Gender Equality Co-ordinator defends right to lead pro-choice referendum campaign

UCD Students’ Union (SU) Gender Equality Co-ordinator, Rebek’ah McKinney-Perry, has defended her right to run a campaign that encourages students to vote for Option B in the UCDSU Abortion referendum.

McKinney-Perry, whose role as Gender Equality Co-ordinator falls under the remit of the Campaigns forum, had been criticised for campaigning for students’ votes in favour of Option B in her official capacity, despite UCDSU having no official stance on the matter of abortion.

Speaking to the University Observer, McKinney-Perry insisted that any campaigning she has undertaken has been strictly in a non-official capacity and purely as a student campaigning in relation to her private personal beliefs. “I am actually not campaigning for Option B as the Gender Equality Co-ordinator. I’m campaigning as a regular student, in spite of the intent of all the other officers.”

Addressing the fact that even campaigning in private capacity could cause a conflict of interest, McKinney-Perry was adamant that she followed the correct avenues to assure she was not violating her mandate.

“I checked back in May when I was elected with Mícheál Gallagher (President) and Cian Dowling (Welfare and Equality Officer), because I did run on a pro-choice platform.

“I’ve been very open and upfront about my pro-choice views and I checked with them back in May or June when I had my first meeting with them when they told me that there would be a referendum on abortion. I said to them, ‘Since we currently have no stance, how would it work for me to take an opinion on that?’

“They said that the reason I can take an opinion on [the referendum] is because we have no stance. So, it is kind of a free-for-all because we don’t have a stance, so I am not misrepresenting or representing students. I’m representing my own view, because the Union doesn’t have a view on it.”

When asked if she would have any issue campaigning for abortion ideology that conflicted with her own, but were upheld by her mandate, McKinney-Perry said, “Hypothetically, if students choose to have no stance on the issue then that is something I will obviously take on board because I am here to represent students.

“I do campaign in a very private capacity outside the SU for pro-choice anyway, so I don’t think that is going to impact my activities towards the campaign outside of college.”

McKinney-Perry was understanding of the criticism directed at her and conceded that campaigning on such issues in her capacity can be a delicate matter.

“I understand why there would be criticism. It would be very hypocritical of a student if we had a stance on it, to run a campaign, but because we don’t have a stance on it, that’s the reason I’m running this campaign.

“I did check if I would be misrepresenting students because we don’t have a stance on this issue, that is why I feel it is appropriate to run this campaign.”