with a very clear purpose; that I am running to change the way the Student's Union communicates to students and the outside world. I didn't want to just say it, I wanted to show it." Sam expressed admiration for PJ's video, saying that it has gotten a "marvellous amount of hits". However, he stressed the importance of engaging students in the public sphere. "I think this is a battle that can be fought online but won on the ground." He continued "I love meeting people and getting them excited about the role of Communications Officer." On the subject of the role of Communications Officers, this year's candidates have to contend with the very interesting debate of whether the Communications Officer position should be made separate from the University Times editorship. While the University Times has always been, according to the Constitution, "editorially independent", concerns have been raised over whether it's possible to wear the two hats at the same time. PJ Moloney has, in his campaign, advocated in favour of this separation, suggesting that the UT editorship is not synonymous with the position of Communications Officer. "According to the Constitution, the Communications officer must produce a Union newspaper, The University Times. I wouldn't interpret this as meaning that the Communications Officer acts as editor, though I can see how someone could interpret it differently." He continues "effectively, it says that the Communications Officer is the managing editor of Union publications." He has suggested that if elected, he would introduce cyclical editorships. " I would edit the first edition of UT", he explained, going on to say that the editorship would then be taken up by a core group of 3 - 4 editors each taking turns so as to reduce their workload. Samuel Riggs has said that he is also in favour of the proposed separation, but has also stated "I think it should be something that goes towards the students first." Riggs raised the question of whether "the quality of the University Times [would] suffer" in the event the proposed split. "At
the current minute the reason we have a Communications Officer who also takes on the role of University Times editor is that they can give it their all", explaining that if a student took on the role of editor part time that their grades could suffer as a result. The separation raises questions of the function of the Communications Officer as a stand-alone position, and both candidates have expressed a distinct idea of the ultimate purpose of the Communications Officer. Samuel Riggs has said he feels the role of Communications Officer is "to represent the public face of the Union", while PJ Moloney has stated that he wants the Communications Officer to be someone
"who liaises with the student body and encourages dialogue between students." This dialogue is particularly important when considering the pervasive apathetic attitudes of students towards both voting and campaigning in general. Samuel Riggs has suggested that he would collaborate with the Campaigns Officer and work to "push [campaigns] via social media" and to "liaise with students" PJ Moloney has expressed a similar strategy, though stresses the importance of "getting the message of the SU to the students" as well as getting the students to talk to each other. “We don't talk about getting students to discuss things, not engaging with the SU necessarily,
but engaging with each other." He further detailed the intention to launch a "press strategy and a lobbying strategy", elaborating on this by saying he intends if elected to "talk with journalists from different papers outside the college." It is difficult to say who will emerge victorious in this race - a recent Trinity News poll has indicted that PJ Moloney has emerged with 43% of the vote, while Sam has 34%. Pending the results of the University Times poll, this is the only indication of the voters’ leanings. When asked about the results, PJ explained that he did not want "to get too cocky". Sam Riggs congratulated his opponent on the result, expressing that he was happy for PJ,
but posited that the results came out this way because "not everyone had been able to see the force that Team Riggs could bring." Both Samuel Riggs and PJ Moloney have made monumental efforts to sway the voters, with the former opting to speak with students on the ground and the latter hoping to gauge the effectiveness of online campaigning and how receptive the modern student is to this approach. This reporter will undoubtedly be watching the Election polls with bated breath, for the results will have extremely interesting implications for the fate of how our Student's Union will choose to communicate with us in the coming year.
The Times, they are a-changing In addition to managing the communications of the Students Union, one of the main responsibilities of the Communications Officer has been to edit and manage The University Times, an editorially independent student newspaper funded by the Students Union. Eva Short pulls back the veil on how this came to be, and what is at stake in the race for the communications office.
I Eva Short Staff Writer
t may come as a surprise to people, but the University Times is technically only five years old. This revelation that the paper is a relatively new part of college life, given that the paper is now seen as a journalistic fixture within Trinity College, with over 100 articles appearing on the online edition monthly. Before this, the University Times was called the University Record. It was effectively an SU report, a more extensive form of the SU bulletin sent to students inboxes on Sunday night, often including comments written by Sabbats themselves. Between that point and now, Communications Officers have come and gone, and it is due to the efforts of these officers that the paper is as we know it now. Most notably, the efforts of the first two people to take on the role of University Times Editor, Rob Donohoe and Tom Lowe. Rob Donohoe actually ran for the title of "Deputy President," a role which would only later be redefined as Communications Officer. The plaque stating this earlier title in fact still sits on the door of the SU Communications Office. Rob told me that this title did not explain what the job entailed, and that the Constitution had been redrafted subsequent to him taking the Deputy President role in 2009. As part of his manifesto, he pledged to reform the University Record. "I wanted to make the University Record more independent editorially from the Union..[The University Record] used to be a lot of fluff news" He hastened to add "I knew a lot of the editors of the Record before that, and they did a good job but I thought the students needed something different." He wanted the encourage "healthy competition" between the University Times and Trinity News, explaining that competitiveness fosters quality content. However, Donohoe faced many challenges in establishing the University Times as a broadsheet. "I knew very little about how to make a paper, we had to figure out things like whether we were going to change the name,
whether we'd start the voluming number all over again, whether we going to move from tabloid size to broadsheet...we had to figure out printers, InDesign...We had the old TN editor, Gearóid, as a consultant at the time to teach us things like how to use InDesign. In the first few weeks, it was all about logistics." The next challenge, Rob explained, was finding writers and contending with the fact that around campus that the University Record was "perceived as a bad paper", making it difficult to encourage people to write for them. "We often had to write the articles ourselves and put them under pseudonyms. A lot of the articles in the first couple of editions were written by us, under these pseudonyms." Robs's choice of nom de plume was influenced by his interest in English rock band The Libertines. " Pete Barât and Carl Doherty were ones I used, I was very proud of those two." Overall it seems as if the University Times had a rocky start since its inception. "It was very much trial and error" Rob said, "There were a lot of late nights. One edition didn't make it to the printers on time, and it was delayed by a day." He cited difficulties figuring out how to set colours in InDesign to print properly, and one error in production that resulted in the paper not being able to wrap around, resulting in a paper produced in two halves "It looked awful" Rob laughed, glancing down at the most recent edition of the University Times that I had given him as a comparison. Donohoe and the University Times emerged victorious from this transition period, and Donohoe recounted the point at which he felt there was a turnaround in the campus wide impression of UT. " People started wanting to submit articles, started want to write for us. I remember once getting the bus to my parent's house and hearing people in front of me discussing the paper. They didn't know who I was, and I thought then that we were engaging people." Following Rob was
"Both Rob Donohue and Tom Lowe were unequivocal in their support of the proposed split, sentiments echoing each other when they both expressed, with almost identical phrasing, that it was difficult to "wear the two hats" of UT Editor and Communications Officer at the same time." It's never going to be completely editorially independent" Tom Low states, "when you're being paid by the Student's Union."
Tom Lowe, who had previously written for Trinity News, but was attracted to University Times as he saw it as a "new publication to get involved with....I looked forward to getting involved and taking the reigns. There was a very small number of staff, and I wanted to get new volunteers and new writers on board." Tom aimed to continue on the trajectory that Rob had put the University Times on, though his time as UT Editor is characterised in particular by a move towards the online sphere. "During the year  there was a shift." Over the course of the year, he explained, the online newspaper ceased in being a place where the least intriguing stories were put, a place of content overflow. The "big byline" was suddenly on the internet. "That changed because of Facebook. You can really start conversations online...anything can happen with online content, it can be shared across the world." Lowe was inspired to initiate a shift to online due to a personal interest in technology and a desire to increase the flow of University Times content. He obtained a Wordpress domain, explaining that it was more "user-friendly" than the pre-existing system in place. " Wordpress is popular and very easy to set up." Online became a priority, and with the help of UT staff such as Peter Twomey, Lowe was able to upload and optimise online content. In order to garner 'Likes' for the Facebook page, he utilised "the SU's communication capabilities" by advertising the newly established website in the weekly email blast " We got 2500 - 3000 likes from that alone" he explained. The University Times’ most notorious story that year involved mischief caused on a ski trip, but Tom says the best work they did was in coverage of the 2010 "Merrion Row ruckus" kicked off by students in response to issues such as fees hikes and grant cuts. The slogan " Education not Emigration" was at the forefront of the movement. "We used technology well, and [Ronan] Burtenshaw was constantly collating the
information. When the protests got violent, it gained national attention. Outside journalists were taking their cues from us...we couldn't have organised it without our technical capabilities.” I felt compelled to ask both the formers editors how they felt about the division between editor and communications officer, particularly in the wake of the recently proposed separation of the University Times editorship from the role of Communications Officer, not least since SU Elections are taking place at the time of writing this. Both were unequivocal in their support of the proposed split, sentiments echoing each other when they both expressed, with almost identical phrasing, that it was difficult to "wear the two hats" of UT Editor and Communications Officer at the same time." It's never going to be completely editorially independent" Tom Low states, "when you're being paid by the Student's Union." He continues " You're in weekly meetings with the people you're publishing articles about...it did get very tense, and the reporting was affected." He explained that while the Communications Officer can put up an "editorial firewall" to ensure they keep the roles separate in their mind, this is dependant on who is at the helm. "Some will enforce this firewall more so than others, and it is up to the student body to choose people who support this firewall." Rob Donohoe called the process of splitting one's mind in the role of Communications Officer a "cognitive dissonance", saying "I had to make it very clear to the other Sabbats that I had a cognitive dissonance, that I had to divide my head in two. I made it clear that things I learned as Communications Officer would not be used as a story, but that if people, the employees [of University Times], found out independently, I would allow that information to be passed on. We weren't going to sugar coat anything. Fees were a big issue at the time. If someone had wanted to write a pro-fees article, I would have let them, but equally allowed there
to be a platform on which people could counter any argument put forward...If there was a very prounion stance, I would try to find an anti-union stance to complement it." He said that he "always thought of [the two positions] as separate", telling me about how he once used this separation to fight against a mandate that was brought against him by the Irish Language society at the time " The Irish language people would submit articles that would always be printed in the Record, but I stopped automatically publishing them just because they were in Irish." He wanted to uphold the quality of content, whether it be in Irish or English. "I published one [Irish language article], but with an English-Irish translation. I wanted the articles to be interesting in their own right and if they were interesting, I wanted everyone to be able to read them." The society, it seems, were furious, going so far as to enter into a discussion to move to impeach Rob, though these threats were never acted upon. Ultimately, he convinced the Irish speakers to withdraw a proposed mandate that would require Rob to publish all Irish language pieces. "Under the constitution, the Communications Officer could be mandated to do something, but the University Times Editor could not, and I saw a distinction there. " Though it is easy to forget the college's recent history due to the cycles of students that pass through Trinity year by year, and the "short term institutional memory" as Tom Lowe put it, it is of paramount importance that we constantly seek to remind ourselves. This past can inform decisions made in the future, as they probably should. The University Times is part of a wider ecosystem of vibrant, active and diverse media in Trinity, of which Trinity News is also a part, and therefore is an important factor to consider in the election for the communications office.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Conor McGlynn argues that Ireland is not a tax haven for foreign comapnies.
In the student unions, the Welfare Officer is an extremely important job. Perhaps more so than any of the other sabbatical positions, the Welfare Officer is required to be personable, friendly, approachable and a have very specific skill-set. A certain type of person is required for the job which sets it apart from Communications or Ents for example. The two candidates for the position this year both feel that their own personal experiences are just as important as their past positions within the SU and College society.
T Aonghus Ó Cochláin Staff Writer
his year has seen a close race between Welfare candidates Daniel McFadden and Ian Mooney. This is a change from last year, which saw current SU Welfare Officer Stephen Garry comfortably secure his position unopposed. The race initially included a third candidate, Helena Hughes, but she pulled out before its start. In an interview with Trinity News, Welfare candidate Dan McFadden spoke about what best qualified him for the position. Envisaging the qualities of a Welfare Officer as someone who is approachable and capable of handling a variety of issues, the third year Social Work student cites his experience as JCR Welfare Officer as evidence of this, working on welfare related issues for over a thousand students in Trinity Halls. Further experience includes course-related placements and voluntary work in areas such as mental health and disability. McFadden commented on what he considers the three major manifesto points of his campaign. The first of which being Health Centre reform, he commented that students are often forced to wait in the cold for far too long when seeking access to emergency appointments. Moving the queue to an inside location with a ticket system would improve the quality of service for students according to the welfare candidate. Elaborating on what he considered an unacceptable state of affairs, Dan stated that “no matter what College is saying, students are disadvantaged here” and that reform is necessary. Along with this is his second manifesto point of is improving on the already existent accommodation services offered by the SU. His idea for a consolidated TCD landlord database would see a “solid, reliable database of landlords who have been recommended by trinity students, so that when it comes to students looking for houses, they know that they will have this database to go to.” Despite the good job he feels the Accommodation Advisory Service has done, he believes “looking into the future” is important. His third and final major point is his campaign’s “Sharing to Help” welfare blog. According to Dan, the blog project lets “different students share their different experiences, be it mental health, be it family troubles or be it financial difficulties,” with the hope that other students would in turn learn from their experiences. “I feel like facts are great, I think you can give them out all the time,
'Similar to his opponent Dan, what Mooney considers the biggest criticism of the SU as is its lack of approachability, as well as a lack of awareness of what the role of Welfare Officer even is. First years in particular, being those going through the hardest time trying to transition into a new environment according to Ian, have no idea that the services are there for them."
but I think what’s so rich and can be more meaningful is someone’s own personal story teaching other people as well.” The initiative, which has already been launched online as of last week, has supposedly been read in countries all around the world. Dan further said: “I believe if elected it will become a nationwide thing where students from all over Ireland will be able to submit stories to it.” When asked about what some see as a disconnect between the SU and its students, Dan commented that he feels his three point manifesto is getting through to students and showing them how they could really benefit from the Union. “There can be a lot of apathy towards the Union, maybe a lack of believing in what they can do,” the Welfare candidate remarked, “I’m showing them something they can use and this is why you need to be engaging with the Union, and this is how the Union can help you.” He further stated that a better awareness of the Council process was necessary for holding Sabbatical Officers accountable for their promises. He also commended the Electoral Commission in bringing down the budget this year, saying that “it’s making it more accessible for students to run for these positions by bringing it down, so I would be majorly in support of that and I thought it was a great initiative on behalf of the SU this year.” Further commenting on the relationship between the SU and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Dan said he would love to work more closely with the USI if elected, but that there needs to be more concentrated attention paid to mental health initiatives. “Trinity have done so well in mental health last year. I think Stephen Garry has been really on the ball with it, and so I think the USI are actually lagging behind in that,” Dan commented. Speaking to Trinity News, Welfare candidate Ian Mooney commented what he sees as the three main roles of Welfare Officer as casework, campaigns and representation on college committees. “Being Student2Student President this year I’ve been able to work with particularly mental health campaigns,” according to the fourth year Chemistry student. “I am able to coordinate 600 mentors in the society, work with international students, mature students, LGBT, all different parts of the College and coordinate them together into these great campaigns.” Further experience
"McFadden commented on what he considers the three major manifesto points of his campaign. The first of which being Health Centre reform, he commented that students are often forced to wait in the cold for far too long when seeking access to emergency appointments. Moving the queue to an inside location with a ticket system would improve the quality of service for students according to the welfare candidate."
includes having done educationrelated casework as EMS Faculty Convenor. Yet what Ian cited as what made him most qualified is his personal experience of depression when he was younger, making him relatable: “Having someone who’s there, who knows what it’s like to hold in a dark secret, to be afraid of people judging them, but more importantly to know what it’s like to actually come out about this kind of stuff and how good it feels to actually talk about it as well.” Similar to his opponent, what Mooney considers the biggest criticism of the SU as is its lack of approachability, as well as a lack of awareness of what the role of Welfare Officer even is. First years in particular, being those going through the hardest time trying to transition into a new environment according to Ian, have no idea that the services are there for them. “I would love to set up a Welfare blog, like a weekly update about what’s going on in that week so people know what’s there for them” further remarking that even “going around giving lecture addresses and canvassing indoors in Halls is such an effective way of getting the message across.” Even with the other Sabbatical Officers, he remarked, getting out of House 6 a bit more and visiting the off-campus locations is something that is said every year but is hardly ever done. When asked what would be the first steps taken if elected Welfare Officer, Ian said the biggest thing he would like to change would be the major weeks in College. “They’re there for a week every year, but they’re not five day a year issues, they’re constant issues that we need to promote consistently throughout the year and make sure the information is always being given to students on a regular basis,” according to the candidate. In the area of LGBTQ issues, Ian feels particular attention needs to be paid to transgender issues, commenting that “the rights of trans* students are 20 years behind the rest of the community” and that even in the LGBTQ community they are not included as well as they should be. Particularly with regard to mental health issues, citing that transgender students are far more likely to attempt suicide, “making sure transgender students are aware that there are support services there for them, and then helping them to be included into society as well” is an important part for his campaign. When asked about the level of cooperation between
the SU and the USI, Ian said he was “a bit sceptical of the whole thing at first,” but further commented he thinks it is good for College to be able to express itself on a national basis. “The resources just aren’t there for Trinity to do it alone, so uniting colleges to get a national message across, even an international message almost, I think that’s important, but I think some reform does need to be done on the USI to better progress the issues.” Further stating that mental health issues do not just affect Trinity students, “it’s something that amongst young people if some people start talking about it then everyone starts talking about it, and it snowballs and snowballs, but if half the country is afraid to talk about it then it just won’t work.” Responding to the infringements of EC regulations by his campaign, Ian felt that, although its importance to have rules, they could be a little more lenient. “The rules are there and I did know about them before hand,” according to the candidate, saying, “the thing about those rules is that only some of close campaigners or those who are really interested in the SU side of things are going to know that those rules are there, and I guess that falls on us, the candidates, to let our campaigns teams know that those rules are there. Ultimately, he said, he would “take [his] punishments as they come.” In response to whether the accommodation shortfall of earlier this academic year, Ian agreed that “[Welfare Officer Stephen Garry] probably had a bit of a tough year, they were completely overwhelmed at the start,” but that the system currently in place at the moment does not need a large scale overhaul. “I mean, putting more resources into it is a bit difficult but I’m sure it’s definitely achievable,” according to Ian. He further said, “the system is good but a bigger push behind it,” rather than “going out, trying to find a new system that may or may not work.” Making final comment on the disillusionment felt by some students with annual Sabbatical elections, Ian remarked that as far as promises in his manifesto, he has tried to keep them as achievable as possible. He commented, “there are one or two things there that I think will be a real fight on our hands, but I do think it’s possible to follow through with them.”
