The saga that was ‘#UCCVotes 2017’ have finally come to a close, as Presidential candidate Art Kelleher has dropped his appeal with the returning officer.
Mr.Kelleher, who lost to President-elect Martin Scally by six votes after one count and three recounts, had appealed the result on the grounds that some students had been turned away from polling stations in Brookfield despite being entitled to vote. It was claimed that these students were not allowed to vote as it was late in the day, and the polling station had run out of ballots. The controversy was dubbed both ‘Brookfieldgate’ and ‘Brookgate‘ on social media, and had gained a lot of traction among students. In a straw-poll ran on the UCC Express Twitter account, 47% of people said they wanted the presidential election re-opened, to allow students to vote again; 27% of people wanted the result to stand, 4% wanted another recount of the votes already cast, and the rest wanted to see the results of the poll.
Following a meeting with the returning officer, the Students’ Union’s barrister and Mr.Scally on Friday, Mr.Kelleher had the weekend to make a decision on whether he should uphold his appeal, which would likely mean that there would be a re-run of the elections for SU President. While the finer details of this meeting are not known to the public, it is now clear what the result of it was. In a statement on the UCC Students’ Union Facebook page (as well as in an email to all students) on behalf of the SU Executive, UCC SU President Eolann Sheehan said that the Students’ Union had acknowledged that an error had been made:
UCC Students’ Union acknowledges that on Tuesday 7th of March a breach in electoral procedure at a single polling station resulted in between 6 to 8 students not being able to vote in the 2017 elections. UCC Students’ Union would like to apologise to the affected students and candidates who suffered unfair additional stress as a result.
Both the Students’ Union and the candidates are satisfied that the counting of the ballots that followed was a fair and due process and that the results from this count will stand. Steps are being taken, including a full review of election processes to ensure that an oversight of this nature will never occur again.
UCC Students’ Union Executive
Shortly after this announcement, Art Kelleher made a statement on his official campaign page that confirmed that the appeal had been dropped, with his reasoning for doing so:
Following talks with the SU and their public acknowledgment of the failings in the election process this year as well as their public apology to all students and candidates I will be dropping the appeal and voting will not be re-opened.
This is not a decision I take lightly as I know many of you feel passionately that we should have the voting re-opened. The appeal was lodged as we believed that the election process was unfair and had failed the students of UCC. We were correct in this belief. The decision not to continue with the appeal is out of respect to Martin and Katie and their teams who have also been failed by this election process.
(The full statement can be found here).
This means that the majority of the Students’ Union Executive for 2017/18 are now officially elected, with only the Council Chair (elected at last Student Council of the year, on Wednesday evening) and the Postgraduate Officer (November) to be elected. They will be joined by the following officers, as well as representatives from the Clubs & Societies Executives: Martin Scally (President), Seán Ó Riabhaigh (Deputy President), Kelly Coyle (Welfare), Tadhg Casey (Education), Barry O’Shea (Comms), Ben Dunlea (Ents), Niamh O’Reilly (Equality), Faye Murphy (Gaeilge), Amy Poland (CACSSS Rep), Kayleigh O’Sullivan (B&L Rep), Ronan Carey (SEFS Rep) and Laura Mitchell (Med&Health Rep).
On behalf of everyone on the UCC Express, I would like to wish Martin and his SU the best in the year ahead.