On Wednesday 18th October, representatives from the University Observer went to what was originally advertised as a public campaign launch for UCDSU President Katie Ascough, but were asked to leave as it had been changed last-minute to an “internal campaign coordination meeting.”
Ms Ascough stated that she would speak to the University Observer following the meeting but said afterwards that she was answering questions from her campaign team and “heading to the clubhouse” with her team. She did not respond to a follow-up email sent later that day.
It is unclear whether any persons who are not registered UCD students attended the event, however, it is known that non-UCD students are members of the ‘Fight4Katie’ private Facebook group. It is believed that at least 3 of the 28 members of the Facebook group are not UCD students.
Only UCD students may participate in Student Union campaigns.
At the time of publishing, Katie Ascough told the University Observer that her public campaign page “has reached 2238 likes, at the time of writing, around 1000 more likes than the opposing campaign. I have focused my efforts, and directed my team to focus their efforts, on inviting UCD students to like the page.”
While Ascough may be trying to focus on attracting only UCD students to her campaign, the campaign page was shared on several non-UCD pages, and has many likes from non-UCD students.
Coverage of the impeachment has extended beyond UCD, attracting attention from the national and international media. Ascough told the University Observer that “the whole campaign team has noticed how heavily media bias has been weighted against Katie over this period.” This follows complaints by Ascough to the University Observer and the College Tribune over their coverage of the ‘Boojum scandal.’
The campaign for impeachment of Katie Ascough is based on the belief that she has acted undemocratically. Ascough’s campaign against impeachment is based on the belief that she is being ‘bullied’ and personally targetted for holding pro-life views.
Many articles published in a variety of newspapers, in print and online, allege that UCDSU President Katie Ascough is indeed being ‘bullied’ and that she faces impeachment over her anti-abortion stance.
One such news outlet to share this view of the impeachment referendum is Breitbart.
Breitbart is a news website known for being inflammatory and conservative, published an article about the impeachment of UCD’s Students’ Union President Katie Ascough. The article explained that “pro-abortion” students were enraged by Ascough’s actions to remove abortion information. The article also included quotoes from students that had spoken to independent.ie about a lack of free speech on this campus.
The article claims that Ms Ascough is facing impeachment for her pro-life views and that UCD is a “campus intolerant of pro-life views.”
Outspoken journalist and public-speaker Milo Yiannopoulos wrote and edited for Breitbart and wrote such titles as “Gay Rights Make us Dumber, It’s Time to Get Back in the Closet” and “On Why Cyberbullying Isn’t Real.”
UCD Student Katie Rooney posted a screenshot of the Breitbart article about Ascough on the ‘Fight4Katie’ campaign Facebook page. Rooney requested that Ms Ascough denounce any apparent support from Breitbart. The post highlights previous headlines published by the right-wing news group which include “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” and “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture.”
In an initial response, the Fight4Katie page stated that it would be “imprudent to condemn a news outlet for spreading their opinion on the matter.”
Ascough, who is on annual leave until the referendum concludes, has since stated on her campaign page that she would “denounce much of what [Breitbart] write.”
Speaking to the University Observer, Ascough said “I do not read Breitbart and…I am in no way affiliated or associated with Breitbart.”
UCD for Choice have stated that they are “concerned at Breitbart’s coverage of Ms Ascough.”
“Their hatefulness affects multiple groups in UCD, groups that Katie is supposed to represent. We are further troubled by statements made by Boojum and UCD Referendum Fact Checker, claiming that Katie is being both deceptive and manipulative.”
UCD Referendum Fact Checker recently revealed that the Board of Directors of UCDSU had not endorsed Ms Ascough’s decision to remove information related to abortion from the ‘Winging It’ handbook, as Ms Ascough had previously suggested.
Ruhr Nachrichten, a German daily newspaper, accused the Breitbart group of using their online reports on Dortmund for “fake news, hate and propaganda.”
Ascough says “the referendum is a UCD issue” and she is correct. It is a matter for UCD students to decide, without external influences, who they want to represent them.
UCD students can have their say in the impeachment referendum next Wednesday and Thursday, October 25th and 26th.