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Victor O Loughlin, President of GMIT Students' Union, who was elected as the VP for the Border, Midlands and Western region of USI. Photograph by John Kelly

Victor’s victory in USI contest


AN Ennis man has been elected to a key position within the Union of Students in Ireland. Victor O’Loughlin is the next vice president for the Border Midlands and Western Region of the USI.
Due to the ongoing public health restrictions, USI Congress was held via Zoom with delegates voting online for the 2021-2022 executive team and numerous policies and motions. Congress was also streamed live on Facebook so students could watch the action as it happened.
The 22-year-old is no stranger to student politics, having been elected as president of the student union of GMIT last year.
He has been an active member in the student movement since 2016, involved in gathering students for protests, registering them to vote and of course, standing for election.
He spent two years as a class rep before his election in 2018 as deputy president for education with GMIT’s student union, and his election as president in 2020.
With this year’s USI election unlike any other due to Covid-19, Victor’s campaign had to reflect our changing times.
“This was my first time running for election with nobody running against me, but I still kept running at it full tilt because we are so divided because of lockdown.
“You have to put in that extra effort to ensure you are engaging with people. For instance I had to learn how to make TikTok videos this year, it was a different ballgame.
“I couldn’t do my normal things, it was a case of what can I do to get the most engagement such as putting together a professional video and I started a lot of social media this year.”
He tells us that the win is “a great feeling” and acknowledged all those who have supported him.
Currently working from home in Ennis due to the pandemic, he has a number of issues he wants to focus on during his time as vice president.
There are plans to forge a technological university between GMIT, IT Letterkenny and Sligo IT with Victor saying this will give students the opportunity to be a part of a larger community and he will be working towards assisting merging student unions.
Victor aims to create and sustain a student network, consisting not just of elected officers of the union but of students on the ground.
He plans to use social media to keep students up to date on what USI is doing on their behalf, while also acting as a line of communication between students and officers.
He believes this will empower every day students to stand up and contribute to communities and institutions.
“It’s important that we have that, that the student union is not just about the people who are elected, it’s the whole college. Creating that engagement shows students that we are there to support them.”
This is particularly timely given the move away from on-campus learning due to Covid-19.
“While we’re hopeful that the vaccine rollout will get us back on site, you can’t take anything for granted and we have to be ready for anything that presents itself in September. We have to stay engaged so we are virtually ready to go whatever happens.”
While Covid-19 has presented many challenges for students, the move online also presents many opportunities, he feels.
“We are so divided right now, but we are also connected. One of the silver linings of Covid is we have so many resources at our disposal that we didn’t even realise.
“For instance, we might not have been able to attend meeting because of the distance, but now we can and have our voices heard. It provides us with the tools to carry out our job, and we can use this to better our organisation.”
As soon as possible, once restrictions allow, he aims to visit each campus and satellite campus to ensure students have their say in the national organisation.

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