Tuesday 11th February 2014
#pantigate: an interview with Rory O‘Neill In the wake of #Pantigate, the Abbey Theatre speech and a debate on homophobia, Rory O'Neill aka Panti Bliss talks to Online Editor Matthew Mulligan.
"S Matthew Mulligan Online Editor
uddenly people are recognising me out of drag”, says Rory O’Neill “which is an entirely new experience!” As a young gay man, my awareness of Rory’s drag persona Panti Bliss has varied from Pride rally speeches to cocktails and a show in the glamorous PantiBar. Since performing on the RTÉ’s Saturday Night Show and the subsequent fallout from his interview, O’Neill has been at the centre of a month long debate about censorship, RTÉ, homophobia and oppression which has propelled him to national and international attention. He’s gone viral through the spread of his speech detailing ‘oppression’ and ‘checking’ oneself at pedestrian crossings. Sitting with him in PantiBar he tells me how after a unpleasant and exhausting few weeks of feeling like his side of the story would never be heard, the last week has been much better; speech in the Abbey Theatre has been viewed over 400,000 times and been tweeted about by Martina Navratilova, Stephen Fry and Graham Norton “It’s nice…it’s fun to have Martina Navratilova tweeting about me!” What is also enjoyable about the last week though is the fact that regular Dubliners are making their support for him known on the street. Between being stopped for conversations with “Dublin blokes” who have gay children or by those who just want to lend their support and pose for a photo, O’Neill firmly believes that ordinary people are on his side; “in the first few weeks, unless you had seen the broadcast people probably thought ‘there’s no smoke without fire, he must have said something awful’. But now they’re being super nice and that’s lovely”. The support he is receiving from people on the street is so strong that it has replaced the nervous feeling of being approached by a stranger on the street with a sense of relief when they just want to shake his hand. Opponents of marriage equality though seem to think that the issue is not one of interest to the Irish people, with some saying that “ordinary decent people” have different issues to think about. The resulting discussions surrounding O’Neill’s appearance has seen those politicians who are not in favour of same-sex marriage back up their views by purporting to represent the Irish people, and saying that the “ordinary decent people” they meet while canvassing are not talk-
"O’Neill believes that the success of the Abbey speech is due in part to the humanity behind it. It brought the experiences of LGBT people in Ireland to the fore of the discussion in a way they might not have been presented before, and he believes that resonates stronger than anything else. It “won the war” and turned the battle around for O’Neill and was something that he was eager to do."
ing about what has been dubbed ‘Pantigate’. O’Neill dismisses this however. “They’re trying to paint a picture that it’s some Dublin 4 media concern, which is total bullshit because I know from walking on the streets and into Tescos that ordinary people do care, ordinary people have a sense of justice about it and ordinary people know gay people in their families.” O’Neill believes that the success of the Abbey speech is due in part to the humanity behind it. It brought the experiences of LGBT people in Ireland to the fore of the discussion in a way they might not have been presented before, and he believes that resonates stronger than anything else. It “won the war” and turned the battle around for O’Neill and was something that he was eager to do. “Ordinary decent Irish people are not ideologues and they saw my side of the story as a real human story that affects real human people.” Does he believe that sharing these human experiences will disrupt the narrative put forward
by opponents of marriage equality? Yes. “Their side of the story is ideologically driven. They’ve invented these principles that they believe that they’re defending but these invented principles actually affect nobody. Letting gay people get married will only increase happiness in the world, it’s not going to destroy marriage. It’s driven by their own ideological concerns and that’s why regular decent Irish people when they got to see the whole story recognised that on one side there are real people whose real lives are being affected and on the other side are these ideologues.” The conversation arising from O’Neill’s speech is one that has permeated into many facets of our society, judging by the responses to it he has received, from gay people but also many messages from straight people. He has gotten emails from people in wheelchairs who also feel that urge to check themselves, because of unwanted attention. He has gotten an email from a red headed man who feels the
same urges to try blend in more at times with society. “So many people feel these types of urges. Yesterday I got an email from a straight guy who had seen me in the barber last week and he had wanted in the barber to say something to me but he ‘checked himself’ and felt that he didn’t have the courage to do it in the allmale environment of the barber.” When it comes to the debate around media and accessibility, O’Neill feels that there is a problem for stories that stray outside the narrative. “I think there is reluctance in the Irish media to tell gay stories. The media in general in Ireland don’t like to take chances”, he says. Drag queens are mostly use for punch lines and the performance aspect of it is overlooked, something which puzzles him as he refers to the popularity of people like Lily Savage. “RTÉ have a low opinion of their audience and of Irish peoples’ ability to just be fun”. For him, the week leading up to his appearance on the Saturday Night Show was one filled with the challenge of crafting a three minute performance for the show. He hadn’t given a second’s thought to the interview and even afterwards felt like it had gone perfectly well. It wasn’t some pre-planned coup of the airwaves designed to denigrate opponents of marriage equality. “If you were to believe my detractors and hadn’t seen the interview you’d think I’d gone wild and started screaming and pointing at people and screaming homophobe and the live audience clutched their chest! But of course nothing like that happened, and the hilarious thing is that if they had just let it pass, then nobody would even remember that I’d been on that show.” Politicians, people who are normally impersonal and steely faced, have also come out in support of O’Neill in some dramatic displays of humanity. John Lyons, Jerry Buttimer and David Norris are openly gay men but have opened up to tell of the abuse and violence they’ve received, giving the public a rare insight into the pervasiveness of the problem. “I think in the past because of where we were, that people in elected office felt that they had to minimalise the difficulties of being gay because they wanted to be seen as ordinary and the same as everyone else. But in doing that we forgot to remind people that there are still problems for gay people in this country and I
thought it was really wonderful to see them stand up in the Dáil and just say straight out ‘this happens to me, and you around me are all discussing it at this ideological level’”. Same-sex marriage is something that is supported by all the major parties in the Dáil, and polls show the public is also in favour of it. O’Neill however says that during the referendum, the gap is going to narrow and the airwaves will be filled with debates that, because of broadcasting regulations, have to be balanced though as he says, “in order to create this balance, they’ll have to go to the extremists to find an opposing voice.” O’Neill shares reservations that many LGBT people have about voting for what are essentially rights. He doesn’t feel that it should be put to referendum because of the huge support it has both politically and among the person on the street. “It’s so spineless of the government; they’re all in favour of same-sex marriage so I say prove it! They’ve had legal advice that says they need a referendum but they’ve also had legal advice that says they don’t need a referendum. Introduce legislation tomorrow, it’ll walk through.” The possibility of those who disagree with same-sex marriage challenging the legislation doesn’t phase O’Neill. “Let them take the case! It’ll take its while to get to court but by then the country will see LGBT people will have gotten married and the sky hadn’t fallen down.” The power that can come from making personal experiences known is one that can defeat ideologues opposed to same-sex marriage according to O’Neill. Saying “this is my life” and making a point of having received the discrimination that is being debated on a chat show is something that needs to happen at this point in the marriage debate, especially when it comes to opponents of marriage equality. “If they stopped attacking me and my community, if they stopped trying to limit my access to the same rights as everybody else, if they just lived their lives and let us live our lives this would all be over and we’d never have to hear from each other again. Just get out of our lives. That’s all we want. We’re having a debate about what homophobia means but we all know what ‘jerk’ means, and they are jerks.”
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Confessions of an SU election campaign manager Claire McCabe was the campaign manager for Matthew Taylor’s bid for communications office in last year’s student Union elections and tells of the joys and trials that the position entails.
I Claire McCabe Contributor
t’s funny when I think back to my relationship with the SU elections during my first three years of college. It’s easy to say it was non-existent. I was interested in hearing who was running for elections and hearing what they had to say. But, with relation to campaigning, I was the average student who tried to dodge from the Arts Block to the library, unscathed. I kept leaflets in my bag just to prove I had heard the pitch, to avoid the hassle of interacting with campaigners. To me, those 2 weeks were irritating more than anything else. So what changed? Well, a better question would be - who changed me? A friend. Matt Taylor. I was excited to help him, because I knew him as a friend, and I agreed to become his campaign manager, but, to be honest, I felt very anxious about it all. I didn’t know what a campaign manager was suppose to do. It was a title. It sounded important. Images of me letting Matt down flickered across my mind. December came and plans started to form. I cannot even count the number of conversations myself and Matt had planning. I look back on every single conversation with fondness. Chatting in the TFM studio late into the night, plotting, joking, brainstorming, like Pinky and the Brain. Quickly, I began to realize what a campaign manager is. It’s an intensified version of a friendship with a best friend. It’s being a support for them. It’s being there to half their stresses and to encourage people to support them. It’s being there to help them organize the finer details. When they are feeling low about their chances, you raise them up. Of course, politics in college, as most of you have realized, is a miniscule version of politics in
Editorial Elaine McCahill Editor
The last few weeks have been pretty incredible. I remember when we heard that Panti was going to appear on the Saturday Night Show and we all thought that it was so encouraging that RTE had decided to have Rory perform and be interviewed afterwards. To his credit, Rory has been incredibly successful as Panti Bliss, from opening an eponymous trendy bar in the middle of town, to touring Australia with his show 'All Stitched Up.' However, while Rory is not known for mincing his words, I don't think anyone could really have expected such a furore and a scandal of international proportions to break out over an interview with Brendan O'Connor. But quite the scandal did erupt and we at Trinity News have been right there with it the whole time. We were the first to report on the fact that part of Rory's interview had been edited out and
the real world. For a campaign you need a great core team. You need to have a few key ideas about what you can do better than your predecessor and you need to have the appropriate media outlets to convince every single person who has not made up their mind. You need a group of reliable people who have great creative ideas and who will turn up at their shifts. A team of people who will change their profiler on Facebook, who will like and share posts, who will attend hustings in the cold, who will trek out to halls to encourage first years. I did not know a lot of the people on Matt’s team very well before the election, but that quickly changed. After spending 3 weeks in various locations of college at 10am in the morning mobbing people with manifestos and spending the evenings sharing our ideas for the following days hustle, I got to know each and every one of Matt’s candidates, much to my delight. Like anything else in society, Trinity is split up into a lot of different sections. You have various societies, sports clubs, friend groups ranging from the Arts Block to the Hamilton to D’Olier st. to James’s. The votes of your competitors’ and their campaign teams and friends may be gone, but remember - there are hundreds of other people out there who haven’t yet cast a decided vote. Tickets, where candidates from different sectors get together to conquer, are a whole different ball game. But as I said, it’s politics. During the campaign, you may be tired, you may feel like crashing and taking one day off, but you can’t. The candidate that’s running is expected to give speeches to the most populated lectures and has to to speak at
"While Rory is not known for mincing his words, I don't think anyone could really have expected such a furore and a scandal of internation preportions to break out..."
various events during the hectic 2 weeks. It’s an election, you have to be willing to match your competitor and raise them. So you, in your role as campaign manager, need to orchestrate everything together and make sure things are running smoothly. You need to remind people of the timetable, let them know where they’re most needed. But, most of all, make it fun. These are fellow students that have got involved because they were asked to. The whole point of getting involved is to meet new people, support your friends and see what other aspects of college are like. A lot of people on our team were Matt’s friends, a lot of people were also people we had just spoken to or met the month before, a lot of people were people I had never met. So, when you’re walking though the Arts Block and you are meandering around, festooned by various colours who are begging you to take a manifesto as if their life depended on it. Take one. Talk to them. Hey, maybe even get involved? Our team, in the end, was a great group of friends who stood each morning in the Arts block or in the Hamilton. We had fun the whole way through, making the Harlem Shake video, participating in Chinese whispers by candlelight in Halls or walking around with our mannequin – the student body. Matt didn’t win that night. Undeniably, I was devastated for him, if none of you could tell. The closeness in the race is a testament to the hard effort each candidate and team put in. Life goes on and the next week, myself and Matt were plotting about something else. Matt4Comms4lyf.
taken offline and we were one of the few media outlets that Rory agreed to conduct an interview with. Conducted by our incredible online editor, Matthew Mulligan, it's an incredibly insightful piece that gives a small glimpse into the anguish and joy that the last few weeks have held for Rory. Initially, it was nothing but bad press, with many thinking that he must have said something defamatory to cause such an outrage and spark a quick and hefty settlement from RTE. As has come to light, that is not the full story and Rory really got to put his side across through his 'Noble Call' speech at the Abbey Theatre that has now gone viral internationally and sparked responses from Graham Norton, Stephen Fry and Madonna to name but a few. The story is far from over however, and while the inertia behind it might be slowing a little this week, the incident has done noth-
ing but give a large push to the gay marriage campaign and one can't help but feel that this story will rumble on until a referendum is held next year. On a slightly different matter, but one that also pertains to equal rights, a referendum on abortion is being held alongside the Leadership Race elections. As with the gay marriage debate, this referendum is all about equal rights, in this case the right for a woman to choose. Again, this was another issue that was brought to the forefront by a national scandal, that of the death of Savita Hallapanavar. The simple fact is that no one wants that to happen again but legislation needs to go further than just merely protecting the life of the mother, it needs to be extended to a woman's right to choose, whether it be for medical reasons or not. It is an issue that has been neglected in government for too long and I urge all of you
"His 'Noble Call' speech at the Abbey Theatre that has now gone viral internationally and sparked responses from Graham Norton, Stephen Fry and Madonna to name but a few."
to vote 'yes' in this referendum and mandate your SU to campaign for your rights, the rights of your mothers, your sisters, your friends. Both of these campaigns are about equal rights, and our SU should be out there protesting for them. As campaigning draws to a close this week, it has once again been brought to light that the policies of those running are becoming depoliticised and we have seen a reluctance from candidates to take a stance on a number of different issues, from abortion to the Frat. One can only hope that those who are elected will have structured views once elected. Regardless of impressions, or stunts or manifestos, I encourage all of you to read our interviews with the candidates and please go out and vote. it is such a pity that such a small proportion of our community votes when these officers are paid to work for you all year.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Response: Rory O’Donoghue argues that the UK is better off inside the EU.
Vote yes in the abortion referendum Matthew Corbally argues that the SU should adopt a pro-choice position.
