home Opinion The For and Against The Impeachment of UCD President Katie Ascough

The For and Against The Impeachment of UCD President Katie Ascough

For context, read our news stories on the topic. The views expressed here are those of its authors, and do not reflect the views of the Express or its staff.

In favour of impeachment:

First of all, she should be impeached on the grounds that she went above her mandate, given that the UCD students had strongly endorsed a pro-choice stance via a referendum in the college; Katie herself had promised to delegate matters in relation to abortion and the 8th amendment of the constitution to the other officers, but she failed in the regard, making an executive decision herself on the removal of the information on abortion. Furthermore, she alone sought legal advice on the issue and other members of the sabbatical team were prevented, unable or not allowed to receive the same legal advice. There were also no notes taken at this meeting meaning it cannot be ascertained whether or not she actually received advice to remove the information from the booklet. Secondly the reprinting of the booklet cost the UCDSU approximately €8000 in order to avoid a potential fine which would not have exceeded €4000. Such funds could have been used for any number of other things by the SU such as events, services etc. Thus, the logic of removing the information is flawed as it cost more money to reprint than the possible fine. Furthermore, this information had previously been printed in the UCD booklet, and the UCDSU had previously purposely accepted a fine because of it.  Thirdly, this incident has shown that Katie is bringing her own personal beliefs into her role, which is affecting her performance and judgement. As President of the Students’ Union she is mandated by the students to support a union which has a pro-choice stance yet she has acted to the contrary. She refused to go to the pro-choice march because it fell outside of office hours, similarly she denied funding to the UCD for choice group and refused to be present in a tent with members from that group. Finally, as in this instance she denied students vital information on basic healthcare and how to access to it, the issue here is not over her own personal views but how she is allowing her own views to impact on the job she was elected to do. As such she should be impeached from her position as UCDSU president.

Against Impeachment:

First of all and most importantly, it sets an incredibly low standard for impeachment, impeachment should be reserved for a gross failure, gross incompetence, negligence, corruption or the committing of a crime. While the actions of Katie in this situation are probably worthy of criticism and reprimand but it is not worthy of impeachment. First of all while many are critical of Katie for the removal of the information, she does have strong basis for this action, it was illegal for them to distribute the information and as such the information should have been redacted. One cannot simply flout the law simply on the grounds they disagree with it or because it had been done before. You can argue, lobby and campaign for those laws to be changed of course, but until such time as they are they should be respected and abided by. Furthermore, the information can easily be found elsewhere and as such it is unfair and inaccurate to suggest or argue that the removal of this information was denying it to students. Secondly on the pro-impeach side they have argued that Katie should have consulted or delegated the responsibility to the other members of the sabbatical team, however as they had not received legal advice as Katie had over the issue they would not have been in the best position to take any action of decision over the illegal information and possibly as such it could have resulted in more serious consequences for the UCDSU had she not taken the decision herself after receiving legal advice. Thirdly while the booklets needed to be reprinted at the cost of a reported €8000 in order to remove the information that would have avoided a fine of €2000, this is hardly grounds for impeachment. Most SU’s can easily be accused of wasting money, whether it’s money event which fails to break even or hosting a large party to announce election results, an SU wasting money is nothing new. It would of course be a different matter if the money was embezzled or used towards and inappropriate or unacceptable end but it wasn’t, this was money spent on the removal of illegal information from a booklet. At worst on this argument, Katie can be accused of being unaware the information was contained within the magazine or for failing to remove it before it went to print. If it was the former however, it speaks to a much bigger issue, perhaps students simply weren’t aware of this information being available to them through this booklet, well if they didn’t before they certainly do now and so I’m sure everyone who is seeking such information will simply seek out an earlier version of the booklet. In which case if Katie was doing it deliberately to try and prevent students accessing this information she probably did the opposite. Finally, those in favour of her impeachment have argued that she has allowed her own personal views to affect her judgement and decisions in her role. However, this has serious consequences too both for the students themselves and for future student’s unions, as already stated it would lower the bar for impeachment it could also set a precedent of a Students Union officer being impeached based off their personal views rather than their conduct in office, many will no doubt be tempted to vote in favour of impeachment, should a referendum occur, because they disagree with her personal views on the issue of abortion. In which case Katie’s personal views and any of her successors could and would become an issue if they were contrary to a sizable portion of the student population which strongly disagreed with them. Overall however this incident is over the removal of information from a Students Union booklet, has made a mountain out of a molehill if you will, it is not grounds for impeachment and as such it would be more prudent for other actions to be taken such as a formal reprimand from the student body or student council before making the leap to impeachment.