Katie Ascough has made a statement on the impending referendum which will decide whether she will be impeached from her role as UCD Student Union President.
On Tuesday, it was confirmed that a referendum would take place on October 25 & October 26 after a petition calling for Ascough’s impeachment had been received by the Returning Officer on Monday evening.
Ascough's Facebook page, ⋕Fight4Katie - No to Impeachment of UCDSU President, has already garnered almost 1,500 likes since it was first created on October 9th.
On the page, Ascough explains her controversial decision to remove abortion information from a student leaflet:
Dear Students of UCD,
The following is an open letter to you on why I believe you should Vote No to Impeachment on October 25th & 26th.
On March 9th, 2017, after a long and exciting campaign, I was honoured to be elected President of UCD Students’ Union.
It is no secret that I am pro-life and many students are not. Since the day I was elected, before I’d been put in office, some students were already calling for my impeachment.
However, I 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.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the hard work over the summer to live up to my campaign promises, and I wouldn’t change the last four months as President of UCD Students’ Union for anything.
- Decision to Follow Legal Advice (NB: legal advice will be published on this page later):
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. The Union was producing a handbook that acted as a college guide for incoming students. I was aware that the handbook contained abortion information, but was not informed by the editors of the book that it was illegal to distribute this information. I originally delegated the sign off for the handbook to the Campaigns & Communications Officer. After the books were printed and delivered, a staff member pointed out various issues including potential illegality of some of the content. I then sought legal advice regarding the abortion information from the Union’s long-standing lawyer who is an ex-president of USI and advocate for repeal of the Eighth amendment. He advised that it would be prudent to avoid proceeding with the current handbook either by having it redesigned or cancelled. I also asked the Board of Directors for advice, and they agreed with the decision to follow legal advice. As CEO of the company, I decided to follow the advice of the Union’s lawyer with the Union Board’s agreement.
The cost of reprinting the handbooks was approx. €7,000. My suggestion to the Sabbatical Officers was that we publish the amended book online, and not incur this cost, but they were certain they wanted it reprinted.
Also important to note is the extent of the risks associated with illegally distributing the abortion information. Each person involved in the decision to publish the information and/or involved in distributing the books would have been at risk of up to €4,000 in fines each, a personal criminal conviction, and, if prosecuted, the Union could also incur thousands in legal fees. Those at risk could have included the Board of Directors (six volunteering professionals), up to six or more staff members, five sabbatical officers, and the volunteers who helped us hand out the books. Therefore, the maximum possible fine to the Union was tens of thousands of euro, as well as the risk of personal criminal convictions for up to two dozen people. As CEO of the company, this was not something I was able to stand over, and so I decided to follow the legal advice offered by the Union’s lawyer.
Another point to note is what changed in the book. The main legal issue with the abortion information was that it was being handed out in an unsolicited manner (that is, no one being handed the book was actively seeking out the abortion information). Therefore, the change made to the book was to take out the abortion information that had legal implications, and replace it with the contact details for agencies where the same abortion information could be sought in a solicited, legal way. Essentially, the page went from showing the abortion information, to directing people to the places to get the same abortion information. That was the alteration that was needed to stay within the law and not put up to two dozen people at risk of thousands in fines and permanent personal criminal convictions.
Ascough goes on to list her achievements as Student Union President so far. You can read Ascough's full statement below: