In yet another twist in the impeachment referendum saga, three of UCDSU sabbatical officers are taking annual leave in order to campaign in favour of Katie Ascough’s impeachment. Sabbatical officers must remain neutral during referendums unless they’re outside officer hours. Education Officer Rob Sweeney, Campaigns & Communications Officer Barry Murphy and Graduate Officer Niall Torris will begin their campaigning on Tuesday morning. The move was supported by Welfare Officer Eoghan MacDomhaill.
In an open letter sent to both The College Tribune and The University Observer, both Barry Murphy and Niall Torris outlined their reasons for the decision. Robert Sweeney is set to also make a statement within the next few hours.
The statements were supposed to be embargoed until Tuesday morning but were released by the University Times who violated the terms set out in the embargo.
Both statements are strongly critical of Ascough and the way she has gone about her campaign. Mr Murphy emphasised that this was not a bullying campaign and said “The cause to impeach Katie Ascough from her position is not based off her prolife views. I have always respected Katie for her views, more so than most. Her passion on her difference of opinion is admirable and no debate happens without differences. I condemn anyone who would abuse her for her views alone.” He continued “The cause to impeach Katie Ascough is because she has repeatedly gone against a strong mandate our Union holds (a vote by the student body) to fight to Repeal the 8th Amendment, in our entirety. It’s something the vast majority of our students want achieved and with a referendum set for next May on the issue, it is our job to give everything to the campaign.We are all elected to uphold all SU mandates regardless of our personal opinions of them.”
Mr Torris stated the good work done by the sabbatical officers including securing funding for their accommodation campaign, Robert Sweeney’s work to tackle resits and repeat fees and Eoghan MacDomhaill’s work on consent classes has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Ms Ascough. “As an individual with much history and experience in the student movement, I was astounded by the talent, ability and output of the team. “In the past few weeks & months this type of work has been slowed and, in certain places, irreparably damaged. This is undeniably due to Katie’s leadership as the chief executive officer & president of our union.”
Mr Murphy revealed that Ms Ascough attempted to block his increase of funding for the National campaign to repeal the 8th amendment. According to Mr Murphy, Ms Ascough was unhappy with this decision and attempted to block it. “The same week Varadkar had committed to a May or June referendum in 2018 and so (as Katie had suggested) I felt justified in increasing my spend on the National Referendum repeal campaign (by €500). Katie went from “increase everything” to “why did you increase that?”. She insisted I reduce it back down. Our accountant was arriving 10 minutes later and she insisted I reduce it and send it to him and her. I maintained my budget and sent it without reduction. Due to the accountant arriving and accepting my budget, and those circumstances alone, my budget increased. Katie has claimed in interviews she allowed me to increase my Repeal spend- when in fact, she ran out of time to decrease it.”
Mr Murphy also revealed that in a telephone conversation, the union lawyer was willing to defend the union if a legal case had been brought against them for publishing the abortion information. “In the year that’s in it, with the Citizens Assembly voting to repeal and a referendum on the way, it was extremely unlikely any case would have been made against it. This was the lawyers original advice over the phone. He had stated that he was willing and ready to defend us in the very unlikely case that a claim was made. He also states in the letter that Ms Ascough had been asked to view ‘Wingin’ It’ several times but refused. “She has since told me she didn’t look at the book because she knew she’d be uncomfortable with some content.” Both Torris and Murphy state that the advice they gave to Ms Ascough was an attempt to protect her. “It was my opinion, and that of the team, that the page needed to be left; not only for student welfare but also to protect Katie in her role & to uphold her promise to delegate.”
Mr Murphy explained that he wanted the information in to protect female students and to prevent the SU from retreating from it’s mandate. “We couldn’t be seen to recede on last year’s efforts. We wanted the information there for a female students welfare. In distress a student can view that information and doesn’t have to change their name and email (out of shame) to access it. Katie reluctantly agreed to leaving the information in but wanted nothing more to do with the book and asked that we remove a page on her class trip”. Interestingly Mr Murphy has also stated that the rewrite of the page is also technically illegal and that he was physically prevented from accessing a computer to rewrite the page. The rewrite was done by Ms Ascough with no legal input.
