The Impeachment Campaign Responds to Ascough's Open Letter

Campaign photo for Ascough's "Vote NO" campaign  On Wednesday evening, Katie Ascough published a public letter addressed to UCD Students. In her letter Ascough states: “The main reason that a group of students are calling for my impeachment is because of my decision to not break the law and illegally distribute abortion information.”Ascough mentions various campaigns she has been involved in during her time in office, “events like Fresh Fest and Freshers’ Ball,” as well as student accommodation campaigns. To answer the burning questions many students have regarding microwaves, Ascough says in her letter that she has “five microwaves sitting in my office and phase one of the microwave plan is to have them in Science, Newman, under the Library, and in the Old Student Centre.” Ascough claims the impeachment campaign is based on bullying. She accuses the group of using “bullying tactics.. to try and and discard a democratically elected SU president.” Some members of the Impeach UCDSU President campaign posted pro-impeachment tweets and Facebook posts on the day of my election back in March, before I had the chance to make even one presidential action or decision. It was clear from the outset that some students didn’t want to give me a chance as SU President because of my views on abortion.”Ascough says she never hid her pro-life beliefs, but says she “did not run for election on a pro-life platform. I ran on a manifesto of student welfare, reducing fees, microwaves, bridging the gap between students and their union, and lots more.”“In the interest of fairness, of democracy, and an effective SU, please tackle bullying and use your vote to build a fairer, freer, and more democratic UCD.” The University Observer spoke to the impeachment campaign to find out their response to Ascough’s open letter, and the release of legal advice received relating to the Winging It handbooks.Finn McLysaght, speaking for the impeachment campaign said they “absolutely welcome her dispersing information about legal advice, we've asked for her to do that several times with no response. It's interesting and kind of worrisome that she didn't release that until a successful impeachment campaign referendum was called. We've been looking to call a referendum for two weeks, it's been discussed for about a week before that.”Ascough’s decision to remove abortion information from the Winging It handbooks has been critcised. Whilst Ascough says she made the “executive decision” based on legal advice, as the union has in the past made this information widely available to students, there are those who believe Ascough wanted the information removed because of her pro-life views. When asked about Ascough’s decision to remove information that was illegal for the union to distribute, McLysaght said: “although this information is illegal, that is not the issue. The illegality has never been an issue and this law hasn’t been enforced with relation to UCDSU for decades, the fines were never going to be a reality.”In Ascough’s open letter, she accuses the impeachment campaign of wasting union money. “In calling an impeachment referendum they are using your time, your Union’s time (which you pay for), and thousands of euro (which you also pay for) in calling for the impeachment referendum and, if successful, the ensuing by-elections to elect a new President.”In response to this accusation, McLysaght explained “It's not a group of ten people who’ve called this referendum, it's more people who have called this referendum than have voted for Ascough. Is she implying that all of those students, more students than voted for her are wasting union time, they are wasting union money?”“There's a difference between money spent undemocratically and money spent democratically, so she spent money undemocratically through censorship, through her own personal choice and agenda, whereas we are spending it on the democratic process.”McLysaght denies the impeachment campaign are using bullying tactics: “Calling for an impeachment referendum, or consequently a by-election happening, that's not bullying, that’s democratic action in process. Holding democratically elected representatives accountable is not bullying, and for her to call that bullying is very immature and very frustrating and very worrisome as she is a democratic representative who knows it is necessary to be held account to her mandate.”When questioned about members of the impeachment campaign calling for Ascough to be impeached before her presidency has begun, McLysaght said: “for a handful of people to express interest in her impeachment at the time of her election, does not delegitimize our campaign. Over a thousand students signed a petition calling for her impeachment, not all those students [called for her impeachment when she was elected].”In Ascough’s open letter, she makes it clear how her campaign will be run over the next few weeks. By accusing the campaign of bullying, she is giving the referendum a narrative of angry students who are intolerant of having a pro-life president at the helm of the Students’ Union. The impeachment campaign are basing their campaign on the students not trusting Ascough to lead the union effectively. Minutes released from executive meetings yesterday show that three of four sabbatical officers have no confidence in Ascough’s ability to lead the Students’ Union. At the time of publishing, Ascough had not responded to questions from the University Oberver.