A campaign video was released by the Fight4Katie campaign yesterday evening, 22nd October, in which Ascough alleged, to a packed UCD cinema, that the impeachment campaign is based on misinformation.
In the video, Ascough raises three points, attempting to address what she claims is the misinformation surrounding the Winging It in UCD handbook. She suggests that “untrue information” has been spread about her role in relation to decisions on UCD for Choice. In her final message, Ascough asserts that her progress as president has been positive and that she has presided over a successful Union to date.
Ascough also promotes what she claims are her achievements as SU President. She takes credit for receiving government funding for a student housing project. A source within UCDSU informed the University Observer that at the time of publication no government funding had been allocated to the UCDSU’s student housing projects.
Ascough tells her audience of her passion for combatting sexual violence in UCD, and says she has been “lobbying UCD for a Freephone walk safe service.” A freephone walk safe service has been available in UCD since the 2016/2017 academic year, before Ascough was elected.
An individual who was present at the filming of the video, has spoken to the University Observer of their concerns about the outside influence in the Fight4Katie campaign.
During the filming, several members of Ascough’s family were present and coaching Ascough. These family members are not UCD students.
The packed-looking cinema visible in the video features UCD students, but not solely UCD students. Students from Trinity College Dublin are also identifiably present in the audience.
It is against campaign rules for non-UCD students to canvass for elections and referendums, but there is no rule against outside involvement in the background of campaigns.
The student present at the filming has raised concerns which have already been expressed to the University Observer about a heavy external influence in this referendum and how such external backing is giving Ascough what is perceived to be an unfair advantage over the impeachment campaign.
In the video Ascough accuses a fellow sabbatical officer of “leaking untrue information to the media.” The sabbatical officer referred to is Campaigns and Communications Officer Barry Murphy.
Recently released minutes from executive meetings, however, support Murphy’s statements. These minutes were passed around to all present at the meetings, including Ascough, for approval. For the duration of the campaign, Sabbatical Officers are required to be neutral on the issue of the impeachment and are not permitted to speak in favour or against Ascough, even in defence of their actions.
The Fight4Katie campaign has previously posted pictures on their Facebook page which allege that “a one-sided story full of false accusations was leaked to national media.” Ascough personally released statements to domestic and international media groups and has been interviewed over email by the University Observer since the campaign began.
Ascough claims that statements to the effect that she questioned the necessity of allocating space to UCD for Choice at the SU stand in the Freshers’ tent, where three other groups were to be located, are false. The University Observer, UCDSU, and Domino’s Pizza were among the other groups present at the stand.
The University Observer only learned that they were allocated a spot at the stand one week before Freshers’ Week. In the video Ascough says that, upon learning a fourth group wanted to join the stand, “I naturally asked questions about spacing and necessity.”
Ascough also claims it is untrue that she tried to prevent pro-choice students running for class rep. In minutes from executive meetings it can be seen that a motion was passed to allow Murphy to recruit pro-choice class reps, this follows discussion in the meeting about Ascough wanting to negotiate the recruiting of pro-choice class reps. Ascough says in her video “we should encourage all students regardless of their view on abortion to run for class rep.”
Pro-choice students were being encouraged to run for class rep so they could assist the SU with their work campaigning for the repeal of the 8th amendment.
Additionally, Ascough claims that she is not responsible for the money spent on reprinting the books. She claims to have passed this responsibility to her fellow sabbatical officers who pushed for the book to be reprinted.
The printing of the original handbooks was largely covered by sponsorship of €6,000, with the SU paying €1,000 towards the cost. If the handbooks had not been physically printed, the SU could have been required to return the sponsorship, as they had received funds for a physical and not electronic version of the guide. Once the decision was made to recall the printed books, UCDSU therefore faced a substantial loss regardless of the form of the reprinted handbook.
“Is it fair to impeach somebody for following legal advice for not risking a personal criminal conviction for themselves and others?” Ascough asks the audience. UCDSU has printed information related to abortion services previously and has not faced prosecution since the introduction of the Abortion Information Act 1995. This fact is alluded to in Richard Hammond’s legal advice to the SU.
UCD students will be asked to vote in favour or against the impeachment of UCDSU President Katie Ascough on Wednesday and Thursday, October 25th and 26th.