I Matthew Corbally Contributor
n case you weren’t already aware, TCDSU will be holding a referendum, following on from the results of last year’s preferendum, asking students whether or not the Students’ Union should adopt the long term policy of advocating for legislation for abortion to be upon request of the woman. As abortion and reproductive autonomy are undeniably controversial subjects, it is unsurprising that some students would organise a counter campaign against the motion. While I most certainly do not begrudge students having opposing political opinions, I must take issue with the ‘No’ campaign’s claim that an official stance on abortion would violate the Union’s mandate to operate “independent of any political, racial or religious ideology”, since it completely ignores the SU’s political role and the larger history of abortion within Ireland. One of the main arguments that the ‘No’ side has used to defend its position is that the Student’s Union is obligated to respect the opinions of every member, and thus should refrain from political action on the basis of ‘majority rule’. While it is indeed essential for the SU to encourage and respect the development of varied opinions and beliefs (as
“To argue against TCDSU campaigning on behalf of these women* (and indeed all women* within Ireland) is to subtly imply that political beliefs are more important that living people, and that the travesty of the Irish state coldly abandoning these women* is simply not worthy of the Student Union’s attention.”
befitting Trinity’s reputation as a centre of intellectual development), this should not be used as an excuse to prevent any political action on their part. One of the main roles of a student’s union is to represent and advocate on behalf of student bodies in a larger national basis, which includes tackling political issues that have a bearing on students’ lives. It goes without saying that, in order for TCDSU to fight for its members in the political arena, it has to reach a consensus on what the students actually want, and this consensus is achieved through the democratic process of repeated referendums. To pretend that a mandate pursued as the result of such a process is somehow ‘undemocratic’ is simply ludicrous, and to argue that abortion is too divisive an issue to have an official stance on is to ignore the SU’s existing campaigns on issues like education cuts and LGBT+ rights. For our SU to truly function as “a recognised channel of communications between its members and the college and other bodies” as per the constitution, it has to take an official stance, or else its ability to effectively campaign on student issues will be severely limited. Furthermore, the position of ‘neutrality’ as described by
the ‘No’ side completely ignores the historical and current context of the Irish state’s pro-life policies. Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in Europe (even with the passing of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act), to the point where the act of disseminating the name and address of an abortion clinic in any situation outside of a medical consultation is legally prohibited, and punishable by a fine of up to “£1,500”. The Irish state has a documented history of misogynistic and patriarchal control over women*’s bodies (I’m using women* instead of women in order to avoid excluding trans*, genderqueer and other gender identities biologically capable of being pregnant), with any attempt at exercising bodily autonomy leading to legal retribution and social castigation, and insisting that TCDSU maintain a politically convenient position of neutrality is to indirectly support a religiously motivated status quo that has relentlessly resisted alternate perspectives towards abortion. Indeed, this status quo is based almost purely upon the attitudes of the Catholic Church, and has little respect for the perspective of other religions. Emily Murtagh, in her online open let-
ter to the Provost, claims to speak for a “diverse range of cultures, religious practices and moral convictions”, but the testimony given by various religious groups to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children last year indicates that there is no unified religious opinion on abortion. If TCDSU is to truly respect the opinions of all its members, then it is beholden to campaign so that Quaker, Judaic and Buddhist students can make their own individual decisions, instead of being legally restricted in their bodily by the strictures of a primarily Roman Catholic state. Finally, it must be emphasised that TCDSU is bound by its constitution to “provide for the welfare of its members”, a principle which necessitates political action in a situation where students are being adversely affected by larger political issues. Thus, the TCDSU runs campaigns against education cuts, increased fees, and homophobia within Irish society (a fact which the ‘No’ side seems unwilling to address) as they negatively affect the student community in Trinity. According to statistics released by BPAS, at least 5000 women* travel to England each year to access an abortion, a figure which undoubt-
edly contains a sizable number of students. There is no doubt that countless more women*, unable to afford the trip abroad, are forced to self-administer at home and hope that they are not imprisoned for 14 years. The ‘No’ flyers claim that they want to “support those with pregnancies in Ireland”, but make no mention of this shocking figure, nor the financial and mental stress that these young women* experience as they seek to access abortion for a variety of reasons. Their complaints about the experience of being marginalised and unrepresented by the political actions of TCDSU, while no doubt sincere, completely ignore the lived experiences of their fellow students and the state’s role in perpetuating this system. To argue against TCDSU campaigning on behalf of these women* (and indeed all women* within Ireland) is to subtly imply that political beliefs are more important that living people, and that the travesty of the Irish state coldly abandoning these women* is simply not worthy of the Student Union’s attention. That is why you should vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum next week, so that TCDSU can do what it can to support the bodily autonomy and security of its students.
Don’t mandate the SU to campaign for choice Emily Murtagh argues in favour of voting no in the SU referendum on abortion.
A Emily Murtagh Contributor
fter a long week of having fliers stuck in our faces and having our Facebook pages bombarded with all the usual Election Week craziness, it is important to make sure that this crucial issue does not get lost in the crowd. This week we will be asked to vote either yes or no to the question, “Should the Students’ Union adopt the long term policy to advocate for legislation for abortion to be upon request of the woman?” It is imperative that we first remember that any discussion related to the abortion question must always be treated with the love and respect that so sensitive an issue warrants. It transcends politics and unions and online debates, because it relates to real people and their real experiences and let us never forget that. From this position we urge you to realise that this referendum cannot be seen solely, or even primarily, as a prolife/pro-choice issue. We must instead view it also in terms of the Students’ Union and the legitimacy of its claims to represent all students on campus. We believe that each student has the responsibility to educate his or herself fully on the issue and the right to advocate on behalf of any
position or none within the debate as they see fit. We believe that for the Students’ Union to take adopting such a definitive policy on an issue that relates so powerfully to the individual’s right to hold a moral, religious or political stance, will leave many members of our college community feeling alienated from the union that purports to represent all students in our university. We believe especially in the celebration and protection of minority voices. We believe that the Students’ Union’s priorities should lie elsewhere, in working on issues that stand to unite us as a student community rather than something that divides us. We believe it is neither necessary nor appropriate for the Students’ Union to adopt a policy in this debate. The foundation of the university is the fostering of independent thought and enquiry. From our first day as wide-eyed Freshers we have been learning and growing in the dialectic created between our own personal convictions and the ideas of our fellow students, as well as those presented to us as part of our academic study. We are constantly being enriched by a wide and
exciting range of ideas and must then filter them through our own personal belief system. For the Students’ Union to take such a definitive stance on the issue seems not to promote this idea. We do not require our Students’ Union to act on our behalf on issues that do not represent all students and in fact stand in direct opposition to the moral convictions of some, which should be respected and celebrated. Instead, we realise that each of us has the right to campaign on either side as we see fit, to organize ourselves and protest peacefully for whatever position of powers of independent thought and enquiry lead us to pursue. The Students’ Union should be an inclusive institution that is representative of all students on campus – as far as it can possibly be obtained. Trinity College prides itself on diversity, and its policies show a clear desire to make students from all moral, cultural or religious backgrounds feel at home within our college community. Our strategic plan stresses our commitment to promoting Trinity as a place of study that seeks to encourage students from what they refer to as “non-traditional
backgrounds”. This includes amongst others – members of the Travelling community, and those belonging to Ethnic minorities, from as diverse a range of backgrounds as Pentecostal Christians from Nigeria to Iranian Muslims. To put an issue of such great moral weight for so many people to a referendum, when we believe it to be unnecessary, defies all notions of protecting and celebrating the various minorities that choose to study here. We hope that all Trinity students, regardless of their own personal views on abortion, will vote to protect individuals and allow each student to pursue what they believe to be right, without anyone feeling alienated by their Students’ Union, or feeling that their Students’ Union far from represents them. We firmly believe that the Students’ Union’s priority should lie with issues that unite us as a student community rather than with ones such as this, that is so divisive and a matter of personal conscience and conviction. The Students’ Union has hugely important work to be doing; from lobbying against third level funding cuts to constantly improving the day-to-day running of our
university – campaigns we can all get behind. Let us look also at the immediate impact we can make in terms of working to end the stigmatisation of young mothers as well as promoting responsible relationships – showing love and care to all members of our college community. This is not to say that the Students’ Union should steer away from the important political issues of our generation on a national level. Instead we believe that the Students’ Union would be much better off using its power to open up the platform for debate, encouraging a student body that responds positively and peacefully to issues that are of great importance in our society as each individual sees fit. From campaigning over this last week, we saw a wide range of reasons why people were planning to vote no. For some it related to their personal deep felt conviction to a pro-life stance and a commitment to loving and valuing all human beings. For others it related to a general feeling of disenchantment towards the SU and its process of arriving at the policies it puts forward. For some, the question is too vague and open to too many interpreta-
tions within the abortion debate. For others still, they questioned if this question is tied to the liberal agenda to the extent that it could be interpreted as tied to a political ideology, something the SU policies must be free from. For many, the response was a rather exasperated –“but… Why does the SU need to take a stance on the issue?” We feel that the campaign was worthwhile when we saw the smiles of some students when they realised that someone was willing to stand up for something that they too felt was wrong, though they perhaps felt they didn’t have the voice, the time or the confidence to do it themselves. It was worth it for the encouraging messages from students who wished that all students feel truly represented by our Students’ Union. Our student population is made up of a wonderfully diverse, interesting, and intelligent set of individuals that demonstrate a huge spectrum of moral, political and religious viewpoints and we do not need to be put in a box by the Union that aims to represent all students. That is why we say – respect all views, vote no.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
The Leadership Race: taking the politics out of politics Eva Short decries the depoliticisation of SU politics.
tudent Union Election season is here. Once again we are subjected to the two week rigmarole of fliers, “catchy” slogans and t-shirt clad campaigners waxing lyrical about their candidate of choice. Our social media inboxes are flooded with shameless plugging and many find themselves so often accosted by Sabbat hopefuls and each respective entourage that they feel inclined to hiss at any approaching person with even a vague air of partisanship. This particular juncture in the college year, in this sense, screams ‘politics’. Yet I find that politics is what this round of elections notably lacks, at least in the case of our Presidential hopefuls. Politics (for the optimist, at least) implies an engagement with and discussion of important topics. Politics can be seen in the undeniable charm of the candidates and their punchily written manifestos. Their wide smiles - or more, Cheshire grins - at times eerily mirror the expressions of our TDs, but the same cannot be said of the candidates’ choices to tiptoe around potentially contentious issues. The Dail and the decorum of those within the Dail are rife with issues (that’s an entire article in itself ), but at least we can say that these debates are at times heated. In the case of our
Eva Short Staff Writer
elections, there will never need to be a Chief whip to ensure order, as the would-be Presidents are in an epic battle to determine who can emerge the most vanilla and inoffensive of them all. Perhaps this is understandable though - the SU is, at least in theory, an all-encompassing Union intended to represent all 17,000 Trinity students, so expressing specific views runs the risk of excluding people. With the threat of Union disaffiliation looming in light of the attempt of one UCD student last year, the potential risk of totally alienating students is not to be underestimated. This is an especially dangerous possibility for the Presidential candidates given how rare a breed the student voter is. A little over four thousand students presented at last year’s elections, representing less than a quarter of the student body - the remainder, it would appear, only want to go to the effort of taking out their student card when being given some sort of discount. Were a candidate to manage to run on the bad side of a mere 40 people, that would account for 1% of the voters. That 1% could be the difference between a candidate cruising into a year long paid position and finding themselves mourning the money spent on campaign mate-
“The goal for candidates, it appears, is to be as apolitical as possible, allowing their views to be entirely contingent on whoever it is they’re talking to at that very moment.”
rials while seeking solace at the bottom of a pint glass on the eve of the election result announcement. The anxiety that undoubtedly accompanies trying to strike this delicate balancing at least explains why Presidential candidates may retreat from commenting on topics circulating around campus. This is an explanation, but not an excuse. The goal for candidates, it appears, is to be as apolitical as possible, allowing their views to be entirely contingent on whoever it is they’re talking to at that very moment. These people are ultimately vying for a coveted position and the number of benefits that come with it, including the salary that each student contributes towards when paying registration. Avoiding controversy strengthens each candidate’s bid for personal advancement at the expense of clarity, clarity which is ultimately a right of every Trinity student. For it is average Trinity student who foots the bill of the winner’s tenure, and the average Trinity student who, upon entering college, automatically becomes affiliated an organisation at which this candidate is at the helm. They are, in light of this, entitled to have clear ideas of how their President’s views align - or differ - from their own.
This comes back to the question of disaffiliation. As a college community Trinity fortunately remains relatively untouched by party politics, meaning our student elections aren’t extremely complicated affairs, but a resulting schism from students disaffiliating en masse runs the risk of inviting this external influence into our sphere. Ensuring that no student ever feels incensed enough to leave the union perhaps maintains harmony. It raises another problem though; If Presidential candidates truly can’t express explicit views due to an obligation to remain impartial, then to what end is the college community participating in the Election fanfare? Is it really that we go through all this trouble just to appoint someone to crusade for staplers and repaired microwaves? For feedback apps, printers and plugs? Tangible improvements, yes, but hardly groundbreaking. The rest seems to be smoke, mirrors, and those elusive buzzwords such as “transparency in the SU.” At this stage, “transparency” is such a tired term that it could mean anything - candidates could be suggesting the installation of more windows in House Six or mandating that all sabbatical officers wear seethrough coats like the replicant stripper in Blade Runner, perish
the thought. While these suggestions seem ludicrous, the silence from the Presidential candidates means there is very little to contradict my assertions. I could for the most part interpret the carefully chosen words of their policies in any way that I so wished. Regardless of what is or is not said, however, one of the two Presidential hopefuls will be elected as head of the union. I for one, intend to hold onto the winner’s campaign literature; I’ll keep the crumpled leaflet sitting in a drawer until this time next year, when I can pull out the manifesto and ask myself how the person represented on shining paper compares the person who sat in the second floor officer. I will search between the lines for any indication of how Domhnall or Jasper would end up governing themselves and the union, for hints at where their opinion would fall on key issues. If the President leaving the sabbat position in 2015 looks nothing like their well rehearsed campaigning-mode self, I’ll consider myself cheated, and I should hope that everyone else would consider themselves cheated too.
Why Snowden shouldn’t get the Nobel prize Callum Jenkins argues the Edward Snowden is undeserving of the Nobel Peace Prize.
I Callum Jenkins Staff Writer
t was recently confirmed by two politicians that they had nominated Edward Snowden for consideration for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. While being nominated by no means guarantees Snowden the award, if he was to become a Nobel laureate it would devalue an award that has come to represent not only the good of humanity but also its hope. According to Alfred Nobel’s will the award should be given to the person who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Snowden has done the opposite, he has raised tensions between the nations of the world. The response across Europe in particular to the extent of the NSA surveillance operations has been at best hypocritical leading us to question what politicians thought intelligence agencies were for. A particularly vocal critic was French President Francois Hollande, however France have their own intelligence services which by definition aims to break the laws of other countries by stealing classified information. There is no difference, both France and America are obtaining information illegally it is just that the US have significantly more resources devoted to the practice. At its worst much of the support for Snowden is America bashing, pure and simple. It is an ex-
“The response across Europe in particular to the extent of the NSA surveillance operations has been at best hypocritical, leading us to question what politicians thought intelligence agencies were for. A particularly vocal critic was French President Francois Hollande, even though France have their own intelligence services.”
cuse for some Europeans to take the moral high ground over the Anglo-Sphere (since we must remember that the leaks revealed the UK did much of the US’ dirty work). Instead of increasing the brotherhood between nations that Nobel envisaged this has broken down links between the world’s democracies which if we are to achieve a better tomorrow must stand side by side. The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to men like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela who devoted their lives to the struggle for equal democratic rights. I wonder what they would make of a man who betrayed his democracy and fled to a country with an appalling human rights record. It is hypocritical for someone to claim to be defending human rights to flee to Russia where freedom of speech and expression is severely restricted. It is ironic that had he been Russian he would most likely to be a target for assassination such as Russian whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko who was murdered in London in 2006. In an ideal world there would be complete openness within and across countries, but we do not live in a perfect world. States require secrets to operate in the interests of their citizens which is of course the central and indeed the only function of any true democracy. Edward Snowden undermined the secret intelligence that protects not only American
citizens but also those of her allies. This further endangers world peace by making events such as 9/11 and the following ‘War on Terror’ more likely. Snowden may be claiming to have put the interests of humanity first, but I contend that he was serving himself and a craving for publicity. When he became a member of the NSA, did he not expect to be committing illegal acts? or did he expect to be a suave agent with a license to kill only bad guys? But how do you decide who the bad guys are? When he agreed to a life in a covert agency that means exactly that, he had a duty to protect his country’s secrets. However if his true concerned with the constitutionality of the NSA’s actions, then why did he not whistleblow in secret like the famous ‘Deep Throat’, who was so important in uncovering the illegal acts of the Nixon Administration. It was only 33 years after the Watergate break in that ‘Deep Throat’ was revealed to be FBI Associate Director Mark Felt. Instead Snowden choose a life of fame for himself rather than service to his country. This is not the making of a Nobel Peace laureate. So far the Nobel Peace Prize’s greatest mistake has been the omission of Mahatma Gandhi. While the presenting the award to Snowden would not redress this travesty, it certainly would devalue the achievements recognised by the award such as peace
“At its worst much of the support for Snowden is America bashing, pure and simple. It is an excuse for some Europeans to take the moral high ground over the Anglo-Sphere (since we must remember that the leaks revealed the UK did much of the US’ dirty work).”
in Northern Ireland, black civil rights in the US and South Africa and the general advancement of human rights across the world by almost every laureate. Some may argue that the award has already been devalued to the point of irrelevance. Apart from the omission of Gandhi, the award given jointly to Le Duc Tho and Henry Kissinger is particularly controversial with two members of the nominating committee resigning in protest. Indeed Tho refused to accept the award on the grounds that the Vietnam War was ongoing, therefore missing the central theme of the award. Barack Obama’s selection was also controversial especially since it came so early in his term of office, therefore before he had the chance to actually achieve something worthy of such esteemed recognition. However these mistakes do not devalue the award, they are simply the consequences of human mistakes. If the achievements of Nobel Laureates of any discipline have taught us anything, it is that humanity must learn from their mistakes if they are to overcome them. I can only hope the Committee do not make another mistake in rewarding a man whose actions do not deserve a place alongside achievements such as peace in Northern Ireland, black civil rights in the US and South Africa and most importantly the advancement of human rights across the world by almost every laureate.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Doireann Conghaile, asks if feminism still has the potential to be a force of change.
