UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) are set to attend the 6th Annual March for Choice on Saturday, 30th September. Those attending the March are being asked to meet at 1:30pm at the Garden of Remembrance. Students voted in October 2013 for the Union to adopt a policy of ‘legalising abortion in Ireland upon the request of the woman.’ A referendum held last November to get UCDSU to take a neutral stance on the issue was rejected by voters.
The College Tribune asked Katie Ascough, UCDSU President, if she would attend the March. She stated, ‘as per the UCDSU Constitution, Barry Murphy, Campaigns and Communications Officer, will be leading the national campaign of Repeal the 8th. As such, UCDSU will be led by Barry Murphy at the March for Choice.’
Since the March is begin held on a Saturday, Union officers are not contractually obliged to attend. The Tribune questioned if Ascough whether officers who attend it be paid. She replied, ‘in keeping with Union policy, a sabbatical officer can request, for consideration, time in lieu for work outside of office hours. However, the spirit of the Union is such that sabbatical officers often volunteer to work outside of the hours set for them.’
Ascough has previously advocated a pro-life position on the abortion issue. The Tribune recently obtained photographs of Ascough in attendance at the Rally for Life, which was held on Saturday, July 1st 2017. Ascough was asked to confirm whether or not the photographs were of her at the Rally. She told the Tribune, ‘Yes, that is me. I attended the Rally for Life on my personal time in the summer.’
When the Tribune queried the photographs with UCDSU during the Summer, David Burns, UCDSU Communications & Research Co-ordinator, told the paper on August 1st that ‘the Rally for Life took place on Saturday the 1st of July – outside of Katie’s work hours as outlined by her contract.’ Burns commented that ‘the SU is pro-choice and will continue to campaign as such. In fact, we have significantly expanded our repeal campaign budget for the upcoming referendum.’
Aoife Gray, Auditor of UCD for Choice, expressed her disappointment to the Tribune in August about Ascough’s attendance at the Rally for Life. Gray told the paper that’ We at UCD for Choice find it unfortunate and disappointing that in the year following an on campus referendum where students voted 2 to 1 to maintain a pro-choice stance, the President elected by the very same students has seen fit to engage in such an activity.’ She further stated that UCD for Choice looked forward to working with Murphy and Eoghan MacDomhnail, UCDSU Welfare Officer; ‘both have been tremendously helpful and passionate about this issue so far and we look forward to working with them in the year ahead.’
Rachel O’Neill & John O’Connor – Editor & News Writer