Results and analysis by  Méabh Lonergan.


Asha Woodhouse (President), Stephen O’Riordan (Education), Alannah O’Connor (Welfare), Sam Galvin (Commercial and Fundraising), Mary O’Connell (Ents), Sinéad Roche (Communications and Engagement), Íseult Ní Fhoighil (Gaeilge agus Cultúir), Kacper Pilarek (Equality and Diversity), Natasha Sutton (Environmental and Sustainability), Alex Angland (SEFS), Izabelle Dullin (Med & Health), Michelle Mulcahy (Business & Law), Bláithín Sheehy (CACSSS).

The above will be joined on SU Exec by the Presidents of the Clubs & Societies Executives respectively, which are elected at their own AGMs, the Chair of Student Council, who will be elected at the last council of the year, and the Postgraduate Officer, who is elected in October. The officers of the Equality Working Group, who do not sit on the SU Executive, will be elected at a by-election.

On Friday, three days before voting was due to start, Motley Magazine opened its first ever Straw Poll.  We used Google Forms, and opened the poll up to all positions up for grabs across the two days. Due to the limitations of Google Forms, we had to only allow people to put their first preference vote. Other alternatives to Google Forms, we felt, were not appropriate, or lacking in other key aspects.


Time for some maths bits: we closed the poll at midnight last night, having received 96 votes total.  This is quite low – previous polls have received 300+ votes – but the fact that this is Motley Magazine’s first time holding a straw poll, there wasn’t one last year, and that the majority of elections are uncontested, may account for this.  As it stands, the fact that the majority of positions are either uncontested, or the gap between candidates is so great, means that even with a relatively large margin of error (MOE) of 13.2%, we have a confidence level of 99% for the majority of races.  This means we can be 99% confident that the actual election result will fall within 13.2% of the Straw Poll results, meaning that we can be 99% sure for all but 5 of the following results.  


A few, particularly the College reps, have different MOEs and confidence levels – the higher the Confidence Level, the bigger the MOE, and while you want a high confidence level, you do not want a big MOE.  Confused?  Us too, at first.  Essentially, for every race we started at 99% confidence level, found out the % MOE, and took that % away from the candidate/referenda option with the most votes, and gave it, and all the “unsure” votes, to the candidate/referenda option with the second most votes.  If the overall result wasn’t changed – i.e., if the same person was still winning – we predicted they have a 99% chance of winning.  If not, we lowered the confidence level to 95% and tried again, and then 90%, 85%, and 80%.  If the result was still not definite by 80%, despite how instinctively likely a victory for that candidate feels, we decided not to officially predict it.  We only had to do this once, and the numbers still do speak for themselves.


The first question put to people was about whether or not they were in UCC, what year of their studies they were in, and  whether or not they intended on voting. Any respondents who said they were not UCC Students, or would not be voting were not able to fill in the rest of the poll, so in the end 96 of the 97 people polled said they intended on voting. 


Unlike the real life ballots, people voting in our straw poll had to vote in every election before they could complete the poll. With regards to demographics, the poll was mainly answered by third years (34.4%), fourth years (32.9%) and second years (18.8%), with post-graduates (10.4%), first years (3.1%) and fifth years (1%) making up the minority.  The comparatively low turnout by first and second years may be due to the fact that this is the first Straw Poll they have seen in their college years, while third and fourth years may remember them from previous years. (NOTE: the above graph shows slight inaccuracies, due to one respondent who answered that they were not a UCC student, but still checked “fourth year”.)

It is worth noting that 46.9% of students were in CACSSS, 25% in SEFS, 19.8% in B&L, and 8.3% in M&H.  While this may seem like an extreme disparity, it is mostly in line with both previous election trends, and College populations (approximately 12,000 CACSSS, 6,000 SEFS, 5,500 B&L and 3,700 M&H).  so we shouldn’t expect a vastly different result from competitions with contestants from two different colleges, like Education or Environmental Officer.

USI Affiliation Referendum

Although it has not been mandated since before 2014 that SUs must hold a referendum to continue their affiliation with USI every three years, it is common practice to do so.  This referendum, which reads “Should UCC Students’ Union remain affiliated to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) at a cost of €5 per full-time student and €2.50 per part-time student?” is currently polling at 83.3% “YES”, 7.3% “NO”, and 9.4% “WILL NOT VOTE/UNSURE”.  Even with the highest possible MOE of 13.2%, and all the “UNSURE” votes swinging towards “NO”, there is a 99% chance that this referendum will be passed.  