Be careful about who you call a homophobe Ryan Connolly makes the case that the word “homophobia” is being used to stifle debate and close minds.
Ryan Conolly Contributor
y now I’m sure that most of Trinity is aware of the controversy over the interview with the drag queen Rory O’Neill, aka Panti Bliss, on the Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor. In the interview O’Neill singled out public commentators such as John Waters, Breda O’Brien and members of the Iona Institute as being homophobes who were ‘horrible and mean about gays’ in their opinion pieces on same-sex marriage. The people named in the interview sought an apology from RTE for what they saw as defamation. At first they were refused, but RTE later relented and offered the apology, along with a sum of money. Incensed by this, the activist group, LGBT Noise, organised a protest against the apology, accusing the Iona Institute and the other journalists of attempting to smother debate and free speech and describing their actions as ‘censorship’. Various public figures, including journalists, TDs and MEPs, lent this viewpoint their support. But does the right to freedom of speech include a right to libel or defame anyone, even public figures? Supporters of same-sex marriage might disagree that calling their opponents ‘homophobes’ is defamation. But the definition of defamation, at least according to Irish law, is any ‘statement that tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.’ The law also specifies that such a statement must be untrue. It’s safe to say that being labelled a homophobe or a bigot
“There is a world of difference between seeking to oppose a social policy that is advocated by some LGBT activist organisations and seeking to discriminate against, intimidate, insult or assault gay people.”
can badly injure a person’s reputation. So the question is, was the accusation true? Are the Iona Institute, Breda O’Brien, John Waters, and, indeed, any opponents of same-sex marriage necessarily homophobes? I strongly disagree with such an assertion. There is a world of difference between seeking to oppose a social policy that is advocated by some LGBT activist organisations and seeking to discriminate against, intimidate, insult or assault gay people. Every gay person wants to be respected, and to live free from fear of violence, discrimination and intimidation. But legislating for samesex marriage isn’t about ending discrimination; it’s about redefining the institution of marriage. And while many individuals and organisations claim that such a move is necessary to end discrimination, it is a massive generalisation to suggest that these samesex marriage advocates represent all gay people. Gay men and women disagree with same-sex marriage for a wide variety of reasons. There are gay Christians like bloggers such as Eve Tushnet or Steve Gershom, who feel at home in their faith and comfortable with its vision of marriage and sexuality. There are gays on the opposite end of the political spectrum who believe that marriage is a conformist, heteronormative institution which they want nothing to do with, like the French activist group Plus Gay Sans Marriage. There are commentators such as Paddy Manning and Richard
Waghorne, who believe that as gay people they benefitted from being raised by a father and mother and that children do best in such a setting. Some gay activists accuse such people of being self-hating gays, who have internalised the homophobia they have experienced (search Manning or Waghorne’s name on Twitter), but they’re usually lacking in any actual proof for this: the accusation of ‘self-hating gay’ is nothing more than an ad hominem assertion with no concrete evidence to back it up. Dismissing somebody who disagrees with same-sex marriage as a homophobe is like saying that somebody who disagrees with Israel’s foreign policy is antiSemitic. It is one thing to advocate discrimination or violence against Jews. It is another thing to disagree with the policies of Israel, which only represents some of the world’s Jews; Israel cannot and does not speak for all those with a Jewish heritage. Likewise, those advocating for same-sex marriage do not represent all gay people. Raising questions or concerns about a social policy supported by those advocates is not the same as discriminating against the members of the group which they claim to represent. Libel aside, there are other problems which arise when the term ‘homophobia’ is bandied about indiscriminately. Allowing epithets such as ‘homophobe’ ‘bigot’ and ‘self-hating gay’ to dominate the debate on same-sex marriage sets an unhealthy precedent. Ad hominem attacks like this serve
only to shut down any kind of intellectual, reasonable discussion on an issue, replacing it with social intimidation. In a mature, democratic society, any change in social structure – especially one as radical as altering the nature of marriage – should be preceded by calm, rational debate which seeks to discover the potential merits and drawbacks of such a change. A mature debate also requires that each side assumes good faith on the part of the other until and unless proven otherwise. Same-sex marriage raises real concerns regarding the status of fatherhood and motherhood in society, the rights of children to be raised by their biological parents where possible, the prospect of children being ‘commissioned’ through surrogates (to use Justice Minister Alan Shatter’s word), and the rights of individuals to conscientious objection. These are valid concerns, and those who raise them have a right to their good name. If same-sex marriage really is supported by sound arguments that can answer these concerns, then it doesn’t need insults to defend it. The unwillingness of proponents of same-sex marriage to engage in debate seems to suggest that either they have little confidence in the arguments for their own cause, or that they simply aren’t interested in civil discourse and want to sling mud instead. Let me end with a suggestion. Shane Windmeyer, a US journalist and founder of LGBT activist group Campus Pride, organised a campaign to boycott fast food
chain Chik-fil-A, whose owner, Dan Cathy, is a devout Christian and a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage. Cathy donates a large amount of his profits to a variety of groups, including many which lobby against same-sex marriage. In the middle of the campaign, Cathy called Windmeyer, hoping to engage him in dialogue. The two men began talking to one another, each trying to look at the issue through the other’s eyes. Taking on board Windmeyer’s concerns, Cathy ended funding for certain groups that were particularly divisive, without compromising his own beliefs or support for traditional marriage. For his own part, Windmeyer ended the campaign against Chik-FilA and came away with a greater appreciation for the sincerity of those who disagree with him. Both made an unlikely friend. So to those of you think that all of its opponents are bigots and homophobes, I’d like to issue a challenge. Simply sit down and have an open conversation with somebody who disagrees with you. Try to understand where they are coming from. Explain your own experiences to them. Maybe they will turn out to be a homophobic bigot. But more likely, I think, they’ll be an ordinary human being just like yourself, with genuine concerns about what effect same-sex marriage might have on society. If you’re not willing to do that much to get to know another person, then you’ve no right to label them any kind of bigot. Who knows? You might even change your mind.
Homophobia is a matter of structures not intentions
D William Foley Comment Editor
With recent debate in mind, William Foley argues that homophobia is a matter of structures not intentions. espite delivering a smack on the wrist to the national broadcaster, it’s good to know that the Iona Institute’s prolific lawyers have not managed to stop Ireland’s “paper of record” from weighing in on the homophobia debate. Noel Whelan opened the post“Pantigate” proceedings in the Irish Times with an article on the twenty fifth of January. The substance of his position was that the term homophobe can only be applied to someone who has “an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people.” Thus, he was led to conclude, “the suggestion that anyone who disagrees with full equality for gays and lesbians is homophobic is surely a misuse of the word.” The absurdity of this position is easily illustrated by substituting other persecuted groups for the “homosexual people” in Whelan’s statement. If someone said to our face that “the suggestion that anyone who disagrees with full equality for blacks is racist is surely a misuse of the word”, we would rightly laugh in their face. That we would be within our rights to immediately dismiss this position
is a testament to the way that the notion of racial equality has become embedded in our common, spontaneous morality. That “full equality for gays and lesbians” is something that is up for debate illustrates that there is still a necessity for cultural struggle in our society to enshrine the notion of sexual equality, twenty one years after homosexuality was decriminalised. When it comes to the homophobia debate, there are two tasks for progressives: firstly, they need to define homophobia, and secondly, they need to consider how it can be applied in the struggle for LGBT* rights. Noel Whelan clearly believes that homophobia is a matter of intention. In a February fourth column for the same paper, Fintan O’Toole penned a rebuttal to this position (though he did not reference Whelan’s column) – homophobia, he argued, is a structural affair. But in the February seventh issue, it was O’Toole’s turn to be rebuttaled – by Chris Connolly who argued that “motive matters”, that it is intentions not actions which make the homophobe. Connolly’s point may initially seem convincing.
Affirmative action programmes, he points out, discriminate on the basis of race – does this make them racist? If not, then the structural definition of homophobia – that homophobia is any action which contributes to the structural oppression of LGBT* people – is problematic and we must return to the intentional definition. The problem with this line of argument is that, firstly, it does not take account of the broad structures of oppression at work in society, and, secondly, it does not take account of cultural and historical aspects. Imagine if you were a black person growing up in Oakland, California in the seventies. Your daily life is the lived experience of oppression. The cops harass you, your family is constantly threatened with eviction, your school is more like a prison, practically your whole neighbourhood is unemployed and you have little hope yourself of ever getting a decent job when you leave school. The misery of your daily life is caused by structures established by powerful white people who profit from your subjugation. This pisses you off, it makes you
angry, and you decide that you hate white people and you join the Black Panthers. Does this make you racist? If we hold with Connolly’s intentional definition it does. Indeed, some would describe this type of black nationalism as a form of “reverse racism.” The Australian comic Aamer Rahman skewered the stupidity of the “reverse racism” thesis in one of his stand-up routines. In this routine, he imagines what would be necessary in order for reverse racism to occur: “I could be a reverse racist if I wanted to. All I would need is a time machine. I’d get in my time machine and go back in time to before Europe colonised the world. I’d convince the leaders of Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America to invade and colonise Europe, occupy them and steal their land and resources, set up some sort of trans-Asian slave trade where we exported white people to work on rice plantations in China. Just ruin Europe over the course of a couple of centuries so all their descendants would want to migrate out and go live in the places where black and brown people come from. But of course, in that
time I’d make sure that I set up systems which privileged black and brown people and every conceivable social, political and economic opportunity so that white people would never have any real hope of self-determination...” It’s clear that racism involves more than just intentions. Racism, as Rahman points out, takes place in a social and historical context of systematised oppression. Someone who believes that blacks shouldn’t have the right to marry is a racist, no matter how many black friends they have or how well-disposed they are to black people in general. Similarly, if we accept that the position of LGBT* people is analogous to that of ethnic minorities, someone who opposes same-sex marriage is a homophobe. This does not mean that they are a horrible person, by this criteria some of the nicest, kindest people I know are homophobes. And let there be no doubt that there is a history of structural discrimination against LGBT* people. Homophobia is inscribed into our laws, into our perceptions and into our culture. This is the mistake Connolly makes
when he claims that if the opponents of same-sex marriage are homophobes, then the opponents of polygamous marriage are antipolygamist bigots. There is no history (in Ireland) of the structural oppression of practitioners of polygamy. But this, of course, is only my definition. I happen to think that it is the definition that makes the most sense but, ultimately, the meaning of a word is defined according to social consensus. This attachment of meaning to the word is not necessarily a neutral process but often, as in the words racist and sexist for example, the result of a cultural and political struggle. Right now a struggle is being carried out to define the meaning of the word “homophobe.” The conservative side wants to limit the use of the word to the most extreme cases of anti-homosexual hatred because it suits their agenda. Progressives must battle for a broader definition which includes those who, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, support structures which discriminate against LGBT* people.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Hands off our tax rate The notion that Ireland is a tax haven is a myth, argues Conor McGlynn.
T Conor McGlynn Deputy Comment Editor
he popular media narrative around Ireland’s corporate tax regime is a myth that won’t be put to rest. The latest round of tax-bashing has been kicked off by Yahoo’s decision to move their financial operations from France to Ireland. French President Francois Hollande has called for action against “big companies who move to countries with low corporate tax”. He has even promised to discuss this with Obama when he visits Washington this week. Such grandstanding by politicians goes down well with domestic audiences, who get fired up by the thought of foreign nations stealing tax revenues and employment from their own country. It’s more vexing, however, when journalists and commentators propagate this narrative. A recent article for Bloomberg by Zachary Mider also deals with Ireland supposedly nabbing corporations from other countries, and efforts in the US to deal with “CEOs whose companies shift their legal addresses to tax havens such as Ireland”. These accusations have no basis in truth. Ireland is not a tax haven. Last September, when the corporate tax rate was featuring prominently in the headlines, the issue was investigated by the Joint Oireachtas Subcommittee on Global Taxation. Professor Frank Barry from Trinity demonstrated that Ireland could in no way qualify as a tax haven. At the same time the head of the OECD, Dr Angel Gurria, also said that Ireland wasn’t a tax haven. We can clearly see that this is the case by looking at the characteristics of a tax haven identified by the US Government Accountability Office. The first of these characteristics is a nil or nominal tax rate. The headline
rate in Ireland is the infamous 12.5% - a figure that by no means counts as nominal. It has been alleged, usually by other governments, that the effective tax rate - the tax rate which corporations actually end up paying - is in fact far lower than this. This too is patently rubbish. An Oxford University study found that the effective rate is about 11.1%, very close to the headline rate, and far higher than the 2% or 3% being quoted by critics. The second characteristic of a tax haven is lack of transparency in the operation of legislative, legal or administrative provisions. This basically means that there exist complex rules around the tax rate which allow for companies and individuals to avail of loopholes, and thus pay less tax. In reality, Ireland’s corporate tax system is far more straightforward and transparent than that of many other countries. This includes France, whose complex rules and regulations mean that there is very high variance in the level of tax paid by companies. The exception to this in Ireland’s case are so-called ‘grandfather clauses’, where different rules may apply to companies which set up here before the corporate tax system was changed. Tax havens also have a lack of effective exchange of tax information with foreign tax authorities. Again, Ireland doesn’t fit this description. Nor does it engage in self-promotion as an offshore financial centre. The final characteristic of a tax haven is that there is no requirement in the law for a substantive local presence. This charge alone may have some basis in truth; companies can pay Irish taxes without a large do-
mestic presence. However, this is not true in the cases of the tech companies so often mentioned in the context of this debate such as Google, which has a large operational base here, which is continuing to grow. Many companies do take advantage of tax loopholes, including some companies which are headquartered in Ireland. However, these loopholes are not the product of the Irish tax system. Instead, they arise from the complex interaction of different tax regimes around the globe. The fact that such differences in tax regimes exist, and that the interconnecting laws are so complex, make such loopholes unavoidable. If Ireland was to raise its corporate tax rate it would not solve the problem of companies engaging in tax avoidance. It would only make us less competitive. Make no mistake: other countries such as France have a vested interest in Ireland raising its corporate tax rate. For one it allows them to avoid the fact that their own tax rates are often too high and their systems too complex. It also gives them an excuse as to why companies are leaving their shores, instead of dealing with the uncompetitive aspects of their economies which are really driving firms away. Finally, other countries would be only too happy to accommodate corporations leaving Ireland if we were to raise our corporate tax rate. There is no need to increase the Irish rate, nor would there be any advantage to Ireland if the corporate tax system was changed. This debate has far outlived its relevance. We should finally bid it adieu.
