The petition to impeach UCDSU President Katie Ascough will be resubmitted to Returning Officer Stephen Devine on Monday morning. The petition which calls for the impeachment of Ms Ascough following her decision to remove information on how to procure an abortion from the fresher’s handbook “Winging It” in September. The reprint is estimated to have cost the SU approximately €7,000. It is currently illegal to provide information on how to procure an abortion in Ireland and fines of up to €1,900 can be imposed on anyone who provides this information.
The initial petition that was handed into the Returning Officer on Monday was rejected as it did not have any signatures rather just names, student numbers and course. According to article 6.5 of the Constitution “In the case of a referendum by petition, each petitioner must sign the referendum petition underneath, at the end of, or on a sheet attached to, an exact copy of the wording of the proposed referendum and provide their name, programme, stage and student number”. A petition which doesn’t meet these requirements is therefore invalid.
The group “Impeach UCDSU President” restarted the petition on Wednesday and gained the 835 required signatures by the end of the day. They continued petitioning on Thursday morning and acquired a total of 1,200 signatures, more than Ms Ascough received in first preference votes during her election. In a Facebook post the group acknowledged the setback of having to restart the petition saying “This issue of re-petitioning has occurred with several successful referenda in UCD in the past so we are quite hopeful about the progress of this campaign!”
The Returning Officer was not on campus today and the group said in another Facebook post on Thursday evenning “We once again hit the necessary number to initiate a referendum on our first day of collecting signatures, and today reached more signatures than the UCDSU President received votes! This supports our belief that there is a strong mandate to impeach the SU President as UCD students feel deeply betrayed by her actions. The Returning Officer was not on campus today so we will be submitting the petition tomorrow morning, and hopefully a referendum will be called on Monday morning!”
The group has received backlash about the petition from both inside and outside UCD. One post on the page describes the group as “A group of little liberal college shits who preach about tolerance and diversity but have a fascistic intolerance towards those with differing viewpoints”. Speaking to the Tribune about the backlash, Amy Crean, a member of the group said “I think there’s been a very common misconception floating around right now about what exactly a democracy is and what an impeachment is. This is the procedure for impeachment, you gather this many signatures, you hand it in and you call for a referendum. So when I called for an impeachment, people are saying that was to do with personal beliefs, it was to do with even the way her personal beliefs affected her campaign and the fact that she hid them and the fact she stated that she would be neutral on it but also do X. We have student support, that’s democracy, it’s not in any way a witch-hunt and I’m genuinely very, very upset that it’s being framed as such because to bully someone especially over personal views is prejudicial. Prejudice is exactly what we’re standing against, prejudice has been brought into this union and we don’t want it there.”
If the petition is accepted, it’s expected that a referendum will be called by next Monday and that the referendum would take place sometime towards the end of October. If the referendum is called, Ms Ascough will have to take a leave of absence during the campaign with Campaigns and Communications Officer Barry Murphy taking over the role of President during this time.
Rachel O’Neill – Editor