PREDICTION: USI Affiliation Referendum will be passed (99% likelihood).

€5 Capitation Fee Increase Referendum

The second referendum is to increase the Capitation Fee (student levy) by €5, which will be used to, in the current SU’s words, “(1) Pay student staff employed by the Union a living wage; (2) Pay the salary of Sabbatical Officers which are not funded by the University”.  This referendum is currently polling at 80.2% “YES”, 17.7% “NO”, and 2.1% “WILL NOT VOTE/UNSURE”.  Even with the highest possible MOE of 13.2%, and all the “UNSURE” votes swinging towards “NO”, there is a 99% chance that this referendum will be passed.  


PREDICTION: €5 Capitation Fee Increase Referendum will be passed (99% likelihood).

Full-time paid Vice-President for Postgraduate Students Referendum

The third referendum is to, in the current SU’s words, allow for the “the creation of a full-time paid Vice-President for Postgraduate Students on the SU Executive and the removal of the part-time Postgraduate Student Representative from the SU Executive”, which involves seven amendments to the UCCSU Constitution.  This referendum, is currently polling at 68.8% “YES”, 21.9% “NO”, and 9.4% “WILL NOT VOTE/UNSURE”.  Even with the highest possible MOE of 13.2%, and all the “UNSURE” votes swinging towards “NO”, there is a 99% chance that this referendum will be passed.  


PREDICTION: Full-time paid Vice-President for Postgraduate Students Referendum will be passed (99% likelihood).

Sports, Health & Wellbeing Capitation Plan Referendum

The final referendum is to introduce a €50 capitation fee increase commencing in September 2024 over 25 years.  To clarify some confusion, this does not mean that from 2024 the fee will begin increase by €2 per year until it reaches €50 in 2049, and stay that way – in September 2024, the fee will increase by €50, and this €50 will remain part of the fees for 25 years, until it is removed in 2049.  €10 of that €50 will go towards the widening of health services available to students to target mental, sexual and physical health, including free contraception, STI screening, concussion care services, dermatology, and mental health and addiction services.  The remaining €40 will go towards paying a loan of €15M from the European Investment Bank, which is funding upgrading of existing and development of new pitches (inc. floodlights), developing new changing room facilities, and developing a boathouse.  


This referendum in particular has received significant opposition, with targeted “Vote No” campaign pages being run on Instagram and Twitter.  These pages claim that “the facilities proposed under this plan disproportionately benefit elite athletes, and not the general student population”, that it will impact future students who have no say and the University’s Green Campus status, and the €40 Sports referendum “failed in 2018 so minimal health funding has been tacked on”.  


The results of the referendum may reflect this campaign – it’s currently polling at 35.4% “YES”, 54.2% “NO”, and 10.4% “WILL NOT VOTE/UNSURE”.  At first glance, it may seem like “NO” will win, but even at 80% confidence level, the 6.5% MOE is still great enough to tip the balance, and so it would not be right to make a prediction on this referendum.



College of Arts, Celtic Studies, and Social Sciences Rep.

CACSSS Rep, alongside the other College Rep elections, is one of the only races that we cannot predict with any certainty due to small sample size.  The polls show 57.8% Sheehy, 15.6% Bean, 20% “WILL NOT VOTE/UNSURE”, and 6.7% RON.

With 45 responses, not even 1% of the approximately 12k registered CACSSS students, our MOE is 10.8%, and confidence level 85%.  If the 10.8% MOE, and all of the “unsure” voters swung in Bean’s favour, we may see a result of 47% Sheehy, 46.4% Bean, and 6.7% RON – meaning there is an 85% chance of a Sheehy win, but the next few days may see anything happening.


PREDICTION: Bláithín Sheehy will be elected as the College of Arts, Celtic Studies, and Social Sciences Representative of UCC Students’ Union (85% likelihood).

College of Business and Law Rep.

