The revelation that abortion information was removed from the Winging It in UCD handbooks has many students outraged, with many calling for the impeachment of UCD Students’ Union President Katie Ascough. Meanwhile the March for Education happened while most students were distracted.
Ascough refuses to step down and appears eager to win. Even before a referendum has been called she has been seen standing in front of the Science building holding posters encouraging people to vote no. Ascough has declined to make comments until after a referendum is called.
While many online, often people who do not attend UCD, laugh at the ‘liberal snowflakes’ who decided to impeach their own democratically elected president there are some issues to consider here.
An impeachment referendum is called if there are enough signatures. There does not need to be grounds for the president’s impeachment. If students feel that they are not represented by any of their sabbatical or college officers they are free to gather signatures and have a referendum if enough are obtained.
Contrary to the thoughts of many, Ascough is not being impeached because she is pro-life. People are calling for her impeachment because they believe she has consistently got in the way of the repeal campaign which the union is mandated to support.
Katie Ascough was democratically elected. However, student politics is not known for its voter turnout. Last year’s presidential elections took place on the day of the Strike 4 Repeal. Many pro-choice students were more interested in attending the strike than voting in the election. Furthermore, Ascough was against three pro-choice candidates. If UCD students had voted 1, 2, 3, down the ballot the pro-choice majority could have ensured a pro-choice president but as they did not, the pro-choice votes were split between the other candidates leading Ascough to a win.
Many students, who did not attend hustings or read the College Tribune or the University Observer before her election were not aware that she is pro-life. Her campaign was well managed and her image appeared friendly and professional.
Those who were fully aware that Katie Ascough is pro-life may have listened to her describe how she would “delegate” and “communicate” on the issue of repealing the 8th amendment. One must also remember that while student votes on abortion have always had pro-choice leaning results, there are pro-life students on campus and those who lack an opinion or are on the fence, like most Irish political parties claim to be. As one student interviewed by UCDTV put it, when asked about Ascough removing abortion information from the handbook, “It never really affected me so I don’t care.”
It may come as a shock that she became president of a pro-choice union but there are other issues that affect students and she explained that she was really passionate about microwaves.
With all this happening, other issues such as consent, student loans, and the accommodation crisis have been forgotten about. The March for Education had a poor turn out from UCD with the issue being completely overshadowed by the impeachment petition. There was also a protest for PrEP which most students (and the student media) were not aware of. Members of UCD SU and UCD for PrEP stood outside the Four Courts demanding that Gilead Sciences drop the prices of their drug to prevent HIV. The price is currently too high to enter the Irish market.
On a more positive note for many, the March for Choice had a large turn-out. It may indeed by the case that Katie Ascough’s roadblocks have only served to make students more angry, passionate, and determined to repeal the eighth. We cannot say what Ascough’s intentions were but this reaction is certainly not what she desired.
The reactions of students to Ascough’s decisions show that there are students who passionately care about what is going on in their Students’ Union. On the other side, there are students who believe in Ascough’s ability to lead. The current chaos within the Union shows that despite a general appearance of apathy towards student politics, there are students who care deeply, and these passions will pave the way for an interesting referendum on whether to impeach or not impeach the President.
Whatever the outcome, let’s hope that in the lead-up, and in the aftermath, we have a Students’ Union that is able to do their jobs.