Better in than out
“L Rory O’Donoghue Contributor
Rory O’Donoghue argues that the UK is better off inside the EU. ock all the doors, cover over the windows, close all entry points! The hoards of immigrants are coming and they are armed with EU regulations to destroy life as we know it!” I accept that this caricature of the anti-Europe lobby in the UK is a touch on the extreme side, but I don’t think anyone reading this piece would be shocked to see some approximation appearing as the editorial in either the Daily Mail or the Daily Express. The entire debate around the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union has been brought down to the most base of arguments by several right wing commentators. Not for the first time they wish to paint it as an ‘us versus them’ argument, and how poor old Britain once again stands alone against the continent. They speak of Nigel Farage being “Churchillian” in his attempts to wrestle back UK sovereignty from those dastardly foreigners. For the most part there is a high level of arrogance amongst those who wish to see the UK leave the European Union immediately. They point out that the UK is a
net contributor to the EU budget to the tune of 11 billion pounds, making them one of the largest contributors. The United Kingdom has to put up with countless EU regulations and directives that erode the British right to make their own lives and retain a sense of ‘Britishness’. While poor old British people are working hard to pay their EU paymasters, the French and Germans are in cahoots with one another, devising other ways to subjugate the UK even further. If the UK were to leave, it could just negotiate a special trade agreement with the EU, similar to the current arrangements with Norway and Switzerland; all of the benefits with none of the pain. These are the main arguments put forward not only by Maxton Milner in his article for the last issue of TN, but also by UKIP, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and a large section of the Tory party. It is intrinsic to the future prosperity of the UK that it remains in the European Union, not just economically but also socially. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that up to 4 million jobs are attached to the UK’s membership
of the EU. Osborne practically portrays himself as Christ reborn when unemployment falls, but would he take the blame for putting millions of jobs at risk? The much praised and revered ‘City of London’ is the shining light of the UK economy according to many right wing commentators. If so, how can they justify putting it in jeopardy by pulling out of the EU? I can guarantee you right now that the UK government could lower as many taxes as it wants (and seems hell-bent on doing so at the moment), but those financial institutions will think twice about staying in the City if they suddenly face trading barriers to the huge European market. The UK under this government has rebalanced to become an open economy almost exclusively interested in developing the service industry even further. The companies that are currently forming the economic revival of the country will need unimpeded access to the European market if they want to continue their growth. No one with a basic grasp of economics would think it wise to economics cultivate a service
“It is intrinsic to the future prosperity of the UK that it remains in the European Union, not just economically but also socially. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that up to 4 million jobs are attached to the UK’s membership of the EU.”
sector economy and then cut off opportunities for further growth. It would be economic madness to isolate the United Kingdom at a time when the economy is only recovering. In a world where even China recognizes the need to cooperate with those around them, the UK cannot afford to become introverted. This brings me onto the one particular argument of the anti-EU lobby in the UK that really annoys me: that even after the country has withdrawn from the trading bloc, it will continue to have access to the free market. This attitude of “they needs us more than we need them” is rooted firmly in a mindset which would be more at home in early part of the last century. Britannia no longer rules the waves and cannot keep developing foreign policy as if this is the case. The EU would be well within its rights to place some pretty stringent barriers to UK participation in the free market were it to leave. The difference in context between the UK and Norway for example is that Norway has always been clear in not wanting to participate in the European project. There is a difference in negotiating with someone who has been clear in their objectives from day one, and negotiating with someone who has pulled out and wants to ‘wipe the slate clean’. Future trade agreements are not a cut and dry issue as they are being presented by the antiEU lobby. To plunge Britain into such a precarious position would be potentially disastrous.
There is a final important point to be made about the social aspect of remaining in the EU. Speaking as someone who identifies as British, I would worry for my country if it sees Liam Fox and Nigel Farage as defenders of the British interest. They are certainly not the figures I would use to represent the British culture that I would identify with. It is about time that we stood up and questioned this right wing fear mongering. They tell us that the UK contribution makes austerity worse, without questioning the crippling austerity itself. They tell us that immigrants are the problem, or the EU is the problem, or both. I say the problem in the UK at the moment is that divide and conquer politics is back again with this “skivers versus scroungers” or “natural British versus immigrants” rubbish. I’m glad that the UK is signed up to the EU. The EU safeguards workers’ rights from Tory attacks, and provides an additional barrier against miscarriages of justice in the form of the European Court of Human Rights. In summary, I should say that the European Union is by no means perfect but far from it. What I want to see is a proactive Britain that is working on the inside to bring more transparency and democracy to the way it works. What I fear is a Britain that leaves the EU, becomes inward looking and hands the keys of the country to Farage and the Daily Mail.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Dylan Lynch examines the past failures of peer-review and the possibilities for its future.
Is feminism a dirty word? Doireann Conghaile analyses the history and wide reach of the “F” word and asks whether it has run its course as a force for change
F Doireann Conghaile Contributor
eminism is, almost inevitably, a loaded word. As a historical movement now in its fourth wave, the term itself has many connotations spanning over a hundred years – from the Suffragettes to Simone de Beauvoir, to Caitlin Moran and the Bechdel Test, it can have different meanings for different people. Say it to a student of literary theory, and they will think of Helene Cixous and Luce Irigary. A different generation might think of Germaine Greer or Virginia Woolf. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, it will bring to mind images of bra-burning, man-hating “feminazis” who, for some reason, nobody wants to be friends with. All this, from one little word? Few other movements are quite as diverse and far-reaching, and that, in many ways, is what leads to its misinterpretation. As such a provocative word, it is rarely used lightly any more. When the movement underwent a resurgence a few years ago, it became cool for a while to identify as a feminist. Now, instead of being a term of empowerment, it’s more often than not used as an insult. Few people, no matter how liberal, can refer to themselves as feminists in public without being subjected to ridicule – and nothing will put an end to an argument quicker than calling someone the “F” word. There are still people and publications who continue to use the word defiantly (such as the hilarious Vagenda website) but this has also resulted in the rise of the term “anti-feminism”, which is plastered across articles all around the internet. Sure, you think, it’s great that they now have a way to point out when people are op-
posed to equality for women – but the thing is, we already have words for that. Think sexism or misogyny, or even chauvinism. So “anti-feminist” implies, not so much that someone/thing is sexist, but that there’s a specific way of being feminist, and they’re doing it wrong. Even worse, by separating the ideas of sexism and feminism, it promotes the misconception that feminism is something other than an opposition to misogyny and a desire for equality – which is all it is at the end of the day. “But why don’t they refer to themselves as equalists, or humanists or something?” I pretend to hear you ask. “Isn’t confining the fight for equal rights to just women selfish?” The simple answer is that no, of course it isn’t. While feminists (and hopefully everyone else) want a society that treats people of all religions, ethnicities and sexual orientations equally, all-encompassing terms such as “equalist” suggest that there aren’t problems of discrimination specific to women – or to gay people or people of colour, for that matter. It would be an insult to any anti-discrimination movement to lump it in with all the rest, depriving it of recognition of its own specific issues, history and goals. In fact, feminism itself is often too broad a term, as the problems faced by, say, a Muslim woman in danger of being stoned to death, or an Indian woman being threatened with gang-rape, are not really on a par with those faced by a white woman in a firstworld country who’s earning less than her male colleagues. The problem, then, is not so much that we have too
many terms for discrimination, but that we don’t have enough. While “feminism” is still necessary as an over-arching term encompassing the global scale of sexism and misogyny, I think we need some new words – ones to describe a more modern feminism, less loaded with political and historical connotations. Feminism as a concept is still needed as long as sexism still exists (and don’t try to tell me that it doesn’t, or so help me) but the word itself has so many associations, both positive and negative, that it has become almost too powerful, to the point where it can no longer be used in everyday conversation. Like Godwin’s Law, discussion of anything from politics to film will inevitably come back to feminism, and once it’s been brought up, all reasonable debate is out the window. Everyone has a strong opinion on feminism, but bringing it up will either provoke intense debate (which never actually seems to lead anywhere), or result in the person who mentioned it being labelled a killjoy and ruining an otherwise civilised argument. Now, obviously there is nothing wrong with a word – especially one related to a historical and political movement – being so charged. The problem is that if we persist in using it in everyday circumstances, it will eventually lose its power, and then what do we use when confronted with hardcore sexism and discrimination? Feminism of the more extreme variety is still needed in many places in the world, for serious instances of misogyny that we don’t often see in western countries. Women being sub-
jected to female genital mutilation and being denied basic rights need Feminism with a capital F, and hopefully, if we keep it associated with those women rather than letting it become a first world problem, it will continue to have a real impact. However, we also need a word to combat less brutal sexism, one which would encompass not a historical and political movement, but more simply, a desire. Now, I’m no lin-
guist, so I’ll leave its invention up to the professionals, but its sentiment would be a fairly simple one. No man-bashing, no judgement, no stereotypes, just a desire to be treated equally. It was best summed up, surprisingly, in TV show ‘Rules of Engagement’, in one of the show’s few worthwhile moments: When confronted with some good old fashioned sexism, Jeff decides that women should be treated exactly like men, as
they are just “men with boobs.” Honestly, I have no idea if this would make a real difference, but the fact that feminism – a movement fighting for equality for half of the population of the world – is so negatively perceived nowadays shows that we need to start approaching it differently, and the basic level of language seems like a good place to start. Even if it doesn’t help, it’s worth a shot, right?
The Visual Arts: “So What?” Rachel Graham explores the legitimacy of the visual arts in today’s internet-obsessed culture.
A Rachel Graham Contributor
fter an argument I had with a friend during the summer about the merits of contemporary art – according to him, “culture ended in the 1930s” – I was left thinking about why, if for any reason, it was really worth engaging with. Although it is something I generally enjoy and am interested in, there are two things I am often left feeling after a trip to a modern art museum: one is a sense of “so what?” and the other, complete bafflement. It seems odd that in a world where we’re often surrounded by art of various forms, and generally taught to think of that as a positive, wholesome, life-enriching thing - with public money often being spent on museums and cultural centres and schoolchildren being brought to galleries - a lot of, if not most, people will express either apathy, bemusement, or not infrequently, outright disdain when you talk to them about specific instances of engaging with visual art. The feeling of standing in large, echoey rooms with polished floors, trying to look at the objects in front of you for a suitable amount of time, while thinking more about how your arms are folded and how stupid your “contemplative” expression looks, is a feeling familiar to almost everyone from the time of school-trips, and certainly still is to me. Often a trip to a gallery ends up being more about the cute cakes they have in the stylish café than anything you’ve actually seen inside. This doesn’t seem to put me off though; I’m generally pretty sure that visual art is potentially a very rewarding thing. So what makes so many encounters with it so hollow? Some people will suggest it’s supposed to be a challenging experience - ok, fair enough- but you could also say that about staring at a rock for half an hour. Thinking about why it’s a challenging experience can prove pretty interesting though. When I was arguing with my oldfashioned friend, I couldn’t quite identify what exactly about the commonly derided experiences of going to a museum, only to be confronted by a rough blob of a sculpture, a square of coloured paint on the wall, or an installation of seemingly unrelated items I wanted to defend. The argument kept coming back into my head over the next few months, and there were two things I thought might make us commonly hit a wall when engaging with visual art. One is the sense that whatever artworks might “say”, they don’t say enough to satisfy us, and the other is that when the issue of them “saying” anything at all doesn’t seem to be possible to
“Our culture of instantaneity seems to bring with it a culture of flippancy. Big ideas are thrown around quickly and casually, to either disappear into oblivion if they don’t capture the imagination, or be Retweeted thousands of times and make a statement if they do.”
grapple with, we’re kind of hostile towards the idea of objects existing to no ends beyond themselves. I’ll stick to discussing the former in this article in the interests of brevity. Both of these things, but especially the former, are affected by the digital culture we live in, especially by our modes of communication – texting, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter - which make everything so quick, effortless, and compact. With snapchat limiting your time to view a picture message to a few seconds, and twitter limiting your mode of expression to 140 characters; we haven’t only become used to instant gratification, we’ve gotten used to ideas being condensed into smaller and more instantaneous mediums of expression. These ideas are instantaneous both in terms of their creation and in terms of our appreciation and comprehension of them. In the time it takes you to go and see one piece of visual art that tries to convey any particular idea or question, a Google search could have returned to you thousands of expressions of that same thing. When a sentence could have expressed something that the sculpture you’re looking at - which took weeks to make - is also expressing, and got to an incomparably larger audience to boot, the object can seem so superfluous, so self-indulgent. Our culture of instantaneity seems to bring with it a culture of flippancy. Big ideas are thrown around quickly and casually, to
either disappear into oblivion if they don’t capture the imagination, or be retweeted thousands of times and make a statement if they do. The Proclaimer of the idea is under little pressure to justify the value of expressing what he is expressing. The ease with which we can broadcast opinions allows us to just kind of “throw them out there” and see how they’re received. In the case of someone making a statement or expressing an idea through the medium of the visual arts - be that painting, printing, sculpture, installation, what have you - the same casualness is not available to them. The artists not only have to have good ideas, they have to have good ideas worthy of spending weeks or months forming into physical objects. This expectation leads us to be disappointed with almost anything the artwork turns out to be saying to us. No motive behind the making of the object can satisfy us when we are so used to getting so many things that arise from so little time and so little effort on the internet. The effort always seems to be disproportionate to the result, leading to that cynical feeling of “so what?” people seem to have a lot of the time in contemporary art galleries. These days, our modes of communication, expression and information distribution are so divorced from physical objects that when confronted with the physical significance of objects in galleries and museums, we expect them to tell us something, or give
“These days, our modes of communication, expression and information distribution are so divorced from physical objects that when confronted with the physical significance of objects in galleries and museums, we expect them to tell us something, or give us something that we cannot get anywhere else. This, in a certain sense is legitimate because the medium of expression itself does give us something that we can’t get from other mediums.”
us something that we cannot get anywhere else. This, in a certain sense is legitimate because the medium of expression itself does give us something that we can’t get from other mediums. But, in terms of what motivates those objects, I think our expectations probably act as a barrier to engaging with them. Humans have a general bank of ideas and things that are interesting and relevant to them, and when people make art they are just trying to express those things that we all express in facebook statuses in a different way. Keeping these concepts in mind definitely makes me feel less skeptical and more openminded towards art and its merits. There is a tendency to think of art and artists as “pretentious”. I think this is largely connected to the fact that they put emphasis and effort into things people disregard as not worthy enough of that attention. This is part of a larger, ever irritating attitude of irony that seems to have dominated conversation on almost every topic for the past few years; an attitude that devalues genuine concern that people hold for things and is always suspicious of sincerity. Surely in an environment where the option to communicate and create with such little effort is always open to us – a circumstance which arguably encourages thoughtless and emotionless expressions along with all of the great things it facilitates – should someone who holds a thought or idea with enough conviction or interest to express it in a way which necessitates time, consideration and concerted effort be looked upon with interest rather than derision? The self-consciousness required to express an idea over time rather than instantaneously makes it likely that the end product has picked up qualities that are not always there in a straightforward expression of the same idea. This is not to say that the object of the artwork itself will have magically “absorbed” in some sense those intricacies of thought, but knowledge of the process definitely offers different possibilities to one’s engagement with the object in question and the things it might express in relation to the viewer. There are many other things visual art might have going for it, but one thing that seems particularly relevant to current internet-existence is the possibility it offers to engage with things in a way that’s slower, more deliberate, and more demanding of us than the way to which we have become accustomed.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Science in Brief Conor O’Donovan
“Ireland for CERN” campaign launched The “Ireland for CERN” campaign launched with great energy at the Science Gallery on 30th January. A student-led lobbying group, it is campaigning for Ireland to apply for membership of CERN (home to the Large Hadron Collider). At present, Ireland has no official affiliation with the organisation. It is hence excluded from competing for an annual ¤500 million in commercial contracts, and is limited in the projects with which it can collaborate. Seán Kelly (Fine Gael MEP) and Dr Ronan McNulty (UCD academic and CERN collaborator),
as well as industrial and economic representatives, threw their support behind the campaign, which is hoped to provide benefits to education, research, industry, and potentially other fields, such as health. The cost of associate membership (the lowest level) for Ireland has been estimated at about ¤1.2 million. The government (Seán Sherlock, Minister of State) has indicated that it is commissioning a review of the costs and benefits of membership, with the hope of changing its stance on the issue in the near future.
