Image Credit: UCD for Choice. Full image can be found on their facebook page here.
It should come as no surprise that pro-life UCD Students’ Union President Katie Ascough has been “unsupportive” of the union’s campaign to repeal the 8th amendment. Speaking to the University Observer, Campaigns and Communications Officer Barry Murphy has revealed how difficult the campaign has been to run with Ascough as President. UCD for Choice told the University Observer that “Katie has made no attempt to be involved, but only to derail us.” Ascough has had disagreements with Murphy over the repeal budget and class reps, and showed discomfort with the new “Winging It In UCD” handbooks and the placement of UCD for Choice in the Freshers’ tent.
“Katie has made no attempt to be involved, but only to derail us.”
Speaking to the University Observer, Murphy, said that Ascough has disagreed with him over the budget for the repeal campaign. The budget for the campaign was increased this year in light of the possibility of a referendum on the issue in early 2018. Murphy wished to add a further €500 to the budget but Ascough disagreed with this increase. When asked on the issue she said to the University Observer via email “Like for any other campaign, I asked questions about the increased budget. These questions were answered by our Campaigns and Communications Officer and a decision was then taken to increase the repeal budget due to the possibility of a referendum coming up this year.” However Murphy stated, before this email exchange, that “Katie has said in interviews that she allowed it to be increased, but she wanted it to be decreased.” According to UCD for Choice, Ascough “has discouraged money being spent on [the campaign].”
UCD for Choice and Murphy both said that Ascough was not comfortable sharing the SU stand in the Freshers’ tent with UCD for Choice. Murphy, who was in charge of the space for the Freshers’ tent, gave the University Observer, UCD for Choice, and Dominoes a space at the SU stand. UCD for Choice were also at the SU stand last year. Murphy told the University Observer that Ascough told him he should have run it by her before giving them permission to share the stand. She then suggested that they be put in the corner away from Dominoes pizza. She explained that she wished for the SU to be welcoming to those who are pro-life or neutral on the issue of abortion. Murphy agreed that the union should be inclusive and added that “we are inclusive, we have to cater for everybody. If a pro-life student comes in looking for help we are there to help them, but we are mandated to support the pro-choice repeal campaign; having [UCD for choice at the stand] is very much a part of that to give them a way of talking to students.” When asked about this issue Ascough stated, “Again, like I would have done with any other group, I asked questions about spacing and resources in the tent but these questions were answered.”
“If a pro-life student comes in looking for help we are there to help them, but we are mandated to support the pro-choice repeal campaign.”
This issue of inclusivity for students who are not pro-choice stretched to the SU’s campaign to recruit class reps. The campaign for class reps has featured posts online with tag lines relating to different issues important to the students’ union such as the environment, consent, and the repeal movement. UCD for Choice said, “she has discouraged us and other SU members recruiting pro-choice class reps.” Murphy claims that Ascough came into his office and said “I want to be clear on this line of communication, we are not to post anymore about recruiting pro-choice class reps. I do not want a chamber full of pro-choice class reps, it scares off the neutral students, it scares off pro-life students.” She added that this was something she had thought about during her presidential campaign, “that it’s horrible the way students of [a] different opinion are scared away from a pro-choice union.” The University Observer asked Ascough if she had made any attempts to decrease the number of pro-choice class reps recruited this year in comparison with last year, but Ascough did not respond.
“She has discouraged us and other SU members recruiting pro-choice class reps.”
As printed here in this newspaper last week, Ascough made an executive decision to remove abortion information from the “Winging It in UCD” handbooks, but issues over the “Winging It” handbooks did not stop after it was reprinted. Ascough told the other sabbatical officers not to discuss the handbook with the media or college officers. When asked why she did this, she told the University Observer that “I stated that I would act as Chief Spokesperson, a role clearly defined in the President’s duties in the UCDSU Constitution, and that I would act in communication with our C&C Sabbatical Officer in relation to any queries about the reprinting of handbooks.” Nevertheless, consultations with the C&C Officer on this issue appear to be rare and a statement of just Ascough’s reasoning for the reprint was sent to multiple news outlets, not including the University Observer.
As could be seen when Ascough was in the tent during Freshers’ Week, she did not hand out any “Winging It in UCD” handbooks, despite the removal of illegal abortion information. When asked by the University Observer why this was, she gave a response that did not directly answer the question. She said “This week is one of our busiest in the year, and as such I have been actively engaged in handing out several of the Union’s leaflets, talking to students, and attending meetings.” However, when asked previously by Murphy why she would not hand out handbooks, she told him that it was a personal matter.
UCD for Choice has said “we are very disappointed that we have such an unsupportive president who seeks to undermine our efforts in working with the SU and for the welfare of students.”