“Derek Mooney said I sounded like his parish priest”

SU President Ed Leamy talks to the College View about shoulder surgery, world domination and why you shouldn’t insult gardai

by Celie Varley

“Don’t be evil now. Please.”

The first words Ed Leamy speaks to me on Friday evening. We’re sitting in his office – I’m at his desk and he’s lying on the couch. It all feels a little psychoanalytical. He has a hurley and sliotar in hand and plays with both constantly.

Ed Leamy is a busy man. I know this because it takes me nearly a week to interview him. Our first appointment was for Tuesday morning – cancelled ten minutes before I reached his office.

Thursday was no good, and only repeated phone calls got me an appointment on Friday. We agreed on five sharp, as he would have to leave by half past. He was twelve minutes late, and I was sending angry texts to my production editor cursing his name when he finally breezed into the office.

So what had he been doing all this time? Three or four tours a day, committee meetings, and phone calls. His phone rang at least three times during our interview and it constantly vibrated with incoming texts.

He says he sits on an average of 27 committees each day, and can work for 12/14 hours at a go.

Then he goes home and goes on twitter. “Every night when I get home I spent hours reading articles from all over the internet. I am absolutely in love with twitter because you can just type in whatever you want and every mention of that in the world will come up.”

He says he only sleeps four hours a night. He said, “I don’t sleep that much. I have a habit of not sleeping. I don’t know, I don’t think I need as much sleep as other people. I’ve been like this for a few years anyway.”

Ed came to DCU because he wanted to study computer applications. “I wasn’t interested really in the whole computer area as you strictly see it. The only thing I was really interested in was the area of the internet and e-commerce. I didn’t know much about it. I used it as a source of information but hadn’t learned to explore it’s potential. It just really, really caught me.”

He went on. “Now this might sound funny but people have passions for cars, people have passions for sports. I have a passion for the internet.”

He told a story about one Christmas when he was about ten or eleven. “Santa used to bring my twin brother Thomas and I one big present every year. He would bring us individual presents as well, to reinforce the fact that we were individuals and not the same.”

This is one of his asides – always charming and interesting but nerve wrecking as you watch the interview ticking away.

He continued. “Anyway, one Christmas we were asking for a play station 1 – Thomas really wanted the ps1 and all I wanted was the internet . Mother couldn’t figure it out. My parents are older than most and she was like, ‘the dangers!’ She thought I could be exposed to bad material. We got it. I didn’t sleep for… I’d say over three nights. I just stayed glued to it. They thought I was ruined.”

I asked him if he had ever considered swapping places with his brother and taking a day off. There was a long pause. “No!” We both laugh. “And I didn’t use him at campaign time if that’s what you’re going to ask. Although I was thinking of it. In fact, we had a plan for orientation week . You know the way DCU’s motto is ‘You can go anywhere from here’? My plan for the speech in the Helix was to say the motto – then flash bang whoop, lights go off, spotlight in the balcony and Thomas is up there wearing the same clothes.”

Ed had told the College View in a previous interview that he had always wanted to be President. Was this from the first day he walked into DCU? “No, because I didn’t know what the President was. I suppose always there would mean from about two or three months in.”

He became involved in the union firstly through societies. “It’s a closely knit thing here. I didn’t say that. But I spent time up here in the Hub and through osmosis I became involved in the union.”

On the students’ union itself, Ed says, “I believe in it fully. There was times when I questioned it.Times when I wondered what purpose it has. Times when I found it very annoying. Times when I really didn’t want to be anything associated with it – I thought it was cliquey, I thought it was you know, kinda shite. And yet here we are.”

He continued, “I’m very happy with the job. I really am trying to appeal to all students and the doors always open. I know it’s a cliche and all the rest of it but it genuinely is. I’ve been robbed a few times. My plant keep blowing off the window and stuff like that. People pick it up all the time and I say how were you in my office? They reply, the door’s open.”

He says that he loves the job. “I would recommend it to anyone. Now it can be 12/14 hours a day but what’s really nice is the variety and I think in any job in life you really have to strive for variety to keep you interested, you know? Keep a freshness that keeps you going so when you’re sick and tired of one thing you can switch and come back to it and it keeps going. And if you do it like that you can get the very best of whatever task you’re doing.

Do we have any sway on university policy? The answer is yes. We have voting members on all the highest committees. We have a decision like everyone else but every committee tries to meet a general consensus and rarely goes to a vote.”

