UCD students vote to impeach union president Katie Ascough
Referendum called after representative blocked publication of abortion information
University College Dublin (UCD) students have voted to impeach their Students’ Union President Katie Ascough.
In total 4,540 students voted to impeach Ms Ascough, out of 6,572 students who cast a ballot, meaning a majority of 69 per cent were in favour of her removal.
Some 2,032 students voted against Ms Ascough’s removal as head of the union. The result was announced early on Friday.
Speaking after her defeat Ms Ascough said it was “a sad day for our university”. Addressing a large crowd of students after the final results of the vote were announced she said “I am deeply saddened of the outcome of today’s vote and the fact that many students would impeach me.”
“Universities should be a place for freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of association … Respect for others with different beliefs are critical to debate and intellectual freedom on campus” Ms Ascough said.
“I enjoyed my time as president, and gave it my full commitment and best effort. I hope the initiatives that I helped start in UCD will bear fruit for all UCD students” she said. Ms Ascough’s speech was met with respectful applause from those in the count centre.
Speaking after the results, Amy Crean, head of the ‘Yes to Impeach’ campaign said “we wish the absolutely best of luck to Ms Ascough in all her future endeavours.”
Ms Crean, a fourth year law and social justice student, said “we are so proud of our campaign for its success in inserting democracy, transparency, and accountability into UCD Students’ Union.” She said “we can only hope that the phenomenal engagement that it received can continue.”
The turnout in the referendum was one of the highest in recent years, with 6,611 students voting in total. In March when Ms Ascough was elected president of the Students’ Union 3,350 students voted, with 1,154 giving Ms Ascough a first preference vote.
The largest percentage of votes to impeach Ms Ascough came from students in Arts and Social Sciences schools, and Agricultural Science, where 77 per cent of students voted to remove her from her position. The closest vote was from the Business and Law school’s ballot box, where 55 per cent of students voted for impeachment.
The Students’ Union will now hold a by-election to fill the role of president. Barry Murphy, the Campaign and Communications officer and vice-president will assume the role of president during the interim.
Finn McLysaght, one of the students organising the ‘Yes to Impeach’ campaign said the campaign had been very divisive on campus, and on social media.
“There was a lot of abuse thrown at both campaigns, I personally got sent death threats, and I saw Katie got quite a lot of abuse” the student said. The online threats came from fake Facebook accounts McLysaght said.
The campaign to impeach Ms Ascough began after she removed a page on access to abortion information from the student union’s Winging It freshers’ magazine, meaning the magazine had to be re-printed at a cost of between €7,000 and €8,000. The impeachment referendum started after a petition signed by 1,200 students.
Ms Ascough said she took the decision to remove the page after seeking advice from the union lawyer, who stated he had “serious concerns” about the legality of providing the information on abortion services under Irish law.
Ms Ascough is a prominent anti-abortion activist, and the daughter of Tom Ascough, who sits of the Iona Institute board of directors.