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By Tomás Heneghan

 

Welcome everyone! From fresh-faced 18-year-olds to the veterans, welcome to UL and to a new An Focal. My name’s Tomás, though some people find the fada and lack of a ‘h’ a bit tricky so you can call me Tom if you like. I’m the new Editor of An Focal for the next few months and I have many of those big plans you always hear people talking about.

 

I think it’s fair to say it’s been quite the summer. For you first years, specifically the newly released from secondary schools, your most notable change is probably going from school to college and all that entails.

 

For returning UL students, you are coming back to a different university in many ways. Yes, there have been a few enhancements around the SU and there’s this shiny new building where the car park in front of the Lonsdale used to be. But the biggest change, and maybe it’s not that noticeable, is that we are now a more open, inclusive and welcoming campus.

 

Why? Well, 1,201,607 of us walked into national schools all around the country about three months ago and voted ‘yes’ for marriage equality. Of course it was not just UL students and I’m sure many UL students also voted ‘no’. However #ULove ran an incredible campaign in the run up to the referendum. ULSU registered hundreds of students to vote for the first time in their lives.

 

The referendum on marriage also pushed the SU into new lands, where it made it’s historic move, taking a stance for the first time on a national referendum issue. With a spectacular push from our own LGBTQ society, Out in UL and the hard work of our SU staff, students and former sabbatical team, Mike Forde, Shane McCormack and Tommy Bolger we ensured UL played its part in making grá the law.

 

Although those from all generations (well those over 18 anyway) who said “yes” to equality, love and family should be commended, it was the students and young people who pushed this so far over the line you’d think half the country was getting married next week.

 

Thank you too from me personally. You’ve made this country a better place for me, my family, my friends and god willing, some day my own children. You’ve made this campus, my home for the past five years, a more beautiful and welcoming place to be.

 

But to the practicalities of this upcoming year. Building on the work of previous editors and staff at An Focal, I hope to put my own stamp on the newspaper with a number of new enhancements. Firstly I plan to move from a monthly issue to a fortnightly issue. A ‘letters to the editor’ section will come in so that you all can interact with An Focal – you can give your feedback and suggestions, comment or critique, debate or tease out an issue of discussion.

 

Key to interacting with you means bringing the newspaper to you. We’ll distribute more widely, promote heavily, run and publish polls on everything from student services to national issues.

 

You can take your pick from news, lifestyle, events, sports and probably anything else you can think of.

 

Some tips though before I finish this up because for the newbies, especially the first years, the next few weeks are going to be quite the maze. For one thing those Ski-slopes you keep hearing about, they’re not actual ski-slopes, UL would need a pretty big freezer for those. No, the slopes are the glass slopes on the main building in the courtyard near the Foundation Building.

 

Next is the infamous (trust me, that definitely is the best description of him) Brown Thomas. No, not the shop. He is the statue in front of the Ski-slopes, near the library main entrance.

 

As for you, well, take care of yourself. Have fun but don’t overlook the work side of things – believe me, the mountain to climb to get back on top of work at the end of the year is one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

 

But you also need to make sure you’re healthy and when you’re not, that you ask and get help. Unless you truly are the uniquest of little flowers, you will struggle at many points throughout your time here in UL. That’s perfectly okay and normal. What you need to do is always seek out help though, whether it’s talking to a friend, your family, your advisor, the counseling department, a lecturer or even people here in the SU.

 

Best finish up by saying you’ll love it here, UL is the best there is…just ask the Sunday Times, they obviously know a quality university when they see one. Keep in mind always that An Focal is your newspaper for you, the students, by the students…yes, all 13,000 of you. It’s your voice, make use of it.

 

You can get me on anfocal@ul.ie or over at Twitter (@AnFocal_UL) and on An Focal’s Facebook page, whether you want to write for the paper, complain about the paper or just have a chat about anything An Focal related.

 

P.S. Eden lives up to its name with the scones there. If you too love your scones (not scons) make sure you get in to Eden early – they tend to sell out pretty quickly.

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