Ed Leamy: The Charming Man

By Aoife Mullen

News Editor

Ed Leamy turns up fifteen minutes late for his interview, forgetting that it was pre-arranged. He’s a busy man, always in demand and hard to get a hold of. I’m welcomed into his office and after he runs to find me a chair, we get stuck in.

I start off by asking him what his highlight of the year was. “Of all the highlights, the little things affect me more and I’d be very proud of never turning a student away. I had an open door policy all year and any student that ever came in, I’d do my best to never turn them away. I did the best I could to point them in the right direction and I made sure they were ok.”

Reflecting on his time in office and his role, Leamy says; “what I really loved about the job was that you forget about yourself for the year. It definitely makes you a better person, it’s not a job, it’s a vocation. There’s such a variety in the job, you come in and you don’t know what’s going to happen.

“I don’t know if people know how many students came through the Students’ Union this year and really, it was an actual joy to help so many students.

“Every student has a different story and no two incidents are the same, no two solutions to the problems are the same. You have to exploit your connections in the university and that’s why,” he says, “ it’s so crucial to have a good relationship with the university.”

Leamy feels that there was the impression the SU were against the University a few years ago, but he tells me it’s not like that at all. “We’re so happy to work with the University and it was a pleasure doing so. It’s very empowering and very inspiring to students and me, as SU President. It’s lovely to see such a healthy relationship with the university.”

He’s very complimentary of DCU President, Brian MacCraith, for his support of student activities and for answering questions at Class Rep Council meetings.

Leamy says two things stick out to him as the hardest things he has had to deal with this year – the referendum on fees and the cancellation of Toxic Tuesday. “I stand over both 100%, they were very hard decisions.”

Speaking on the referendum, Leamy says the SU really did their best to engage with students and get them to have their say and it worked, when they met the quota, “but because of a constitutional technicality it was deemed null and void.” Despite the failure of the referendum on fees, Leamy draws a positive out of the fiasco; “I think we’ve succeeded if we’ve given people a bit of knowledge about fees that’ll stand to them in the future.”

Leamy tells me he has resisted voicing his own opinions on funding third level education, but he believes students should be given a choice. “You can do the student loan system, you can pay up front or you can have a graduate tax, pick whichever one you want. Why does it have to be something that won’t suit someone but will suit others? I believe the government needs to give the option.”

Moving onto Toxic Tuesday, Leamy says, “It grew and grew until it nearly became out of control and that was the last thing we wanted to happen. It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve made this year.

“It became unsafe, we found a situation where every week we were bringing in more security, we had to install this graduated charge, of course all these were because of health and safety. It wasn’t about the money, it was never about the money for the Students’ Union, it was to try and encourage people to come earlier. But other things happened and unfortunately it became an unsafe environment.”

Another point Leamy makes about Toxic Tuesday, is that he believes “it sucked the life out of smaller events” and not many people turned up to them. Asked whether other events should have been focused on and promoted more than Toxic Tuesday, Leamy replies “Absolutely. But it came to the point where it didn’t matter because all the students wanted was Toxic Tuesday. If they had only tried the other things.”

“Yes,” is his blunt answer when asked if he thinks he delivered on his election promises. His website, edleamy.com, which was set up for students to read his manifesto, is no longer accessible, but Leamy promises to email The College View a copy of it, an email we’ve yet to receive. He begins to go through his own copy of it, which is stuck on the wall behind his desk, checking off all the promises he made.

He has engaged with the clubs and societies as much as humanly possible, he tells me. “Society life is something I feel very passionate about. The amount of things they provide for their members, there is a super under current there in society life, whatever group you’re involved in, you can get fulfilment out of it.”

Commenting on the difficult weeks when DCU student, Paul Bunbury, was missing, he says students in DCU pulled together for the greater good. “We provided for his family as much as possible. I was very heartened by the level of unity and harmony that was shown by DCU and I know Paul’s family were very grateful.”

Leamy came into the job aiming to create more of an online presence for the SU. At the beginning of the academic year, the SU launched Greatcraic.ie, which Leamy said was meant to isolate the lighter side of the SU from the academic dcusu.ie. The initial idea of GreatCraic, was to have student deals and provide an entertainment guide to students. He acknowledges that the site hasn’t been a success and has fallen by the wayside.

He pauses for a moment to think when asked what it was like to work with Cillian and Collie. “Cillian is, I think, one of the best men in the world for sitting down and meticulously going through emails, working to a list and ticking things off. He’s also very knowledgeable about the university structures, very knowledgeable about anything academia related and students know that. He was very focused on his role and I think he did a great job at it.

“Collie is a very approachable guy. Students love him.” He pauses for a minute and apologises, saying he doesn’t know why he is pausing. It’s the first time during the interview Leamy has not appeared confident giving an answer. “He’s a great buddy, great to have a pint with. He has an entrepreneurial flair to him, great for viewing things in a different light, which is a fantastic ability.”

Leamy points out that “we’re fine” in comparison to the UCD Students Union debt situation and puts it down to having no commercial activity, which puts the SU’s focus on the students. “How much of other Students’ Union’s days are taken up worrying about the finances and how their various franchises are performing, whereas ours is solely about representation and that’s the way it should be I think.”

Did the job turn out how he expected it to? “No, you can’t say it did, the variety in this job is immense”. He finishes; “I expected it to be great and it was better.”

IMAGE CREDIT: Lorraine Walker

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