I asked if his experience with clubs and societies had helped in his job as SU President. “Absolutely. People talk about clubs and socs and how employable they make you – I think they made me employable for this role.”

“When I came to DCU I was a hurling and rugby player then through numerous injuries I kept dislocating both shoulders. 9 and 12 times. I’ve surgery in both of them now, stabilization surgery. I’m a bit like John McCain. I can only raise my arms slowly. And then the surgeon operating on my right shoulder said – this is one of the first things I remember after the haziness faded out – ‘you have the worst arthritis I’ve ever seen in a young man of 22’. I said, ‘ah thanks cheers’. On a frosty morning it does be stiff.”

So he had to give hurling and rugby up. A friend brought him to a drama workshop, to Ed’s initial apprehension. “I thought, ‘huh, why would I want to go near that bunch of fucking clowns’ But that first workshop – I thoroughly enjoyed it. We had to do a game chat show and I was the presenter and I remember saying afterwards, Jesus Christ. I loved that.

Ed produced DCU Drama musicals Rent and Spring Awakening and describes it as a “real eye opener into business. As producer you’re in charge of 14/15 different roles from sponsorship to budgeting to cast management to theatre liaisons to everything and it’s basically the best experience of project management you can do in your life I think.”

When you get a standing ovation you cannot stop that tingling going down your spine for as long as it lasts. When we did Rent in the Olympia we got ten standing ovations in a row.”

He said, “I felt I could do anything. I felt I could take over the world” He paused. “In the nicest possible way, of course.”

We start talking about first year and Ed tells me how he managed to miss orientation week. “I didn’t understand. I didn’t know what it was. I left that first year guide in Tipperary with everything else – I think I left every pair of shoes I had behind, bar one. Sure I didn’t know what I was doing.

So what I caught in my orientation week was the talk in the Helix at ten because there seemed to be a crowd floating that way so I went with it. I didn’t make it in on Tuesday. Then I came in on Wednesday and caught the speech again. Very confused.”

Can he cook? “I always liked to cook myself anyway. Favourite dish? Raw toast.” He laughs. “Ahhh no no. Chicken broccoli pie, mother’s special.”

Were you ever arrested Ed? Five second pause. Pained laugh. Another five second pause. “Ceile, why? Why?” Ten seconds pause. Sigh. “I was cautioned.” Four second pause. “Ok? By the, eh, police force once.”

For what? Three second pause. “I might have said to a guard once in my eh wisdom that I believed he had short man syndrome. Oh there was no charge, just a caution”

To be more polite to police officers? “Yes”At this point Ed decides that he would have more fun interviewing me instead. “Do you miss Clare?”

Do I miss Clare? We’ll talk about it another time. I’m becoming horribly aware of the time ticking out on the interview, that Ed must dash to his apparently urgent appointment at half five. It is nearly half five now.

“Can I interview you? Can I?” Sure. “Really? Can it be front page? Ed Leamy interviews College View!” It probably won’t be front page but why not? I might even give him more than twenty minutes to interview me.

So what’s next for Ed Leamy? “What am I going to do next year? That’s the big question! Any recommendations? I have numerous plans which I am unsure of at this time.”

Would he ever run for election? “What?” To be elected. “Oh right. Ahhhmmm. Well I’m not very inspired by the whole political system at the moment. It would have to change a lot before I would consider running for election. Traditionally I have supported Fianna Fail but I’m in limbo at the moment.”

The interview has now gone five minutes over the limit but I decide not to tell Ed.

How would he want to be remembered as President? “As doing a brilliant job. I’m not going to say I want my legacy to be an amazing orientation ball with Calvin Harris, although it was. It was a great night and a great start.”

“I’d like to be remembered for doing a good job. How do I do a good job? Every day doing what’s right and carrying out the little things well. If there’s a legacy left it’s that I never let anyone down people never found me wanting or incapable of carrying out the function.”

He continued, “A fresh new approach is one thing I’d like to bring to the table. I’m not afraid to change the way things are going. To derail the train slightly. For the good of the train.”

Ed was on Derek Mooney’s radio show recently as someone with an unusual voice. “Derek couldn’t take me seriously at all. He said I sounded like his parish priest!”

How would Ed describe himself in three words? – “Tip er ary. Oh God I don’t know, how would you describe me?”

I’m out the door, ten minutes after he said he’s have to leave. Ed’s last words? “I’d advise you not to make the article nasty because I’m interviewing you next week!”


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