Mr Torris stated his disappointment with how Ms Ascough handled the rewrite “To not allow Barry’s redrafted page to be sent to the lawyer to be double-checked and published was anything but delegation. To re-write the page and sign-off on the page herself, without double checking its content with the lawyer, was anything but delegation; and laughs in the face of her own claim of wanting to follow the law on this matter.” He stated that the election of Ascough in the first place was “a beautiful moment” and that the student body “trusted her to delegate these matters in respect, as she promised. It is an abhorrent disgrace that a president would then betray this faith.” She has destroyed a pillar of her own presidency and broken the good faith of the electorate to keep her word and delegate. If a president can violate such an important promise then how can the electorate trust in them?” he asked.
Mr Murphy also admits that Ms Ascough attempted to stop UCD for Choice from being in the Fresher’s Tent during Fresher’s Week. “In the build up to that week Katie tried to manipulate me out of having UCD for Choice at our Freshers stand. I was given the task of organising the week and I gave them a space at our stand. The past two SU teams had done the very same and this year, being the referendum year, it was most important for them to be there. When Katie realised, she was unhappy, she wanted them to be removed. Again for her own sake, I told her students would notice and blame her. She put me under extreme pressure to get them out but then accepted that they’d be shoved in the corner”. This is backed up by Mr Torris who said “Attempting to prevent the recruitment of pro-choice class reps was anything but delegation. Attempting to have UCD for Choice moved from our stand in the freshers tent is, once again, anything but delegation.”
Mr Murphy and Mr Torris have both come out strongly against the tactics Ms Ascough has employed during her campaign. Mr Murphy has accused Ms Ascough of lying and taking credit for things she wasn’t involved in.”Katie put out plenty of campaign material and I can tell you now that the majority of it consists of lies. She takes credit for things she had no involvement in and claims to have been the lead in things that were clearly team efforts. She received no advice from our Board of Directors but simply support in her executive decision, as is their role. She has blamed everyone but herself in recent days. I never leaked to the papers and it churns my stomach to watch someone call me and the sabbat team sexist, bullying liars.”
Mr Torris backs up that claim saying “On the mud being flung our way. I have never felt so hurt, disgusted, and insulted in my life as when I’ve read and heard some of the things the NO campaign & Katie have said about myself and the team. The bond and friendship I share with the team is unshakeable & remains strong. Katie has had to work hard to destroy her part in that bond and friendship. I suppose its better soon than later, as hurtful as it has been. Personal attacks have been a terrible element of this referendum campaign. I ask now that they stop”
He continues “In light of these I make this statement and announce that my support of impeaching the UCDSU president from office. And as hurt as I am, I celebrate the realization that the bond & friendship I once shared with Katie is no more and perhaps was never real to begin with. I celebrate seeing the light from such darkness.”
Mr Murphy also stressed that he backs the campaign because he believes that sabbtical officers deserve to be held accountable for their actions. “Katie Ascough, due to her actions, deserves to be impeached from her position. She has broken a mandate (the bones of our SU) several times. She entered this role with a personal agenda and has no regard for any volunteers or the rest of our team (see Fresh Fest video on her presidents page) and any time she speaks about her (the team’s) success. Under her leadership the moral on our corridor has dramatically declined. She did not even acknowledge regret to the team for the repetitional damage. She has tried to move on and pretend like nothing happened. We are public figures (in the bubble of UCD) and we have to be held accountable for our actions.”
The annual leave for the three sabbatical officers is set to begin tomorrow and end on Friday morning. The results of the impeachment referendum will be released on Friday afternoon.
One thing is clear, no matter what way this referendum goes, UCDSU can no longer work as a functional union.
Rachel O’Neill – Editor