Illustration: Natalie Duda
2014: The UN International Year of Crystallography Luke McGuiness guides us through a lesser-known field of science that has had profound, yet under-appreciated influences. This year the clouds of obscurity part and crystallography steps up.
T Luke McGuiness Contributor
his year has been named by the United Nations as the International Year of Crystallography. For those without a scientific background, and for many with one, looks of puzzlement and confusion usually appear about now during conversations on this topic. It is this reaction that the UN are trying to combat, making general public more aware of the fairly obscure science that is crystallography, and showcasing the huge leaps of understanding in many areas of science that are due to it. 2014 is an appropriate choice to host this year of recognition of crystallography, falling on the centennial anniversary of the awarding of Max von Laue’s Noel Prize in Physics. Von Laue, a German physicist, was awarded the prize for his “discovery of the diffraction of x-rays by crystals”. His work heralded the age of crystallography, allowing the father-son team of Sir William Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg to do further work with crystals and ultimately discover that x-rays could be used to see the interior of a crystallised compound without interfering with it, an achievement for which they were also awarded the Noble Prize for Physics. The main part of their work was the invention of the modestly named Bragg Diffraction Pattern in response to a lack of information about the interior of molecules. In general, in the realm of
light microscopy, a small object can be viewed using a lens to focus the illuminating radiation, or light. Visible light, however, is usually of a wavelength between 4000 and 7000 ångströms (Å) (one ångström is one-tenth of a nanometre or one ten-billionth of a metre). This is almost three orders of magnitude longer than the length of an atomic bond (the connection between atoms allowing them to construct more complicated structures), which weighs in in the region of 1 to 2 Å. To combat this problem, shorter wavelengths of radiation, such as x-rays and neutron beams were employed. Using these types of radiation posed another problem however, as there was no way of focusing radiation of such a short length. This is where the Bragg Diffraction Pattern comes in. By analysing the spots or “reflections” in the pattern, the structure of the sample may be discovered. Sharper images were obtained from samples with a high density and a constant repetition of atomic order, as more light was focused on one particular point, whereas random atomic order cause light to be thrown in all directions. This simple fact made crystals, with their highly ordered internal arrangement, the perfect choice for studying compounds using this technique. So what impact has this made of the world today? To be fair, crys-
tallography has a huge impact on the way we view the world today, especially in creating new information for the sciences, but also in allowing more affective drugs to be created. The most noteworthy story in which this science played a role is possibly one of the most important and well known of recent science; the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA. In 1952, Raymond Gosling, a PhD student in the lab of Rosalind Franklin, took Photo 51, the nickname given to an image of the x-ray diffraction pattern of DNA. This photo was shown to James Watson and Francis Crick, who used the characteristics shown by the photo to construct a chemical model of the structure of DNA. This was a vital break-through, as the discovery of the structure of DNA allowed others to learn how hereditary information is passed from the parents into their offspring. However, the story is not without controversy. Watson was apparently shown the image without Franklin’s consent, and the paper on the structure only hinted at her contribution to the discovery. It is for this reason that her role and the role of crystallography are often overlooked in this paradigm shift in the way we think about information transfer in the body. Crystallography has also allowed, in more recent years, the discovery of the structure of G-
Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs), receptors on the membrane of all cells that control a huge amount of physiological response within the body. They are the target of almost 60% of all drugs, and the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to two men, Brian Kobilka and Robert Lefkowitz, for their work on discovering the structure of these receptors, allowing more effective drugs to be derived, benefitting millions of people worldwide. Moving back to the present, the UN has requested the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to lead and coordinate “the planning and implementation of educational and capacity-building activities during the year.” The main events are the opening of crystallography laboratories in Asia, Africa and Latin America throughout the year, a number of summits occurring across the globe, and the organisation of public awareness events such as hands-on Crystallography Open Laboratories, the launch of an open-access crystallography journal, and the arrangement of crystal-growing competitions, to name but a few. More information on nearby events and on crystallography in general can be found online at iycr2014.org, for those interested in this fascinating area of science.
Breakthrough in stem cell production Japanese scientists have developed a novel and highly efficient method for generating induced pluripotent stem (iPS)-like cells from cells of various types, according to two joint papers recently published online in the journal Nature on 29th January. Following exposure of mouse cells from various tissues to external stress conditions, such as submersion in weak acids, a fraction of the surviving cells reverted to a state of extensive pluripotency
– i.e. the ability to form all cell types of the body. By injecting the so-called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells into developing mouse blastocysts (pre-embryo structures), it was shown that the cells were able to integrate into all tissues of the developing mouse. This newly reported method for producing stem cells has a number of benefits, including producing cells in less time and with greater efficiency than previous methods.
Healthcare professionals acquire “x-ray vision” Emma Julia Leacy explores some of the technological innovations shaping modern medicine – and easing the stress for patients.
S Emma Julia Leacy Contributor
uperman uses his x-ray vision to locate the trapped kitten in the burning building and the day is saved, hurray. Unfortunately for us, this isn’t possible just yet. What Superman can do though, is use his new infrared imaging glasses to quickly and easily locate veins in a patient’s arm from which to draw blood. The day may not be saved, but it could be made significantly less stressful. The process of drawing blood from a patient can be quite an ordeal, particularly in challenging clinical settings such as A&E departments or paediatric wards. As many as 40% of IV (intravenous) starts require multiple attempts to locate and access a vein, delaying treatment and causing discomfort and frustration to patients. In 2013 California-based medical imaging firm Evena Medical unveiled their revolutionary new Eyes-On Glasses unit, a unique, hands free system that provides fast and precise intravenous access. Evena Medical is a medical device company specialising in vascular imaging and IV access. The newly established company launched late last year, and their flagship product, the Evena Owl, is described as a “GPS for precision IV placement”. The tabletbased unit can be mounted by the bedside or on a cart, and is positioned over the patient to display the vascular anatomy and enable accurate IV access. The Eyes-On Glasses improve on this technol-
ogy by making them wearable and hands free, convenient when you’re trying to stab someone with a needle. Evena’s products are all based on the same multispectral imaging technology. Infrared light is projected onto the patient’s IV access site, allowing clinicians to effectively see “through” their skin to the vasculature beneath. The Eyes-On Glasses are worn on the clinician’s face, and contain cameras and an infrared (IR) light source. The cameras capture the IR images (not visible to the human eye) and display them on the lenses of the glasses in real time. Users see the patient’s skin as it really is through the glasses’ clear lens, but with an image of the veins as processed by the cameras overlaid on top. This device works on the basis that deoxygenated blood absorbs light at a slightly different wavelength to oxygenated blood. Deoxygenated blood is a darker, richer red, whereas the oxygenrich blood in our arteries is a brighter colour due to the binding of oxygen to the protein haemoglobin. This explains why some veins visible under the skin appear blue and arteries are slightly purple. Blood is generally taken from the superficial veins of the arm as they are under low pressure and easy to access. For humans, the visible spectrum of light is approximately 390-700 nm (nanometres), however the optical window used for
detecting the vein pattern is 700900 nm. Multiple wavelengths of infrared light are layered onto the IV access site and captured by the highly sensitive cameras. The image must be processed into greyscale to allow it to be seen by the user, and this allows clinicians to visualise the superficial veins in the arm and select the ideal one for venepuncture. Image processing involves a number of processes, including negative image and edge detection, thinning, and determining thresholds. This is essential to verify and record vein patency and to reduce the risk of vein leakage and extravasation – the accidental administration of IV fluids into the tissue surrounding the blood vessel, rather than into the vessel itself. As well as containing this impressive system of image collection and interpretation, the EyesOn unit also contains a host of other nifty features. The custom cameras capture the images in real time, and can also transmit them to remote wireless locations via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or 3G. There is also internal photo and video storage built into the shades, and speakers to allow two-way audio conferencing. Helpful if your doctor is a young intern with shaky hands that may need a bit of positive reinforcement. If these features sound excessive, the company has also developed a range of low-cost devices available exclusively to developing countries. A number of other vascular
detection technologies are available, including devices using direct infrared light, lasers, and ultrasound. A vein-detecting robot has even been developed, but the Eyes-On Glasses appear to have overcome the challenges that these other systems have faced while still remaining remarkably simple to use. There is no additional heat or pain compared to standard venepuncture, and the device will work on all skin types and pigmentations. The only side effect appears to be the creation of an in-depth image of the patient’s vascular anatomy that can be shared and viewed by any member of their medical care team. Hishaam Saumtally highlighted, in the last issue of Trinity News (Wearable devices in medicine: ethical and legal implications. 21st January 2014; page 19), the legal and ethical implications associated with the current boom in remote sensors and wireless devices in healthcare and the sensitive data these produce. It will be interesting to see what the next innovation will be from the company, and in the wider field of medicinal technologies. In the meantime don’t be alarmed if the next time you need a blood sample your clinician walks in looking like something from a scifi movie, you are in for nothing more than a quick and efficient good time.
Prof David Nutt talks at Trinity: psychoactive drugs have undeserved stigma Prof David Nutt, a psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London, spoke in Trinity’s Lloyd building on 30th January. Hosted jointly by College’s Neurosoc, the School of Psychology, and Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN), Nutt spoke compellingly about his work on the personal and social harms of alcohol, the relative safety of other prohibited substances and his controversial dismissal from the UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2009. He urged caution about the power of the alcohol industry to direct public sentiment towards illicit drugs, and the consequent unbalanced effect this has on
public representatives and drug policy priorities. His talk then focused on his recent research on the effects of psychotropic drugs on the brain, and his navigation of the legal and regulatory barriers that researchers face in studying compounds of potential therapeutic use. He argued that these restrictions are not justified on the basis of sound estimates of associated drug harms. Following well-meaning questions and hearty applause, a wine reception was ironically well attended afterwards. His 2012 book, “Drugs without the hot air: minimizing the harms of legal and illegal drugs” is available for sale.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Peer review – what is it and does it deserve our trust? Dylan Lynch introduces us to the process of peer review in science, highlighting some of its past failures and questioning its future form.
T Dylan Lynch Staff Writer
he process of peer review is one of the most widespread practices in the field of scientific publishing. Most articles or journals you have ever read would have gone through some form of peer review. Usually, it involves professionals working in the same area of science as the author evaluating the piece of work in order to maintain and enhance the quality of work produced in the field, and to make sure that it is worthy to go to publication. But why should we care about peer review, and is it really necessary at all? The first recorded occurrence of peer review by an editor was at the Royal Society in 1665, while the first peer reviewed publication is thought to be Medical Essays and Observations, published by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1731. The method we use in the present day actually evolved from the 18th century process, with a few tweaks. The process is quite widespread, and is used for all papers published in high profile journals such as the journal of the American Medical Association (AMA), ‘Science’ and ‘Nature’. So how does this 300 year old process actually work? A journal editor will send the article or paper to a group of reviewers, otherwise known as ‘referees’. These referees spend anywhere between a fortnight and a month (or even more) scrutinizing the details of the paper and begin identifying
scientific errors, and questioning any methods that may have been used in the process of the experiment. The team of referees also judge the significance and originality of the work, and determine how well the paper advances the field of science. They can then recommend if the paper be published or rejected. The journal editors make the final decision but more often than not, they accept the referees’ decision. The review can be single-blind, double-blind or open. Single-blind means that the authors name is known to the reviewer, but not the other way around. Double-blind then obviously means that neither author nor referee knows each other’s identity, and open means that the identities are known to the referee and author. Many editors and research scientists have been pushing as of late for the open peer review system to be implemented. It is believed that this system, where no individual is anonymous, will open dialog between researchers and referees so that well thought-out replies and adjustments can be made to papers before publishing. Unfortunately, the peer review process is far from perfect. The process is extremely slow and also quite expensive. When a peer reviewed paper is published, it can cost up to $5000 (¤3700) for the academic community to gain access to it. A huge chunk
“Unfortunately, the peer review process is far from perfect. The process is extremely slow and also quite expensive. When a peer reviewed paper is published, it can cost up to $5000 (¤3700) for the academic community to gain access to it. A huge chunk of this reportedly goes as profit to the publisher.”
of this reportedly goes as profit to the publisher, while the rest covers distribution costs, editorial costs and other expenses. Not only that, but the review process can often produce inconsistent results. If one reviewer finds an article well written and thoroughly researched but another finds it the complete opposite, then months and months of research and hundreds of pounds may have been wasted. However, the failures of peer review can be much more serious. In September of 2012, a scientific paper was published which stated that genetically modified (GM) corn causes cancer in laboratory rats. This article caused widespread confusion in America where this particular brand of corn is quite popular. It even caused Anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) groups to storm into a GM-corn storehouse in Southern France and destroy several units of the foodstuff. In 2010, a well-respected journal reported that the University of Texas had confirmed homeopathic medicine could kill cancer cells. The problem with these papers was that the data published was altered, and the scientists only presented the data that made it seem like the accusations against GM-corn and allopathic (conventional) medicine were true, a process known as “cherry picking”. These alterations were not
detected during peer review, the only barrier in place to prevent bogus data from being published. The GM-corn study, carried out at Caen University in France, reported that huge tumours were observed in rats fed the GM-corn. However Professor of Cell Biology at Edinburgh University, Anthony Trewavas, claimed that not only was the sample space of 200 rats far too small, but he also stated “To be frank, it looks like random variation to me in a rodent line likely to develop tumours anyway”. Furthermore, only 10% of the rats were the control group (i.e. not fed GM-corn, in order to see if tumours would arise anyway) and any rats which ingested the supposedly toxic GMO outlived the rats that had a ‘clean’ diet. The list of failed peer reviews goes on and on, from linking anti-rheumatism drugs with heart failure (this caused the product to be wrongly taken off the shelves for several months) to allowing fake articles (such as one written by Michael Eisen saying he had discovered a new bacteria which uses arsenic in its DNA instead of phosphorus) to be published in highly regarded journals. Evidently, drastic changes need to be made to fix the problems with the peer review system. Forum users and bloggers have taken to the internet to suggest their own alterations to the system. One
such user, under the username ‘Darren Baker’, wrote on the famous ‘New Scientist’ blog that; “I would suggest a crowd sourced peer review website, much like Wikipedia, with the members reviews given weight based on their areas of expertise, and history of peer-reviewing. That way there could be a central location for media outlets and private citizens to check on the strength of claims.” Other users on the same blog have suggested things such as allowing videos of experiments to be posted (so that easier analysis of methodology would be possible) and allowing scientists to appeal a rejected paper if he or she believes that a mistake has been made in the peer review process (this is particularly significant; often if a paper is not published, it will be retracted and forgotten about). With the boundaries of science being pushed further than ever, it is more important in the present day to ensure the validity of our methods and findings. Scientists around the world need to be able to rely on the findings published in scientific journals, so to design better experiments and theories for the future. The peer-review method, whilst currently flawed in many ways, is an instrumental part of removing bogus research and furthering pure scientific endeavour.
Shortcuts in clinical trials are endangering public health Conor O’Donovan explores the overuse of cost- and time-saving practices in the testing of medicinal drugs. They are a danger to patient safety, and a grave threat to public health and confidence in the healthcare system.
