Last night UCD students voted to remove UCDSU President Katie Ascough from office, in the wake of the handbook scandal that has engulfed the union over the last six weeks.
The impeachment referendum, which was held on Wednesday and Thursday this week, has seen a victory for the Yes side, with 69% of the vote. The voter turnout was extremely high with almost 7,000 students voting across the two days, making it the largest vote in UCD history.
Katie Ascough addressed students and SU members in the Student Centre late last night:
...I wish to thank everyone who voted for me and who have supported me during this campaign. I've really enjoyed meeting so many UCD students over the last few weeks. I've met some truly incredible individuals, each one gave me the strength to keep going. I wish to also thank my amazing campaign team. I am so grateful for every hour you have given and have supported me over this last few difficult weeks. I fought the good fight. I have been open and honest in answering the very many questions. I have respected the law. I feel confident that I have done all that I could for the students that I am grateful to have been elected to represent. This is a sad day for me but it is also a sad day for our university. Universities should be a place of freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of association, fairness, respect for those who don't wish to break the law and respect for others with different beliefs are critical to debate and intellectual freedom on campus. I have loved my time in UCD and I am so honoured to be elected President our student's union. I enjoyed my time as President and gave it my full commitment and best effort. I hope the initiatives that I start in UCD will bare fruit for all UCD students.
While I am deeply saddened of the outcome of today's vote and the fact that many students would impeach me and find me guilty of breaking the law. I hope you can build an atmosphere of fairness, of conversation and of openness to people who might not fit the stereotypical SU President image. Once again, I wish to sincerely thank all of you have supported me and especially my friends and my family. I will never forget your kindness and your loyalty to me through this rather tumultuous time.
Dear UCD students, you have my best. Dear SU team, I wish you well. Thank you guys.
The speech was met with applause and the Yes side delivered their speech immediately following Ascough:
I am absolutely thrilled to stand before you and to say the referendum motion has passed and the Yes vote has won. Firstly, I want to thank everyone who got involved from people who shared our post on Facebook to people who gave up lecturers and sleep to help us canvas. This was absolutely a team effort and the amount of student involvement has been phenomenal and that's a testiment to every single one of you who got involved. Thank you so much. We are so proud of our campaign for its success in asserting democracy, transparency and accountability for UCD Student Union and we can only hope that the phenomenal engagement that it has received can continue in future. We would also very much like to not only acknowledge but thank all of the sabbatical team for supporting our campaign. It was absolutely not an easy decision to make and it was incredibly difficult in the face of allegations and lies and I would like to reiterate that disrespectful tactics have no place in politics and we hope that going forward engagement continues in a respectful manner. UCD students can now look forward to a President who represents them, a President who respects democracy, a President who is transparent and held accountable and a Union as a whole that we can engage with. We wish the absolute best of luck to Ms. Ascough with all her future endeavours and we hope that this referendum has brought attention to the importance of democracy in our Union which we would like to emphasise is far, far bigger than any one individual. Again, thank you all so so so much.
Several students present during the concession speech booed when the Yes side ended their victory speech. UCD SU will now have to find a replacement for Ascough.
Ascough found herself embroiled in controversy after she took the decision to order a reprint of a student handbook Winging It and remove information on how to get an abortion. She argued that she had made the decision in the wake of legal advice, in the face opposition from colleagues in the Student's Union.
The reprint cost the union an estimated €8,000, with this week's referendum being called after a petition was signed by 1,200 students, seeking her removal from office.
To watch Ascough's concession speech in full click here.