Single mother who left school at 15 elected TCD SU president

Trinity College Dublin access student Lynn Ruane lands emotional victory

Lynn Ruane (centre, with arms wide) with some of her campaign team.

Lynn Ruane (centre, with arms wide) with some of her campaign team.

 

A single mother and drugs addiction worker from Tallaght in west Dublin has won an emotional victory in the race for president of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union.

Lynn Ruane who dropped out of school after her Junior Cert, having become pregnant at the age of 15, enrolled in the university three years ago through its access programme.

“I thought I would take my education and tackle inequalities back in the community but I felt the same inequalities were in college, and if I’m really an activist I could not ignore them,” she told The Irish Times, explaining her decision to run for union president.

She said she was overwhelmed by the support she received from, among others, a large number of mature students.

“I would have brought out a totally different demographic. Some were Labour, some were Sinn Féin, some were Fine Gael. It was a total mixture and was really organic, and odd to watch.”

Ms Ruane (30) said she frequently brought her two daughters Jordanne (14) and Jaelynne (8) on campus and even to lectures, and she hoped to expose other people of a similar background to TCD.

“My daughters don’t feel Trinity is elitist because I am explaining it to them and they can see it themselves.

“One of the things I want to do is lobby the college management to create a system where students in TCD get a credit for mentoring students from disadvantaged areas and hopefully increase the number of those students getting into college.”

She said she would also campaign against cuts which were hurting poorer students hardest. These included a planned €250 fee for repeat exams, and an increase in the cost of student cards. She also pointed out that the college hardship fund was inadequate to meet students’ needs.

“I want to be in a position to mobilise TCD students as a community,” said Ms Ruane, who follows in the footsteps of RTÉ presenter Joe Duffy, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power, and Storyful founder Mark Little in becoming president of the TCD students’ union.

The Tallaght native has been working in addiction counselling since she was 17 when she helped to set up a support programme for teenage heroin users in Killinarden under the Community Addiction Response Programme.

She subsequently helped to develop a drugs task force in Bluebell, Clondalkin.

Now in her third year of a four-year degree in philosophy, political science, economics and sociology (PPES), she said her aim was to work in the field of human rights and advocacy. “I hope to go back to work at a policy level after my degree,” said Ms Ruane, who takes up the presidency on July 1st.

Of the campaign experience, she said: “I carried in a working class prejudice myself. I am not the mould of the usual presidents but I realised after the second day of the campaign, when I made a speech and the front square erupted in support, they were receiving me on the basis of my values.”