by Samantha Calthrop and Ciaran Dineen
Alan Hayes, former president of the UCC Students’ Union, is running as an independent candidate in the constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny in the upcoming General Election on February 8th. With his platform based in mental health, suicide awareness, drugs, and accessibility to education, he will stand for election alongside fourteen other candidates, including Fine Gael Minister, John Paul Phelan.
Mr Hayes was UCCSU president in 2018-2019, spearheading one of the more popular student union execs. As with his platform for the General Election, Mr Hayes’ UCCSU presidency focused largely on mental health, setting up a panel to review the Student Mental Health Policy and linking up Niteline with student counselling. Prior to his involvement at UCC, he was heavily involved in charity and fundraising for suicide awareness; he co-founded the Thomas Hayes Trust, a Kilkenny-based NGO that provides supports to those affected by suicide or who are struggling with their mental health. Alan has spoken publicly on many occasions about his history with suicide, having lost both his father and brother to it over the course of his childhood.
In UCC, Alan became a very popular figure and he went on to be elected President of the Students’ Union in 2018. During his term, Alan was praised for his role in many different events and campaigns, including the fight against the hike in the capitation fee, which arose in the final days of his premiership. Last year, Alan was interviewed by the Express after his term as president, where he stated, “As the years went by, I found myself identifying gaps within the student experience and I felt that I could do something about them.”
It seems that Mr Hayes is hoping to bring his experience and expertise to a higher role in government. However, in the 5-seater that is Carlow/Kilkenny, the former SU President will have it all to do as it is a constituency that historically does not vote for independents. In the 2016 General Election three non-party candidates ran and out of 15 candidates running they all finished in the bottom three, after only securing 2.3% of first preferences between them.
Mr Hayes is running under the campaign slogan “My story, my passion”. After announcing his intention to run on January 21, he has met with Carlow IT SU President Thomas Drury, where they discussed issues affecting the 8500 students of Carlow IT, including drug harm reduction and mental health. Addressing students and faculty in the college for a debate organised by KCLR96FM and speaking about his story Alan said, ‘my passion arose from realising that we weren’t the only family in that situation and I wasn’t the only one experiencing a lack of services and a lack of supports. My passion also arose from realising that I wanted to develop things in the area of access and availability to education which is why I was Students’ Union President of University College Cork las year.”