UCD Student Union President Will Face Impeachment Vote

A referendum on whether to impeach UCD's anti-abortion Student Union President will go ahead this month after a second petition, containing 1200 signatures, was accepted by the college's Returning Officer.

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The petition submitted to UCD Returning Officer Stephen Devine is the second such petition seeking to force impeachment proceedings against Student Union President Katie Ascough.

The first petition, which garnered 1,620 names, was rejected because it did not contain the signatures of the individual petitioners – a necessity under UCD’s Student Union constitution.

Members of the ‘Impeach UCDSU President’ submitted an updated petition on October 10 and this time it was accepted. An impeachment referendum is scheduled to take place on October 25 and October 26.

Ascough defended her decision to remove information about UK abortion services from freshers’ magazine ‘Winging It’ in an open letter to students, reports The University Times.

In the letter Ascough reportedly condemns the “bullying tactics” of those calling for her impeachment. “Another alarming matter is the bullying tactics of a group of students to try and discard a democratically elected SU president”.

The University Times reports that Ascough’s letter also attempts to explain her decision-making process:

“Ascough, who took an executive decision to remove the information, explained her decision-making process at length. In the letter, she claimed that she was aware of the information but not the illegality. It was only after the guides were printed that the various issues with the content were brought to her attention. Ascough explained that she consulted the union’s lawyer and board of directors for advice. She further said that up to two dozen people would have been at risk of incurring fines of “tens of thousands of euro” if the information had remained.”

However, this was argument was dismissed by Senator Ivana Bacik – once a Student Union President herself in Trinity College in 1989 – who told The Guardian: “I don’t see how the decision to withdraw the abortion information for students at UCD was based on any legal argument.”

“In reality, for decades now, students’ unions in Ireland have been publishing information in freshers’ handbooks on where to obtain abortions outside Ireland. That generally means that they have been printing the contact details of clinics like Marie Stopes and BPAS in England, alongside information on other options open to women facing a crisis pregnancy, such as contact details for single parent support networks and adoption agencies.

“By providing abortion information in this way, they are not advocating or promoting abortion. No students’ union has been prosecuted for any breach of the 1995 act as a result,” Bacik said.

A post on the UCD Students Union Facebook confirms that Ascough will take annual leave until voting is finished.

© 2017 GCN (Gay Community News Ireland). All rights reserved.

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