Just like the rest of the College rep votes, B&L Rep suffers from low turnout: 19, less than 1% of the registered B&L students.  To aim for the lowest possible MOE leaves us with a confidence level of 80%, and a still very high MOE of 15%.  WIth Mulcahy winning a landslide 94.7% of the vote, the high MOE is irrelevant however – you can even make the confidence level 99%, bringing the MOE to 30%, and she would still have at least 64.7% of the vote, meaning that we can give a 99% chance that Mulcahy will be elected.


PREDICTION: Michelle Mulcahy will be elected as the College of Business and Law Representative of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood).

College of Medicine and Health Rep.

Izabella Dullin has received 75% of the straw poll vote.  Once again, M&H Rep has a very low turnout: just 8 out of approximately 3,700 students, less than 1%.  At 99% confidence level, we have a 46% MOE, which is clearly insufficient.  At 80%, however, we see a MOE of 23%, meaning that the absolute lowest Dullin could get here is 52% – but again, with only 8 responses, the extent of her probable victory may vary significantly.  


PREDICTION: Izabella Dullin will be elected as the College of Medicine and Health Representative of UCC Students’ Union (80% likelihood)

College of Science, Engineering, and Food Sciences Rep. 

For our final College Rep vote, Alex Angland has polled at 66.7%.  He is an incumbent candidate, having won by 58.5% against Colm Maye last year.  With a turnout of 24, still less than 1%, we can expect to see a slightly lower confidence level.  At 99% we see a MOE of 26.5%, which, if taken away from Angland and given to RON, alongside the 12.5% “unsure”, leaves Angland with 40.2% and RON with 59.8%.  At 85%, however, the MOE is 14.7%, leaving Angland with a minimum of 52%.  


PREDICTION: Alex Angland will be elected as the College of Science, Engineering, and Food Science Representative of UCC Students’ Union (85% likelihood)

Environmental & Sustainability Rep.

Two candidates are running for Environmental and Sustainability Rep – Dan Pierse, an MPlan Planning and Sustainable Development student, is polling at 8.3% of the vote, and Natasha Sutton, a third year Clinical Law student, is polling at 69.8%, and RON at 3.1%.  From our research, post-graduate students running for SU is relatively rare, and this may somewhat account for the results – Sutton has had three years to build up a reputation for herself in UCC, while Pierse is in his first year of his Masters, having graduated from his Bachelors in 2017, and so may not be as known.  At a 99% confidence level, even if the 13.2% MOE and the 18.8% “unsure” vote fell in Pierse’s favour, he would not unseat Sutton.


PREDICTION: Natasha Sutton will be elected as the Environmental and Sustainability Representative of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood)

Equality and Diversity Officer

Kacper Pilarek, a second year History and Politics student, is running uncontested for Equality and Diversity Officer.  With 75% of the vote (compared to 16.7% RON), at a 99% confidence level and MOE of 13.2%, his election is likely.  RON is relatively high here, but it’s plausible that people feel more comfortable voting RON on a straw poll – indeed, such trends are often seen in uncontested elections – and at this point, it would take active negative campaign (or a resignation of candidacy) to see anyone but Pilarek in the office next semester.


PREDICTION: Kacper Pilarek will be elected as the Equality and Diversity Officer of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood).

Ionadaí na Gaeilge agus Cultúir 

Íseult Ní Fhoighil, a second year Speech and Language Therapy student, is running uncontested for Oifigeach Gaeilge.  With 88.5% of the vote (compared to 7.3% RON) at a 99% confidence level and MOE of 13.2%, her election is likely.  She’s a strong presence in An Chuallacht and An Cumann Dramaíochta, so that may partially account for her popularity.


PREDICTION: Íseult Ní Fhoighil will be elected as the Ionadaí na Gaeilge agus Cultúir of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood).

Communications and Engagement

Sinéad Roche is one of two outgoing Sabbatical Officers running in this year’s election.  Last year, she was elected uncontested as Education Officer with 96% of the vote.  As she remains uncontested this year, and with 92.7% (compared to 5.2% RON) the polls show re-election is likely, but whether the extent of her victory rises or falls on the day will be an interesting one to watch.  With 99% confidence level, a 13.2% MOE, and 2.1% “UNSURE”, anything below 77.4% is unlikely.


PREDICTION: Sinéad Roche will be elected as the Communications and Engagement Officer of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood).