C Conor O’Donovan Deputy Science Editor
linical trials – the tests in which new drugs or techniques are trialled on medical patients prior to widespread release – are carried out to answer important questions about how to improve the way patients are treated. Trial results are reported as “end-points”: measures of the outcome, basically the “beef” of what we want to know about what the drug does and how good it is at doing it. The most important, or “primary”, end-points usually dictate whether the trial is considered to have found an overall benefit, harm, or no difference. They are usually of direct relevance to a patient’s health, such as survival time, or incidence of heart attacks etc. When events such as these are rare, the number of patients recruited into clinical trials must be large, and the duration of the trial considerable, so as to accrue enough events to detect a significant difference between treatment arms in the trial – a rudimentary principle of biostatistics. These trials are hence expensive, and in the case of trials of new medications, the limited patent time for new pharmaceutical entities means there is an onus on drug companies to get their products approved and on the market as quickly as possible. Surrogate outcomes, as they
are known, are a means of dealing with these issues. A surrogate outcome or end-point is a measurement (commonly the result of a blood test or a physical quantity such as blood pressure) that is understood to be an indicator of the underlying disease process. Many are known risk factors for adverse health outcomes. For example, high blood levels of LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” one) predispose to heart disease and general heart-related death. During a clinical trial, it is much quicker and easier to measure a change in LDL-cholesterol levels and find a difference with an investigative drug, than it is to count hard endpoints such as deaths or heart attacks. It is assumed that the disease is well understood scientifically, and that the treatment directly tackles the processes that lead to the manifestations of disease, which matter to patients. It is likely that the effect of a drug on the measured characteristics (e.g. blood pressure) may be only one of a range of effects, whereas the actual benefit is derived through others, which are not measured. An example is the potential of statins (a widely prescribed class of cholesterollowering drugs) to lower blood LDL-cholesterol levels. In cases
such as these, it is difficult to confidently ascribe the benefit of the drug to any one of its effects on numerous physiological processes. Other potential biomarkers may even be negatively affected, and not reported merely for the lack of noticeable symptoms arising in patients, which would prompt their measurement. The major cautions relating to the use of surrogates in clinical trials concern inappropriate extrapolation from limited trial data to broad predictions about a drug’s clinical effectiveness. While all anti-diabetic drugs reduce blood sugar levels (many were designed to do so, and are marketed as such), not all of them provide any meaningful benefit in terms of hard outcomes such as the incidence of diabetic complications (e.g. blindness or amputation). Some, in fact, have been shown to be actively harmful, e.g. rosiglitazone increased deaths caused by heart disease. Furthermore, smaller, shorter studies are of little use in revealing rare but serious adverse drug effects, or the cumulative effects of long-term exposure – data which are instead accrued through repeated observations for years following the drug’s approval. By sampling bias alone, smaller studies are also more like-
ly to report findings of significant effect size, which may in reality arise by random chance. The use of surrogate endpoints to determine clinical trial success is widespread, and usually for reasons of cost- and timeefficiency, as well as the apparent advantage of exposing fewer patients to the potential hazards of an experimental treatment. This is particularly salient for companies attempting to gain accelerated approval (which is granted in some cases) for new drugs to treat chronic diseases, where there is a lengthy period before a significant clinical benefit is seen. For example, early cheers of success over the novel oral treatment for cystic fibrosis, ivacaftor (trade name Kalydeco), have been based on gross extrapolations of benefit demonstrated on a few surrogate markers measured in small numbers of patients, from trials of relatively short duration. In some cases, it may even be seen as unethical to wait for the results of large definitive trials using hard outcomes, instead of the easier-to-obtain surrogates, because of the perception that assumedly beneficial treatments are withheld from those in control/placebo groups for long periods of time. Indeed, the trial literature is
heavy with reports that use surrogate end-points alone. By publishing so extensively using such soft markers, the short-term goals of scientists (trying to prove the worth of their pre-clinical work), clinical investigators (trying to be the first to bring new and better treatments into practice), and pharmaceutical companies (trying to convince everyone, themselves included, of the value of their product), are furthered. It should be clear that this is not always in the interests of improving clinical outcomes that are of material interest to patients. Instead, by changing the tone of the health conversation in such a pervasive way, toward a focus on surrogates, such as maintaining blood tests within normal ranges, the health beliefs and demands of healthcare users are greatly influenced, and not for their own good. Rather, this can equate to the “medicalisation” of asymptomatic states, such as “pre-diabetes” or “pre-hypertension”, or even variants of normal physiology, on the grounds of very poorly validated surrogate markers of disease. The world of illness encroaches into the lives of more and more people, and the range and scale of interventions patients come to expect from their healthcare providers only increase. The patient
who presents saying “Doctor, I want you to check my blood pressure, and give me this drug to get it down”, is not an easy patient to convince otherwise, when in fact the evidence may support not treating hypertension in the individual of his/her risk level. It is easy to convince the public of the breakthrough nature of new medications, the injustice of withholding “miracle cures” from gravely ill and needy patients, and the stifling power of statutory regulation on industrial innovation and economic growth. It is less easy, on the other hand, to say “No, we just don’t know enough about these drugs – without more information, we can’t say they won’t do you more harm than good in the long-run”. To ethically safeguard the public against unforeseen potential harms, hard outcomes must be mandatory for full market authorisation, and we could incentivise this by extending patent times for drug companies who carry out such important and meaningful trials.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Colum O”leary report on Duhac’s impressive run at Track and Field Indoors.
DUFC celebrate 160th anniversary Sarah Burns takes a closer look at Trinity’s rugby club on its 160th birthday.
T Sarah Burns Staff Writer
his year will see Dublin University Football Club (DUFC), the world’s oldest rugby club in existence celebrate its 160th anniversary. DUFC, founded in 1854 prides itself on not only being the oldest Irish rugby club but for its continuous active existence throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a time in which many other clubs disappeared. Guy’s Hospital Football Club, the central London based rugby club has claimed it was actually founded earlier in 1843, but this date is contested due to a lack of any contemporary records while the club died out at various points in the late nineteenth century. Throughout the 160 years a number of notable players have gone through DUFC, many of who went on to be Ireland internationals such as Lawrence Bulger, Andrew Clinch and Philip Orr. More recently DUFC has seen the likes of Malcolm O’Kelly (Leinster), Roger Wilson (Ulster), Kieran Lewis (Munster & Leinster), Scott Lavalla (USA Eagles) and last week’s ‘Man of the Match’ in Ireland’s 28-6 victory over Scotland, Jamie Heaslip. Speaking to DUFC’s Director of Rugby and 1st XV coach, Tony Smeeth, he re-
members Heaslip’s time in Trinity vividly. “The only club rugby he ever played was for us,” Smeeth explains. “He literally went from our first team to their [Leinster’s] first team. He was never a sub, he was just one of those players who had great talent. His brothers were all here too.” During Heaslip’s time with DUFC, the 1st XV team managed to reach Division One of the AllIreland League, where they currently stand (albeit in the form of Division 1B due to a change in the league set-up). Smeeth, who has been with DUFC since 1998 has noticed a real transformation within the club during his time here and recruiting from secondary school level seems to be a key component of this success. “The year before I came in the club was struggling,” says Smeeth. “All the best players within Trinity weren’t playing for Trinity. And that’s the big problem. Just because someone comes to Trinity doesn’t mean they’re going to play for Trinity. But, I’d say 95% of the good players, the top players in Trinity are playing for us now and it has been that way for a long tome, in fact it’s even been 100% at times.” Smeeth adds “we’re recruit-
ing out of schools now, we don’t leave it to people to come to Trinity.” Each year Smeeth sends out around 200 letters to possible prospectus students who have shown talent at school and underage level. I wonder what is the pull factor for players coming to Trinity over local rivals UCD, whose Belfield grounds boast vast sporting facilities. “Academically, it [Trinity] sells itself,” Smeeth explains. “You know you step out of Ireland, no one has heard of UCD. That’s the reality.” All will be decided between the two colleges in this year’s annual Colours match, which is set to take place on 7th March. Facility wise, this is an area that is set to change with College Park being revamped with a brand new pitch and lights to accompany it. “A facility to match the location, because the location is fantastic,” Smeeth exclaims. The pitch is set to be unveiled this September and will be followed by the annual 1854 dinner. Smeeth, who is originally from England, spent ten years living and coaching in Seattle, while also founded the USA Under 19s programme in 1992. For the past three years he has spent his summers working with the USA Ea-
gles yet seems content both in Dublin and within Trinity’s walls. Today DUFC boasts an active membership of around 150 players that includes six men’s teams and one women’s team. The Ladies team was set up in 1996 and were winners of the inaugural Women’s Intervarsity Cup in 2012, named after former club President Kay Bowen. The club also has a number of other accolades, most notably 19 Leinster Club Senior Cups, and two All-Ireland U20 Championships. Despite a difficult few months prior the Christmas break, with the 1st XV regrouping having lost some very strong players from last year’s pack including Leinster Academy player Cathal Marsh, Smeeth remains optimistic. “We were poor up to Christmas but now I think we’re turning a corner. Hopefully we’ll get out of the relegation zone now.” While a relegation battle may be on the cards for the 1st XV, what seems certain is the continued growth and success of DUFC under Smeeth, Kay Bowen and others. With 2014 marking the 160th anniversary as well the refurbishment of College Park, the future looks bright, and here’s hoping with another Jamie Heaslip in the making.
Six have played, one has shone Sports Editor Cal Gray gives an account of the Six Nations so far.
T Cal Gray Sports Editor
hat tournament is back. The one that last year meant the beginning of the end of Declan Kidney and the start of the rebuilding process. Last year the Welsh failed to flatter and then flattered to deceive by winning the tournament, running over England in the last match. The French floundered, the Scots finished third and we lost to Italy. This year the Scots look atrocious, the French look better and we find ourselves thankfully and thoroughly around the corner we needed to turn. The tournament kicked off with Wales beating Italy in what appeared to be a routine victory by an underperforming team. England and France clashed heads with France snatching victory at the very end, and Ireland fixed some bugs in their second half performance and went on to win against Scotland. Many things were said about many aspects of round one, and then before we knew it we were faced with round two, and match one meant the arrival of the Welsh in Dublin. ‘Drico’s revenge’ was thrown around as we waited impatient-
ly for what was expected to be a clash of two great teams, but we were both disappointed and elated. Ireland did not let this develop into a contest at any stage. The scoreboard ticked over, Sexton cleverly found the corners dare I say like O’Gara of old, and Peter O’Mahony led the way up front, winning both the ball and the award for the most possessed yet refined player on the pitch, replacing AA Roadwatch as Ireland’s leading breakdown service. We wanted a clash of the titans and we were given fifteen men doing a job over another fifteen with terrifying precision. And we loved it. This match was the defining point of Joe Schmidt’s era, New Zealand last November I hear you say? Maybe for forty minutes, but that was a one-off, trust me. The heart shown by leaders like Paul O’Connell and the wounded Brian O’Driscoll was inspring and the aerial dominace of Andrew Trimble and the two Kearney brothers was mesmerizing. Every player in green went about their day as if an unspoken agreement had been made between both teams that
the home side would dominate every breakdown, every collision and every set piece with mechanical precision. At the front of the line out, Jamie Heaslip seemed ten-feet-tall, and the ten-foot-tall man at the back, Devin Toner, ran around the pitch like the world class second-row we expect him to be. After the game, Rory Best stated that Ireland had a tacit objective of revenge for Brian O’Driscoll’s omission from the Lion’s third test in Australia. It’s this unity and focus that we have to attribute to Joe Schmidt, as he did the exact same job with Leinster. We must also state that Ireland have only conceded nine points so far. On the other side, you can’t underestimate how bad this is bad for Wales, as their victory over Italy was toothless and their performance at the Aviva was heartless. Have Gatland’s tactics of ‘we’re bigger than you’ finally lost their potency? Has the simple answer to a basic question been found? I think so. Wales at the moment don’t just seem out of form, they seem out of ideas. When teams rush up in their defensive line and
read the skip pass to the battering ram that is George North, what else can they do? I don’t know and I don’t think Warren does either. Elsewhere the English have trundled on. New guns like Mike Brown, Luther Burrell and Billy Vunipola have continued the tradition of doing the basics well and being bigger than the opposition, but at no point has the team outweighed the individual in terms of performance. This is the eternal struggle of English rugby. I don’t see any reason to fear them when Ireland go to Twickenham on the 22nd, chasing a Triple Crown. Owen Farrell has constantly proved to be the spoilt child he is, with daddy watching from the sidelines, and I think teams will start to target him in future games, predicting his capitulation under pressure. France have also kept the wheels turning. Their last gasp victory over England was hardly deserved, as they could be said to have performed only in the first and last ten minutes. Their new prodigal son at centre, Gael Fickou (19), who got them out of jail in round one, seems to have seri-
ous staying power on the international stage. Louis Picamoles has gone about his job with understated potency and work ethic, popping up all over the pitch. French media has compared him to ‘the type of man who won La Révolution by wielding a pitch fork and an undying sense of selfsacrifice for La République.’ That is considerable praise. The Italians have been typically Italian; so much effort but so little reward. In round two they put up little opposition as Picamoles, Fofana & Bonneval put tries past them as France ran out 30-10 winners, and their aforementioned round one defeat to Wales gave us little hope for a Risorgimento. Sergio Parisse has of late been named Robocop, for his consistent work rate and efficiency, but even Robocop needed back up, and Sergio has none. However he may have a new hero in his ranks, as Michele Campagnaro (20) was kept quiet by France, but made a name for himself on his international debut against Wales, scoring two tries and hopefully representing the new generation of talented Italians that have
grown up in the professional era. Tommaso Allan at out-half seems overrated though. Then there’s the Scottish team. Scottish rugby is in such dire straits that I believe it threatens the prolonged existence of the Six Nations. In their first two matches they’ve played like they want to be metaphorically relegated. Their pitch is a shambles, their passing is atrocious and their game plan is non-existent. Against both Ireland & England they aimed to out-muscle the opposition with consistent forward ‘pick-and-gos’ but when the opponents had the answers to this, they were dumbfounded and gave in to heavy defeats, morally and numerically. They cannot go on like this. New talent needs to be blooded and new coaches with more clever tactics need to be hired. There’s only so much a rousing anthem and a sense of patriotism can bring you. Insert ending.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
The romance of the Six Nations Sports Editor, Cal Gray, reflects on the magic of the Six Nations tournament and attending matches at the Aviva Stadium.
I Cal Gray Sports Editor
t’s that time of year again. The time of year when the winter is having a hard time leaving and the trees are waiting impatiently to be covered in leaves. The air still plays host to that cold Irish bite, and we play host to our rugby neighbours. We stroll by the canal in gloves and hats and green and come over the bridge at the Grand Canal Plaza to see the Aviva rise up before us. In the distance, the Dart cuts a clinical line through the south side, sidestepping Blackrock and Dun Laoghaire, all the time carrying people to the same place we’re going. We stop at Slattery’s where the usual blue is replaced with grass green, but the black stuff has stayed the same. We say things like ‘he has a lot to prove today’ or ‘could be his last game for Ireland.’ We catch the eye of Rob from work across the bar and nod and think green suits him better than a black suit. Then when that’s all done and said we squeeze in with our wives and kids, our mums and dads, our husbands or wives, but always with our 51,699 neighbours. We hum the national anthem and
reluctantly sing Ireland’s Call, then for forty minutes we watch twenty-three of our countrymen fight and dig and scrap. The gladiatorial nature of it all. The man in the middle from yet another place blows the whistle and we go find some more of that black stuff before we momentarily dissect the previous two-thirds of an hour, but then it all starts again and more twists and chapters are added to the narrative. He blows for the last time and we start dealing with emotions, be they joyous or disastrous, and we leave, slowly. We exit onto Shelbourne Road and faintly mutter things like ‘he’s come on a lot since his Blackrock days’ or ‘the scrum was a nightmare’ and then we go somewhere warmer, via Pearse Street or Sydney Parade or that casual meeting with Gerry & Kate from down the road. We curl up close on a bar stool or a couch or at a kitchen table and say ‘he should have made that tackle’ and ‘he took his try well though’ or ‘I think Paddy knows his father.’ And then it’s evening, and we lament what Mr. Hook has allegedly said while we
were out, and wait patiently for him to plead his case the following day when we watch the Old Enemy take on the New Enemy. The fire is put on and more things are said about the new lad at 12 and the old lad at 13, reading from the same script distributed across the country. This is my favourite time of the year, and try as you may, you cannot help but be forever in love with the atmosphere and unity and hope that Brian and Paul and international rugby bring. This weather and this annual tournament always bring out the best in us all, as romance and magic shoulder their way into our lives every February.
Does football matter?
