Katie Ascough: it’s the story that has all of UCD talking.
Tomorrow, UCD’s 32,000 students will be asked whether or not to impeach UCD Student Union President Katie Ascough, who has come under fire for being accused of not representing the SU’s pro-choice mandate.
The drama that has followed since the start of the academic year relating to this could very well be the subject of an RTÉ documentary or a Netflix miniseries, such is the interest it has attracted.
The scandal has even spread out from UCD’s vast Belfield campus, and onlookers wouldn’t be blamed for not being able to follow the multitude of statements and events that have occurred.
Because of this, Oxygen.ie have compiled the ‘Everything you need to know about the Katie Ascough Impeachment Scandal’ guide so you’ll know exactly what you’re talking about when everybody else is this week.
HOW DID IT START?
This all started with Katie Ascough’s decision to withdraw information concerning access to abortion in a UCD Student Union magazine ‘Winging It‘.
Ascough claimed that this executive decision made under legal advice, due to the strict laws and conditions that the publication of such information is under.
This decision required the reprinting of the student guide, which is estimated to have cost the student union €8,000. Opposition to Ascough have since claimed that this cost would have been greater than any potential fines the SU would have received for publishing the information.
Ascough was also criticised for making a decision that members of the student body found was in direct opposition of the SU’s pro-choice position, which had already been formally voted for by the student body in November of last year.
Ascough’s decision was subject to almost immediate backlash and guerilla, pro-choice advertised as reported by the University Observer:
Posters and pamphlets were first witnessed on UCD campus on Monday. The posters show the original page 59 of the Winging It book containing pricing information of obtaining an abortion and information on where to obtain abortion pills online, as well as pictures of President Katie Ascough’s campaign manifesto.
The posters read “The info UCDSU Ascough spent €8000 of your money to hide from you.” The posters have appeared on pillars along the main concourse through campus.
The decision was also condemned by her fellow sabbatical officers including Graduate Officer Niall Torris, Campaigns & Communications Officer Barry Murphy, Welfare Officer Eoghan MacDomhaill and Education Officer Robert Sweeney.
Officers claim they were not consulted and that they had no involvement in the decision that was made, despite Ascough claiming that she would delegate ‘Repeal’ campaigning to other officers when she was elected.
“How could I take the legal information if it wasn’t direct? I felt when the original conversation was had…The lawyer should have been on the phone and on the case and it shouldn’t have been Katie presenting the case,” Robert Sweeney told the University Times.
Following condemnation from both members of the SU and the student body, a campaign was quickly organised calling for the impeachment of Katie Ascough.
In order for an impeachment referendum to be called, 1200 signatures must be collected from the student body.
A first petition was supported by 1,620 people (significantly more than the 1,154 people who voted for Ascough in last March’s election, but it was rejected by UCDSU Returning Officer Stephen Devine as there was no section that provided student signatures.
However, this problem was rectified and a second petition gathered the required 1,200 signatures needed to be accepted just 8 days later.
The impeachment referendum was then officially set for the 25th and 26th of October. Ascough has been on annual leave since the second petition was accepted, leaving the day-to-day running of the union to Campaigns and Communications Officer Barry Murphy as Acting President.
Since the announcement, the ‘#Fight4Katie’ group has campaigned for a ‘NO’ vote in the referendum, amassing over 2,500 likes on Facebook.
Ascough has since claimed that legal advice given to her stated that the potential fine for publishing the abortion information would have been €4,000 per person and that it could even lead to UCDSU staff facing a criminal conviction (these claims have been disputed by other sabbatical officers).
The last week has seen her campaign on campus and in classes, addressing ‘myths’ concerning the campaign to impeach her.
She continues to insist that there are “no legitimate grounds” for her impeachment and that she is subject to false accusations to a “small but vocal group of students”, according to a Facebook post from the ‘#Fight4Katie’ Facebook page addressing the issue.
She also reiterated in an open letter to UCD students that her own personal beliefs did not affect her platform to act as Student Union President.
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.
However, I did not run for election on a pro-life platform. I ran on a manifesto of student welfare, reducing fees, microwaves, bridging the gap between students and their union, and lots more.
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.
We couldn’t exclude the fact that one of Dublin’s most popular eateries have been dragged into this debate.
Ascough came under fire from popular Burrito restaurant Boojum after they accused her of using their name unfairly in her own campaign.
A post on the ‘#FightForKatie’ campaign page was shared announcing that Boojum would be serving burritos on campus, something she claimed as one of her election goals alongside hashtags such as ‘#PerfectCampaignFood’.
Days later, Boojum accused Ascough of being ‘manipulative’ and stated they were not comfortable with her statement in a post from their official Facebook page.
“We want to say publicly we are not comfortable with our business being used in such a manipulative way.”
“We in no way endorse the views of Katie and wish for our business to be removed from this context. We have only ever dealt with the Hospitality Services Manager directly.”
Polls open tomorrow morning and will remain open until Thursday evening. The last few days have seen intense campaigning both on campus and online.
While Katie has yet to release a final statement at the time of publication, Acting President Barry Murphy released a passionate statement on his personal statement which has received 2,000 likes and almost 500 shares.
“The cause to impeach Katie Ascough is because she has repeatedly gone against a strong mandate our Union holds (a vote by the student body) to fight to Repeal the 8th Amendment, in our entirety. It’s something the vast majority of our students want achieved and with a referendum set for next May on the issue, it is our job to give everything to the campaign,” the post reads.
“We are all elected to uphold all SU mandates regardless of our personal opinions of them.”
“Katie Ascough is a seasoned campaigner and she has been trained for years, campaigning against Marriage Equality, Abortion Information Access and a Woman’s Right to Choose. She presented a falsity to the electorate last March in her campaign promise of delegation and “stepping out of the room” when abortion is being discussed. She has done the complete opposite. Do not let her fool you this time. Your student voice is at stake.”
The final moments of campaigning will take place at UCDSU Hustings this evening at 4pm.