University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) President Katie Ascough has released a letter addressed to UCD students addressing the upcoming impeachment referendum, due to take place on October 25 and 26. In it, she encourages students to “Vote No” against her impeachment, which follows the removal of information on how to acquire an abortion in a freshers’ handbook.
Ascough states: “It is no secret that I am pro-life and many students are not. Since the day I was elected, before I’d been put in office, some students were already calling for my impeachment.”
After outlining her reasoning behind removing the information on abortion from the freshers’ booklet, Ascough says: “I must state that the call for my impeachment is without legitimate cause…In the interest of fairness, of democracy, and an effective SU, please tackle bullying and use your vote to build a fairer, freer, and more democratic UCD. We don’t have to agree on the issue of abortion, but we should be able to respect each other and not endorse unfair accusations.”
Ascough also addresses alleged “bullying tactics” by some members of the Impeach UCDSU President campaign. “Some members of the Impeach UCDSU President campaign posted pro-impeachment tweets and Facebook posts on the day of my election back in March, before I had the chance to make even one presidential action or decision. It was clear from the outset that some students didn’t want to give me a chance as SU President because of my views on abortion.”
Ascough also outlines what she has achieved so far this year, and her plans for the rest of the year in the letter.
The referendum on Ascough’s impeachment was announced yesterday following the returning officer of UCDSU accepting a petition signed by 1,200 students. Campaigns and Communications Officer Barry Murphy, who is Vice-President of UCDSU, will act as President during this time while Ascough takes annual leave.
A campaign calling for Ascough to remain as President was launched on Facebook yesterday evening.
Calls for impeachment initially began when Ascough, who is pro-life, removed abortion information from the UCDSU handbook, despite opposition from the other UCDSU sabbatical officers. Reprinting the magazine cost nearly €8,000.
Ascough will be impeached if the majority of votes cast in the referendum favour impeachment and no less than 10% of UCD’s students vote in the referendum. According to the UCDSU constitution “other than resignation, death, or incapacity in accordance with this Constitution, an Impeachment Referendum shall be the only means for the vacation of office of any member of the Executive.”
Previously, the campaign to impeach Ascough suffered a setback last Tuesday, when the returning officer refused to accept the petition due a constitutional technicality. The UCD constitution required signators to include both their name and signature as well as other details. However, the petition lacked space for signatures.
The campaign organisers altered the petition and starting to collect signatures again from Wednesday onwards. The petition got the necessary amount of signatures again to initiate a referendum on their first day of collecting signatures.