Mary O’Connell is the sole candidate for Entertainments Officer this year.  Her team has arguably the biggest and most visible campus presence, with their distinctive neon orange colour scheme, so whether or not this impacts the proportion of O’Connell to RON votes compared to other uncontested Sabbaths will be interesting to watch – with 88.5% (compared to 10.4% RON), we can expect that it wouldn’t, but the bulk of the campaigning is yet to come.   With 99% confidence level, a 13.2% MOE, and 1% “UNSURE”, anything below 74.3% is unlikely.


PREDICTION: Mary O’Connell will be elected as the Entertainments Officer of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood).

Commercial and Fundraising

Sam Galvin is running uncontested for Commercial and Fundraising Officer, and polling at 65.6%.  At first glance, the proportion of RON votes here (28.1%) may seem quite high, but this may not be a worry for Galvin – similar results were seen for the Communications and Commercial Officer (before it was split in two) role in 2019, wherein David Condon received 54% of the vote to 37.7% RON in the straw poll, before winning a landslide victory with 82% in the actual election.  A key difference here is that Condon had an organised ‘Ron 4 Comms’ campaign against him, where Galvin doesn’t, but we may see similar trends over the next three days.  At a 99% confidence level, a 13.2% MOE, and 6.3% “UNSURE”, Galvin receiving anything below 52.4% of the vote is unlikely, although there is still a slight chance something unexpected could happen.


PREDICTION: Sam Galvin will be elected as the Commercial and Fundraising Officer of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood).


Alannah O’Connor is running uncontested for Welfare Officer.  She currently sits as Gender Equality Representative on the SU’s Equality Working Group, and so we can expect those who watch these matters like a hawk to recognise her name.  She’s sitting at a nice strong 89.6% (compared to 6.3% RON), and with 99% confidence level, and 13.2% MOE, anything below 76.4% is unlikely. 


PREDICTION: Alannah O’Connor will be elected as the Welfare Officer of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood).


As the only contested Sabbatical position, the Education Officer will be the one to watch.  Both candidates hold high campus presence – Stephen O’Riordan has been Chairperson of the Student Council for two years, and sat on the Societies Executive this year, and Imasha Costa is the current Editor in Chief of the University Express.  Hack vs Hack is always a fun one to watch – there is some chance that the polls here may skew slightly in Costa’s favour, as our regular readers are likely to also be regulars of the University Express, and so more familiar with her name, but turnout from the various groups the candidates are from will be instrumental, alongside the rest of the student body.  At first, the polls seemed neck in neck – I’d leave to get a glass of water with one just in the lead, and come back with it reversed – but as the hours pulled along, O’Riordan began gaining a lead.  Both candidates shared the poll to their personal Twitter pages, which is allowed, the only difference is that O’Riordan later shared campaign materials to that same page, whereas Costa did not.  O’Riordan only shared these materials some time after his lead had been cemented, however, so any impact of this may be simply an exaggeration of his lead, as opposed to a manufacturing of it.  In the end, the polls showed 66.7% O’Riordan, 28.1% Costa, 1% RON, and 4.2% “WILL NOT VOTE/UNSURE”.  Even with the largest possible MOE (13.2%) and all of the 4.2% “unsure” votes going her way, Costa would only get a maximum of 45.5% at a 99% confidence level, compared to 53.5% for O’Riordan.


PREDICTION: Stephen O’Riordan will be elected as the Education Officer of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood).


Asha Woodhouse is our second outgoing Sabbatical officer to run for election this year.  Last year, she won a landslide 54% of votes against David Collins and Adam O’Brien, and is now running uncontested for a second term.  The polls indicate another strong victory with 89.6% (compared to 9.4% RON), although the exact balance between Woodhouse and RON may fluctuate in the actual results.  To our knowledge, no UCCSU president has ever been elected for a second term, and so you could argue that the results might be indicative of student satisfaction with their union as a whole – a form of approval poll, if you will.  With 99% confidence level, and 13.2% MOE, Woodhouse receiving anything below 76.4% of the vote is unlikely – giving her a pretty decent approval rating. 


PREDICTION: Asha Woodhouse will be elected as the President of UCC Students’ Union (99% likelihood).