At UCDSU Council this evening, three sabbatical officers announced they would be taking annual leave to campaign in favour of the impeachment of UCDSU President Katie Ascough. Education Officer Robert Sweeney, Graduate Officer Niall Torris, and Campaigns and Communications Officer Barry Murphy will be canvassing for a yes vote in the upcoming Impeachment referendum.
In Student Council, Welfare Officer Eoghan Mac Domhnaill stated that he will not be taking leave and will continue working on student cases this week. Nevertheless, he voiced his support of the three sabbatical officers taking leave.
Murphy and Torris will be on leave to campaign on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Sweeney’s annual leave has not yet been decided upon but will definitely include Thursday, the final day for voting in the referendum.
The move follows claims by Ascough’s campaign against impeachment which imply one of the sabbatical officers has lied about meetings with Ascough regarding UCD for Choice.
Within the SU, Ascough has been criticised for taking seemingly full credit for campaigns which she worked on with other officers, and SU staff members and volunteers.
Speaking to the University Observer Sweeney said he has “not taken this decision lightly.”
Murphy and Torris have released open letters to the students of UCD.
In his open letter, Barry Murphy said “I care about our union and its future and so I have taken annual leave to make this statement.”
Torris says he is taking leave to campaign because of the “mud” thrown in the direction of the other sabbatical officers and to protect “the interests of our union which has become somewhat of a laughing stock in recent times.”
Ascough’s campaign against impeachment has made negative references to the other sabbatical officers. The rules during a referendum are that current sabbatical officers are required to remain neutral unless they take leave. This has meant that the sabbatical officers have been unable to comment publicly in defense of themselves and their actions.
Murphy reminds students that “This is not a bullying campaign… The cause to impeach Katie Ascough is because she has repeatedly gone against a strong mandate our Union holds (a vote by the student body) to fight to Repeal the 8th Amendment, in our entirety… It is because of a series of actions where she has allowed her personal beliefs to affect her role.”
In recent days on social media, Ascough has been “mythbusting,” posting her version of the events that have led to the impeachment referendum. These “mythbusters” have included her saying she did not burn the Winging It in UCD handbooks, and she did not tear out the page about abortion from the handbooks.
The true version of events agreed upon by all sabbatical officers is that Ascough made an executive decision to remove the abortion information, issue a redraft, and recall the original handbooks. She made this decision against the wishes of the other sabbatical officers in accordance with legal advice she received.
Speaking on the Winging It handbook Murphy said that on the night of the deadline for the original handbook “Katie decided to look at the book for the first time. She discovered a page on abortion information” and “insisted the info would have to be removed. She stated her family, friends and campaign team would be horrified if she stood over a book that contained information on abortion.”
He states that Ascough knew that the information in the Winging It books was illegal “We had been given a talk during our crossover training discussing the proud history of the SU and how we had distributed the illegal information in the previous year’s Winging It edition. Katie was present at this talk. We also received the same talk during our election campaigns, as candidates.”
Graduate Officer Niall Torris writes in his own open letter that Ascough re-wrote the page and signed off on the page herself “without double checking its content with the lawyer.” He said that this “was anything but delegation; and laughs in the face of her own claim of wanting to follow the law on this matter.”
It has since been raised to the SU that the current information in the book could still be illegal. Murphy doubts Ascough’s actions were based on legal concerns. “As Katie did not seek legal advice before sending the book to reprint. This prompts the question was she really concerned about the legal issue in the first place?”
The possibility of the new information still being illegal had been previously highlighted to the University Observer.
Torris speaks of his disappointment in Ascough saying “It was, in my opinion, a beautiful moment when our pro-choice campus voted Katie into office and trusted her to delegate these matters in respect, as she promised. It is an abhorrent disgrace that a president would then betray this faith.”
In a statement to the University Observer, Sweeney said that his decision to take leave was due “to the decisions Katie has made throughout her term but also due to the way her campaign has operated.”
Torris and Murphy are also displeased at the way Ascough has been running her campaign.
Murphy says Ascough has released a lot of campaign material and “I can tell you that the majority of it consists of lies. She takes credit for things she had no involvement in and claims to have been the lead in things that were clearly team efforts. She received no advice from our Board of Directors but simply support in her executive decision, as is their role. She has blamed everyone but herself in recent days.”
According to Torris, Katie has damaged the “bond and friendship” that exists between the UCDSU sabbatical team. “I have never felt so hurt, disgusted, and insulted in my life as when I’ve read and heard some of the things the NO campaign & Katie have said about myself and the team. The bond and friendship I share with the team is unshakeable & remains strong. Katie has had to work hard to destroy her part in that bond and friendship.”
Murphy acknowledges Ascough’s skills as a “seasoned campaigner,” saying “she has been trained for years, campaigning against Marriage Equality, Abortion Information Access and a Woman’s Right to Choose. She presented a falsity to the electorate last March in her campaign promise of delegation and ‘stepping out of the room;’ when abortion is being discussed. She has done the complete opposite. Do not let her fool you this time.”
The information that the three sabbatical officers would be taking annual leave was provided to the press earlier today under embargo. Since the University Times refused to honour that embargo, all other news outlets were given permission to publish.