Katie Ascough has been impeached as University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) President. Voting took place over the past two days, and 69% voting in favour of impeachment while 31% voted for her to remain as the union’s president.
The result was announced tonight just after 12.40am at the Student Centre in UCD and comes after an eventful three week campaign. The quorum of 2,455 was safely surpassed with 6,572 turning out. Students were asked to vote “that the current UCDSU President be removed from office”.
Speaking to Trinity News just before the results were announced, leader of the Yes campaign Amy Crean said: “Honestly I’m holding off on reacting until those final boxes come in. What I will say is that I’m obviously thrilled with not just the fact that the votes went so far in our favour, but the engagement. It’s been phenomenal. We ran on a platform of democracy and student engagement and this has demonstrated that.” She continued: “What this demonstrates…is that students are a mobilised voice. This really combatted the idea of student apathy. It shows that we are listening, we are engaged, and when an issue is emotive and affects us we are going to tune in.”
Early boxes opened strongly indicated a successful night for the Yes campaign, with vote percentages as high 77% returned in the Arts Building box.
On September 26, a group of 20 students, lead by Law student Crean, launched a campaign to impeach Katie Ascough as UCDSU president. This followed revelations that abortion information in a student handbook ‘Winging It’ was removed, costing the union over €7,000 in reprinting costs. The information included price listings of abortion clinics outside Ireland, and information about purchasing abortion pills online.
Acough, who is pro-life, had said that she would delegate issues relating to abortion information as UCDSU is mandated to support the pro-choice campaign. Following the printing of the handbook, the information on page 59 contained details that were in breach of the Abortion Information Act, 1995. Ascough later published legal advice she had received from the union’s lawyer, Richard Hammond, who said that “knowingly” breaching the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution is “not a course of action to be pursued lightly”, and gave the advice to “avoid proceeding with the current handbook (if it is not too late) or cancellation”. In an open letter to UCD students, Ascough said: “I ran a platform of things like cutting the cost of college and improving mental health supports. I did not agree to break the law and run the risk of a criminal conviction for the rest of my life.” At the UCDSU Impeachment Hustings held on October 23, Ascough said that she, and anyone who was complicit, could be liable to a criminal conviction, and up to €4,000 worth of fines. Though the impeachment campaign noted that this law has never been enacted.
The petition to impeach Ascough reached over 1,200 signatures, and over the 3.5% union membership needed to initiate an impeachment referendum. When launching the petition, Crean spoke to Trinity News: “The petition was started because Ascough has acted undemocratically; she went against the other exces to redact the information from the original handbook, and put her personal politics before the wellbeing of the students she is supposed to represent.”
The impeachment campaign added that Ascough cut funds from the UCDSU Repeal campaign. Ascough said that as President, she questioned the need for a €500 increase to the fund.
On the “Fight4Katie” Facebook page, Ascough’s campaign stated that the University Observer, a UCD student newspaper, had “shocking bias” against her.