For the first time in the history of UCD women have been elected to the top three roles in the Students’ Union, L&H, and Law Soc at the same time. With Katie Ascough voted in as President of UCDSU for the coming college year, Aishling Tully voted in as auditor of the 163rd session of the Literary and Historical Society (L&H) and Laura Hogan now the uncontested auditor of LawSoc. The last SU female President was Rachel Breslin back in 2012, and both L&H and LawSoc have never both had female auditors at the same time before.
Katie Ascough (Incoming SU President)
Katie Ascough was elected as the next UCD Students’ Union President with 1431 votes, including 36% of first preference ballots. Her nearest rival, Philip Weldon, secured 23% of the overall vote. The third year Science student described herself as ‘an overly enthusiastic first year’ who took part in all that she could. She is a pro-life advocate and whilst UCDSU has a pro-choice mandate, she has said that she would delegate any pro-choice campaigning to the Campaign and Communications and Welfare Officers. Promising to be a ‘President for everyone’, she has acknowledged that her opinions differ from the majority of the UCD student populace but she was ‘very aware’ of this even when running for President.
When questioned about her election and any improvements or developments on the present UCDSU’s work thus far she hopes to make, she stated that she is deferring all interviews regarding her plans until June, so she can speak ‘at a time when [she’s] actually been put in the role and [has] had the chance to sit down and talk with the SU team about the year ahead’. Regarding her plans to collaborate with different societies on campus, she stated that she needs to meet with the appropriate auditors. ‘I am really looking forward to hit the ground running in June. We have a strong, proactive team assembled, and it’s looking like a busy and productive year going forward. I am feeling positive and ready to give this role my all, and to really deliver for all students’. Ascough election was met with apprehension from the large pro-choice group of students in UCD, and how that group interacts with her Presidency will be an interesting dynamic to watch next year.
Aishling Tully (Incoming Auditor of L&H)
Second Year Law with French student, Aishling Tully was voted auditor of the 163rd session of L&H, shortly after her Irish Times Debate success along with Dara Keenan. Tully wants an L&H that represents all its members and gives a voice to all its students. She wishes to help every member, ‘find their feet, find their voice and make memories’. She hopes to hold more events that target women’s issues from panel discussions on women in STEM to debates on Repeal the 8th, ‘I want to create events that serve as a forum to discuss issues that affect 50% of the campus’. When asked about her stance on the 8th Amendment she stated that ‘it is irrelevant when it comes to the L&H and [she] intends that the L&H would be agnostic on the issue’.
When questioned about what changes she will bring about with her team compared to this year’s session of L&H she stated that, ‘a lot of the changes we want to make in the L&H are to do with opening it up to have more events and facilities that the average member feels like they can use.’ She credited the L&H this year on ‘doing a great job of improving on the things [they] normally do’ and noted how, ‘any active member would have noticed how well things like training and house debates were carried out and enhanced’.
‘As a debating society our job is to be a forum for all opinions. In recent years we have slipped into being an echo chamber for people with one political ideology. That is neither inviting to nor reflective of students in UCD. I would envision that the L&H would be a place where any student of any opinion would feel like they had a voice on any contentious issue. Debate is just as much about listening as it is talking and an L&H that has a stance on an issue is not one that can listen to everyone’.
When asked about collaborations with other societies she mentioned The LawSoc/L&H training sessions, as they are a ‘great way for us to pool our resources and introduce more people to debating. Due to the hard work of the training and development officers this year they were a massive success and I have no doubt they should continue’. She added, ‘we want to increase the outreach of our workshops available’ to include ‘house debate training, interview skills and CV writing workshops and informal round table discussions so we can give more students access to the specific skills they need when it comes to arguing, convincing and presenting their ideas and themselves’.
Laura Hogan (Incoming Auditor of LawSoc)
Second year Law and Politics student Laura Hogan has been inaugurated auditor of the 107th session of LawSoc (2017/18). She was uncontested and has named Conor Whyte as vice-auditor and Adam Stairs as incoming Treasurer. She hopes to maintain LawSoc’s momentum and success of the 106th session of LawSoc while furthering the society as much as she can.
When told how L&H and LawSoc are for the first time ever both being run by women at the same time, she was quick to show her passion, ‘it is phenomenal that two women are running the two debating societies and one of the things that we want to do this year is to make LawSoc more inclusive for women. Societies have found for the last number of years that large numbers of women join in first year and then experience significant drop outs rates over time. This is in terms of active membership, committee and number of women in leadership roles’.
When pressed for what changes she will bring about to achieve this Hogan gave a few ideas. ‘It is so important to foster female speaking talent and I want to do so in a number of ways. Firstly by introducing women’s socials for people to get to know each other. Additionally, we want follow on from this year and run women’s debating competitions externally and also to run that internally. Balanced gender debate panels was a focal point of the last session and we are committed to continuing that’.
Alison Graham Senior Reporter