On the 12th February, current and past sabbaticals, college officers and other DITSU members gathered in St. Laurence in Grangegorman to celebrate the 25th anniversary of DITSU. The space filled up quickly (and even quicker once the food and wine was brought out) with renowned academics and union members in very nice suits. Despite some suits, the atmosphere was informal and celebratory; from the start it felt more like a family reunion than an anniversary – and with many past elected officers attending, in many ways, it was one.
Diarmuid Cleary, the current VP for Events and Absolute Madman summed up what this role is: “I organise events and I also consider fundraising to be a major part of the job. I try to encourage people to have more fun”. Noting his admiration for DITSU for thriving for 25 years, he took a long pause to think about his favourite memory of his time as VP of Events before settling on last year’s fundraiser which raised €21,000 through events that he and his team organised, saying “I like to encourage students to shave their heads and jump off buildings”. Right so.
Boni Odoemene, the current president of DITSU who we all know and love, introduced three past presidents; Hugh O’Reilly, Deiric Ó Broin and Ciarán Nevin. The three of them gave incredibly moving speeches about their time as president and how things have changed since their times in office while Boni, in his speech, looked towards the future. His admiration for his predecessors gave his speech a sentimental tone but his positive and hopeful vision for the future was overpowering.
Shortly after his speech, I managed to drag Boni away from important-looking people in ties to talk to him about his presidency. His campaign ran on a simple and important vision: he wanted “a dynamic union that could communicate better with the students”. His vision came to life last year, particularly in his fondest memory of his presidency: the USI march. “Seeing our students as one force, together, for our union made me very proud”. The work of Boni and his team and their attentiveness to student affairs led to an unforgettably powerful day that will be remembered and honoured in another 25 years.
To close the evening, I was given the opportunity to sit down with the Brian Norton, the President of DIT. Despite his intimidating title, he very kindly told me that I could ask him anything I wanted. This is where my hard-hitting journalism skills kicked in. “So,” I asked him, “what do you do?”. He explained his job of managing the strategies, the money, the campus development, the future of the institute and about a hundred other things. Of the job, he said that “learning backstories is a joy. Getting a sense of what the institute does in terms of helping young people meet their goals is what it’s about”. That has been his job for the last 15 years. The President took a moment to appreciate the site we were on. “Having students on Grangegorman is a real step towards the future”, he said, seeing as it was always doubted whether it would ever actually happen. Then he freaked me out by telling me that he’ll be handing me my parchment in a year and a half when I graduate, but that seems too soon for me so let’s maybe give it another ten years.
All in all, the evening was a really moving celebration of both the past and future of DITSU. Hearing everything that has been done by DITSU, from improving the campuses 25 years ago to helping organise the USI marches, was, in two words, pretty cool. So, as I walked out of the building, plastic bowl of cocktail sausages in hand, I thought about who has looked out for us all these years and who’ll be doing so in the future and could only feel excited.