UCD students to hold impeachment vote over union president

Close student union colleagues asked Katie Ascough to consider her position

UCD student union president Katie Ascough (centre) at Rally for Life this July. Photograph: Jack Power

UCD student union president Katie Ascough (centre) at Rally for Life this July. Photograph: Jack Power

 

A group of students in University College Dublin (UCD) have collected enough signatures to hold a campus vote to impeach their current student union president Katie Ascough.

The decision by students to start the impeachment process followed Ms Ascough’s decision to remove information on access to abortion services from a Freshers’ week magazine.

It is understood the union president was asked to consider her position by a number of her fellow student union officers and staff recently but ruled out resigning.

“I think she needs to go, for her sake, and the perception of the SU, ” one union officer told The Irish Times.

More than 1,300 students in the Belfield campus signed the petition to hold a referendum over Ms Ascough’s position. The petition was started by a group ‘Impeach UCDSU President’, and collected the required number of signatures in a single day.

Finn McLysaght, a spokesman for the group, said “the intense speed and passion with which UCD students have shown their support for a referendum to impeach the UCDSU President conveys their anger” at her recent decisions.

The UCD Freshers’ magazine Winging It, was reprinted with a page on information regarding abortion services in the United Kingdom removed in the second edition.

The decision to remove the page, which required reprinting the annual guide, is estimated to have cost the union about €8,000.

Ms Ascough said she took the decision following legal advice on the potential liability of providing the information under the Abortion Information Act of 1995.

While it is lawful to provide information in Ireland about abortions abroad, it is subject to strict conditions. For example, detailed information about abortion abroad may only be made available by doctors, specific agencies or by individual counsellors.

A breach of the Abortion Information Act of 1995 is an offence under law and can result in fines of up to €1,900.

Traditionally the student union has provided similar information to students over the last number of decades.

Mr McLysaght said “the UCDSU president censored information that we have been distributing for over 20 years.”

UCDSU has a mandate to uphold a pro-choice position on the issue of abortion.

Ms Ascough, who has yet to reply to requests for comment, is a prominent anti-abortion activist and the daughter of Tom Ascough, who sits on the Iona Institute’s board of directors.

The union’s communications officer David Burns, who was employed as a permanent member of staff for the last number of years, resigned from the position in recent weeks.

The petition will be handed into the student union returning officer on Monday afternoon, who will then verify that each of the signatories are current UCD students. The vote must then be held in the next four weeks.

In order to hold an impeachment referendum on a student union officer’s position a group needs to collect 835 signatures of students registered in the university.

The news was welcomed by the student union affiliated pro-choice campaign group ‘UCD for Choice’.

A spokesman for the group said they “are encouraged to see the widespread support for the impeachment of Katie Ascough and the protection of the pro-choice mandate”.

Ms Ascough was elected head of the student union last March, with 36 per cent of first preference votes out of the 3,237 students who voted.