Originally published in Volume II, Issue 12 on 29th April 1996 by Kathyrn Torney.
The proposed motion for the referendum for the impeachment of Student Union president, Loughlin Deegan has been found to be unconstitutional by the Chief Returning Officer of the union, ending a long running saga that began in February. The referendum, which has been due to take place on April 23rd has now been cancelled. Union Returning Officer, Ian Walsh confirmed to the Observer that the Union President, Loughlin Deegan, had put together an extensive appeal in opposition for the referendum taking place and it was decided that the appeal would be heard by Mr Walsh and Professor Tom Brazil, Chief Returning Officer, prior to going before the Independent Appeals Board.
Mr Walsh claimed that the main reason the referendum had been cancelled was its wording. It read that Mr Deegan was found by the students of UCD to be “guilty of conduct unbecoming that of a Student Union Officer and (we) hereby impeach him from his position.”
According to Returning Officer, Ian Walsh “to put to the vote of finding of guilt is not right or acceptable as this is the function of the judiciary and not the legislature, The separation of powers were not observed.” The finding of ‘guilt’ was not seen as meaningful as no crime had been committed. In consequence Loughlin Deegan’s appeal was upheld by the Chief Returning Officer, Tom Brazil following the advice of a solicitor.
Mr Walsh felt that if individual had wanted to remove the President, they should have used the appropriate wording rather than ‘impeach’ and it was wrong to insinuate the finding of guilt. Questions arose as to whether the word “impeach” meant the President would be forced to resign, or just forced to undergo a judicial process.
A referendum must take place during the term and not less than two weeks and not more than three weeks after it has been called As a result, there is now no chance of the referendum taking place.
Loughlin Deegan told the Observer he was relieved by the decision to uphold his appeal. He felt that if the referendum had taken place he would have won but that it would have been a total waste of money. Deegan felt that those against him had tripped themselves up in a number of ways; “They were eager to attack me but did not appreciate constitutional properties.”
He hoped that the people would now be more careful in consulting the constitution should a similar situation ever arise. On a more positive note Mr Deegan claimed that people would now be aware that sabbatical officers can be taken up for their actions but also that there are more appropriate ways of handling petty complaints. He said the proposal to remove him from office was at the very least extreme considering he was not accused of any incompetence.