S Louis Strange Staff Writer
With sport receiving a bad name in Sochi, Louis Strange writes on the more fundamental question about the importance of the most popular sport; football. port has not been having a great time of it recently. The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are a perfect illustration of how sport can be so thoroughly denatured and stripped of its original meaning, in this case giving way to a discourse centred on political repression and social discrimination, and driven by self-righteous Western indignation and an unwelcome re-animation of Cold War grievances. Football, in particular, constantly throws up examples of such baffling idiocy and inhumanity as to rival even Sochi. The Champions League tie between Barcelona and Manchester City at the Camp Nou is one such case: of the 4,600 allocated tickets for away fans, adult tickets are priced at £77 each, while those for wheelchair users are priced at £97, an instance of discrimination which constitutes a damning indictment of the situation in which the modern game finds itself. How to defend football in the face of its many ills, in the knowledge that it can – often and too readily for comfort – provide a platform for racism, misogyny and homophobia? More impor-
tantly: why defend it at all? Is it, as the comedian Bill Bailey once described it, merely an exercise in shepherding a bit of leather into a large, outdoor cupboard? There is however something intangible and elusive about football, a pervasive sense of meaning in the lurch towards the outdoor cupboard. It does not lie in the trappings which accompany it, such as the sense of “belonging” which often amounts to little more than primitive tribalism. If you are an Arsenal fan, it goes without saying that you hate Spurs (and Chelsea, and Manchester United, and City, and Stoke, etc.), but football should not be reduced to an arena for the expression of group membership, where you vicariously engage in warfare with another set of fans. Football is an art form, and as such it needs no justification, it needs no explanation, it needs no end other than itself. It doesn’t need all the trappings. There is something mesmeric in its very mechanics, satisfaction and fulfilment to be found as much in the simple, metronomic movement of the ball across the back four as in its arching flight towards
“But we should not mistake Sky’s aggressive marketing, relentlessly ramming the “drama” of the Premier League or the “magic” of the F.A. Cup down our throats, for the real art at work in football.”
the top corner. Maybe this is why people like to watch “good football”: there is something intrinsically pleasing about stylish, precise football which makes it more attractive not just on an aesthetic level, but because it stands on its own and has meaning beyond the result. But we should not mistake Sky’s aggressive marketing, relentlessly ramming the “drama” of the Premier League or the “magic” of the F.A. Cup down our throats, for the real art at work in football. The “beautiful game” is a phrase so tired from over-use that it has lost any meaning, and any link to the “beauty” it once evoked; it serves only to consolidate the commodification of football, manufacturing and then selling it like a neat little package with a bow on top. Because of this, even writing the words “Football is an art form” makes you feel dirty, as if walking straight into the marketing man’s trap, caught in a vortex of meaningless clichés. There is more than this artificial, surface level to the game. Even though profundity might not be something regularly associated with football (or football-
“The Champions League tie between Barcelona and Manchester City is one such case: of the 4,600 allocated tickets for away fans, adult tickets are priced at £77 each, while those for wheelchair users are priced at £97...”
ers) there is something profound in football, even if it is difficult to pin it down. Tens of thousands of people, together, watching– and not just watching, but experiencing in a visceral, emotional way – 22 people kick a ball around on a muddy stretch of grass while rain pours on player and fan alike: there must be something transcendental in such a situation. A child kicking a ball against a wall for hours, day after day, does so for the pure enjoyment of the act; it does not require any significance other than that. Football itself – not the firms or the chants, not the glitter or the glamour – has meaning. Even stripped down to nothing but a ball and a wall, it still has meaning. Everything which surrounds football – whether it is positive or negative – is, to a greater or lesser extent, superfluous. On a fundamental level, football matters.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Superbowl season Dylan Brockmeyer dissects the atmosphere around the most anticipated sporting event of the US calendar.
T Dylan Brockmeyer Contributor
he commercials, the half-time show, the spicy buffalo wings, the barbecues, the hundreds of bowls of chips and dip, the ‘tailgate’ parties and the Bud Light beer. The Super Bowl is basically a national holiday. There is no bigger sporting event in all the country - in all my country - The United States of America. It starts with a long season of Monday and Sunday night football; men and women anxiously stacking their Fantasy drafts with an unyielding patriotic loyalty to their favorite players and home teams. The hype starts to escalate as teams make it to the playoffs where the champions slowly make themselves known. An entire season’s worth of great records and dreams of making it to the big game can be upset in an instant by incredible passes or new touchdown records. Legacies set in the regular season either preform or forever taint their namesakes. It is here the underdogs prove their true might and will to rise to the top.
There is no way to describe the pain and frustration or the pure, orgasmic, elation the die hard fan feels as their teams win or lose during the playoff season. It’s like nothing else; many a friendship broken, many a thing smashed in fury, many a head shaken in utter disappointment, and many a passionate brawl amongst rivals over the wins and losses of the teams you’ve supported all year. It’s not just the fans that get caught up in the glory and hype of the big game. Making it to the Super Bowl is what every NFL athlete has been dreaming of since they were playing touch football at recess (or ‘playtime’ as you might call it). In an online journal, the Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin describes the feeling that game day brings as “the fire that was already intensely burning inside is now being stoked.” So much goes on behind the scenes: reviewing the games of other teams 20 times, meetings to coordinate offense and defense, rundowns of all the
“The other half of the hype lies in the commercials. At what the New York Times calls an average of $4 million for 30 seconds of airtime, these had better be the best ads America has seen.”
plays. Every day that it gets closer feeds a little more fuel to the fire. The motivation to always play to their best ability never stops, they do it for themselves as well as for their fans. The intensity shows in all the end zone dances, all the chest bumping and helmet slapping, and every little, superstitious ritual from which fans and athletes alike never stray. It’s only weird if it doesn’t work, right? So, America arrives at Superbowl XVLIII and everyone across the country is ready for one of the biggest events of the year. Most of the excitement isn’t even about the actual game. All anyone can talk about is how this year’s half-time show can top the last, what’s going to be the special element that no performer has had before? How are they going to incorporate American pride and adorable singing children into the act? From Madonna to Beyoncé, U2 to Paul McCartney, you can understand why expectations are so high and every year something incredible must hap-
pen. The other half of the hype lies in the commercials. At what the New York Times calls an average of $4 million for 30 seconds of airtime, these had better be the best ads America has seen. The biggest names in advertising work all year to make the funniest or most memorable ad campaigns. Car ads go over the top; celebrating how everything from the engineers to the raw materials of the machine are “Made in America.” Coca Cola brings us all back to the glory days when America used to buy burgers and sodas at the local joints. Most recently famous are the Doritos ads that are ingenuously comical, because you would do anything for a bag (like enter a time machine or make your dad dress up in a princess dress). Despite America’s incessant need to capitalize on everything it seemingly can, the Superbowl is ultimately a celebration that’s shared with close friends and family. Even if you haven’t watched the teams during
the regular season or at all, even if your “bae” roots for the blue team because the bird looks cooler than the horse, everyone has a great time upholding their traditions. When your team makes it to the Super Bowl, such an emotion of pride, joy and excitement cannot be described in words. So we simply celebrate by piling our plates with hot wings, BBQ, and Lays (or Ruffles if they take your fancy) and fill our red solo cups with Bud and Coors, everything that personifies the NFL Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning is the greatest William Foley argues that despite his recent Super Bowl loss, Peyton Manning is still the greatest quarterback of all time.
W William Foley Comment Editor
hen Peyton Manning walked off the pitch for the last time in Super Bowl XLVIII he looked everything but a contender for being the greatest quarterback of all time. He looked dejected, frail and broken. He looked stripped of the indomitable will which had overwhelmed defences, carrying his Broncos to a single-season scoring record. Most of all, he looked old; compared with the Seahawks’ virile twenty four year old quarterback Russell Wilson, Manning seemed to be showing every sack, hit and tackle of his fifteen seasons, not to mention his almost career-ending neck injury. Manning seemed, over the course of one bloated Super Bowl-length match, to have been transformed into an undeniably tragic figure: the man who could have been king. What a difference a day makes. On the morning of February the second, Manning seemed poised to reach the apotheosis of an already illustrious career. Having led his Broncos to a record breaking season in which he set a new league record for most touchdowns thrown, he was on the cusp of winning his second Super Bowl ring, setting yet another record by becoming the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two teams. Most impressively, it was just over two years since he had returned to football having received four neck surgeries on an injury that many thought would have pushed him to hand up his boots. But on the day, his team was canned 43-8. Manning threw a Super Bowl re-
cord 34 pass completions – yet for once the records belied the truth, for Manning had an undeniably poor game. Immediately, the knives were out. “Instead of the best quarterback in history,” wrote Detroit News columnist Jerry Green, “I would call Peyton Manning the most overrated athlete in the annals of American professional sports.” Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald concluded that Manning would never match up to the two all-time greats Montana and Brady: “He’s still a great quarterback, but he can’t be greatest ever. Can’t even be in The Conversation.” Steve Serby of the New York Post was reduced to a verbless stutter: “No Lombardi Trophy for him. No second ring. No historic championships with two different teams. No Greatest Ever. No legacy to stand on.” Let’s be clear: anyone who says that Manning is overrated is talking pure, undiluted brown. Not only is Manning not overrated, there’s a good case to be made that he is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Manning has won a record 5 league Most Valuable Player awards. In seven on his 15 seasons he was named NFL all-pro, which means that the football writers of the Associate Press thought that Manning was the best quarterback in the league for almost half of the seasons which he has played. From when he was drafted as the number one pick in 1998, he turned the Indianapolis Colts from bottom-feeding pushovers
to perennial Super Bowl challengers, bringing them to the play-offs in eleven of his thirteen seasons with the franchise, excluding his final fourteenth season when he was benched for the whole year with a neck injury. Even his detractors admit that he is probably the best regular season quarterback ever. For the regular season, he holds more records than an independent music retailer. He has the most passing yards per seasons, most seasons with over 4000 passing yards, most touchdown passes, most consecutive seasons with at least 25 touchdown passes, most regular games with at least 5 touchdown passes… I could go on, but no one really disputes that Manning is king of the regular season. It’s when it comes to play-offs and Super Bowls that his critics feel that he falls short of greatness. The accusation is that he is a choke player, brilliant in his consistency through the humdrum of the regular season, but when facing into the bright lights of the big games he blinks, panics, and throws away the match. He is one of only six quarterbacks to play in more than twenty play-off games, bringing the Colts and the Broncos to twenty three post-season games. Yet he has lost twelve of them, including two out of three Super Bowls. This characterisation lends Manning a curiously tragic air. He comes off as a sort of Shakespearean hero, forever teetering on the edge of greatness yet being pulled back just before the end, felled by his own
insuperable flaws. In the eyes of his critics, Manning’s post-season record is simply not good enough. But greatness does not lie in the eye of the beholder; it concerns objective facts. Manning’s post-season performance is a lot better than his detractors give him credit for. Let’s not forget, firstly, that he has already won one Super Bowl. Furthermore, he was usually lumbered with a team who were, excluding Manning, punching above their weight at the play-off level. Tom Brady, his greatest contemporary rival, has won three Super Bowls. But all three were won with teams who were, man for man, superior to any team Manning has played on, and Brady has won none since it was revealed that his team, the New England Patriots, systematically spied on their rivals’ training sessions. Anyway, there is only so much a quarterback can do – it was almost always weak defences which brought Manning’s Colts down in the post-season. No other quarterback has lost so many games when throwing zero interceptions. If this all sounds like mealy-mouthed excuses, then consider this: of the six quarterbacks who have played in more than twenty post-season games, Manning has the highest pass completion percentage, the highest amount of yards per game and the second-lowest interception rate. Nevertheless, to many pundits Manning’s lack of success in winning multiple Super Bowls marks him as an irredeemable failure.
This is just silly. Sure, Joe Montana has four Super Bowls, but he won them with an incredible defence and Jerry Rice, the best wide receiver to have ever played the game. Anyway, the Super Bowl is just one game, and Manning has only played in three of them out of 263 career games. Should his legacy be decided on the basis of one bad game against the best team in the league? If all we are counting is Super Bowl rings, than Trent Dilfer, who never threw for more than 2,859 yards or 21 touchdowns in a season, is just as good as Manning. This is like saying that Dietmar Hamann is as good as Roy Keane because they’ve both won one Champion’s League. When he does retire, Manning will be remembered not for one game on a cold February day in New Jersey. He will be remembered for his surgical precision, his towering indomitability and, above all, his consistent genius. He is the most intelligent quarterback to have ever played the game. Others can throw farther, can pass more accurately, and can move quicker. But no-one can read a defence quicker than Peyton. He has perfected the nohuddle offence and mastered the art of adjusting his offensive line on the go, repositioning players and changing plays through a complex system of codewords and calls. He is a master of preparation and strategy and can execute game plans with laconic coolness. Despite his reputation for choking under pressure, Manning
has borne the burden of great expectations from an early age. His father was a famous NFL quarterback in his day and when Peyton decided not to attend his father’s alma mater, Ole Miss, disappointed Mississippi college football fans burned effigies of the eighteen year old in the streets. Manning excelled at college football and was surprisingly pipped in his final year for the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the best college football player. He bore the disappointment with characteristic magnanimity. When he was the first overall draft pick, he did not wilt under the weight of expectation but transformed the Colts into NFL superstars. Greatness is ultimately about stature, not statistics. No other player has stood taller than Manning on the playing field. No other player has been credited with revitalising a city. No other quarterback at his level has come back from such a serious injury. No other player has borne so much responsibility for so much success, nor borne it with as much grace and unaffected modesty as Manning. Having just played what was possibly the best season of his career, Peyton Manning may well come back and win his second Super Bowl next year, spurred on by disappointment as well as the desire to win one more before he retires. But even if he wins nothing, it doesn’t matter. He’s still the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
Tuesday 11th February 2014
Cal Gray reports on the Six Nations tournament so far and Ireland’s dream win over Wales last weekend. p.21
Impressive indoors for Duhac’s track and field athletes Colum O”leary reports on Duhac’s impressive performance at this years indoor championships held in Athlone
Colum O’Leary Staff Writer
riday 7th February saw Dublin University Harriers and Athletics club compete in the IUAA Intervarsity indoor track and field championships at the new AIT International Arena, Athlone. Overall, 5 college records were broken and 5 medals were won from a competitive field of both national and international standard athletes, making it one of the most successful championships for Duhac to date. Unlike outdoors, indoor athletic meets are run on a 200m track, with a 60m straight for sprinting which cuts through the centre of the lap. The track events consisted of distances from 60m up to 3000m as well as the 60m hurdles, while competitions in all field events, with the exception of the javelin, discus and hammer throw, took place on the day. A total of 29 athletes represented Duhac. on the day in what was the first intervarsity track and field event of the year. One of Duhac’s greatest successes of the day was thanks to long jumper and sprinter, Éamonn Fahey, breaking two college records. He became the first male athlete of the club to break 7 seconds for the 60m sprint, finishing in a time of 6.99 in his heat, before finishing 8th in the final. Competing in the triple jump, Fahey broke the Trinity record with an impressive distance of 13.23m (5th). Showing his allroundedness, Fahey came 4th in the long jump with a distance of 6.74m. Duhac Ladies’ middle distance squad performed very impressively, with 3 medals and 2 college records from two events. International cross country athlete and intervarsity outdoor 3000m champion, Maria O’Sullivan, showed her class in the 3000m event, braking off with the leading pack from the start and finishing in 2nd place in a college record breaking time of 9:52.15. In the 1500m event, Becky Woods (OYD) and Irene Gorman grabbed silver and bronze in what was one of the most exciting races of the day. Woods, leading for the majority of the race in what was a gutsy performance, managed to hang onto 2nd place and take the college record in a time of 4:37.44. The gold medal went to Ellie Hartnett (UCD) who broke
“One of Duhac’s greatest successes of the day was thanks to long jumper and sprinter, Éamonn Fahey, breaking two college records. He became the first male athlete of the club to break 7 seconds for the 60m sprint, finishing in a time of 6.99 in his heat, before finishing 8th in the final. Competing in the triple jump, Fahey broke the Trinity record with an impressive distance of 13.23m (5th).”
the IUAA record (4:34.94). Gorman, who has only recently returned to competition since long term injury, made a tactical and inspiring performance, accelerating through the field in the final two laps to earn the bronze medal. Her time of 4:38.12 was an astonishing personal best, taking 10 seconds off her previous PB. New members Rob McDowell and Samuel Olo made a large impression at indoors in their debut competition for the college. McDowell competed in no less than 4 events (60m, long jump, shot putt, weight for distance) winning bronze in the WfD with a distance of 7.79m. Olo broke Trinity’s indoor 200m record in a time of 23.16, just five minutes after it was broken by Kevin Migge (23.45) in a previous heat. The 5th medal for Duhac was one by no other than our ‘busiest’ athlete and current AAI National Indoor Combined Events champion, Laura Frey, who took silver on the day, as well as making a new personal best of 3087 points. Many other great performances were seen throughout all disciplines on the day from athletes such as Kevin Migge (200m and 400m) Cónal Campion (shot putt and WfD), Sorcha Humphreys (3000m), Caitríona Twomney (Combined events) and Christopher Doherty (Pole Vault). The combination of experienced athletes, rising new talent and strength in depth is paying off for Trinity Athletics, and has made the upcoming events look very promising for D.U.H.A.C.. The Harriers are in action next in the Intervarsity Cross Country Championships in CIT on March 8th, while Track and Field athletes will be preparing for the IUAA Outdoor Championships taking place in WIT on April 11th.