A provisional interpretation of the constitution provided to members of staff of the University Times (UT) suggested that impeachment of the UT Editor was possible.
In an email to Trinity News, the Chair of the Electoral Commission (EC) said that a “provisional conversation” between the TCDSU president and senior members of UT staff “did suggest there could be a possibility for impeachment”.
Yesterday, in a news analysis piece published by Trinity News, it was stated by an original drafter of the constitution that impeachment was never possible in the current TCDSU constitution, and this was “deliberate”. This was never a possibility.
According to the Chair of the EC, constitutional interpretations given in a verbal manner “are only provisional”, while “official interpretations must be requested in writing and have the backing of the entire EC”.
“This was emphasised to all involved quite clearly at the time,” the email stated.
The email continued: “Although the provisional conversation did suggest there could be a possibility for impeachment, no details of further conversation were shared as it was a casework and therefore there are strict confidentiality guidelines.”
At the time that conversations were held with UT staff, no official request was made for an interpretation of the constitution, and therefore none was given “until after the initial issue was made public,” when an official request was submitted, according to the Chair of the EC.
On Monday, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) released a public statement from the Chair of the EC confirming that “there is no constitutional mechanism to impeach the Editor of the University Times.”
This statement also said that UT is not a union body, but an “editorially independent newspaper with freedom of governance, which receives funding via TCDSU, as per Chapter 10 of the TCDSU Constitution”. The statement added that “it would be inappropriate for the union to have the power to remove the Editor and a violation of the paper’s independence”.
A student-wide referendum would be required to amend the constitution to make the UT Editor impeachable. In order to call a constitutional referendum, a motion to do so must be passed by a two-thirds majority at Council, or a petition with 500 signatures be submitted to the EC calling for a referendum.
The process of impeaching the current UT Editor would require two referenda: one asking whether the UT Editor should be an impeachable role, and one asking if the current editor should be impeached.
Additional reporting by Shannon Connolly.