The campaign before the impeachment referendum lasted just over two weeks. Despite the concerns that many had about the decision to remove abortion information, it was ultimately the conduct of Ascough’s campaign that would prove her downfall.
Had Ascough stuck to telling her side of the Winging It scandal, she may have survived the impeachment attempt. Although it is hard to know if people would have believed that she made the decision for legal reasons after she rewrote the abortion information without legal assistance. (The current abortion information in the handbooks remains illegal.)
Instead, Ascough framed her narrative for the campaign, as being against ‘intolerant pro-choice bullies who cannot stand to have a pro-life president.’ The campaign singled out members of the impeachment campaign as bullies, and called out Ascough’s fellow sabbatical officers as sexists liars and bullies, instead of engaging with what were legitimate questions.
A concern for many, including a member of Ascough’s own campaign team, was the level of involvement of non-UCD students. Members of Ascough’s own family (who have links with the IONA institute) were heavily involved, as were several Trinity students.
Speaking to the University Observer Amy Crean of the impeachment campaign said she believed “the result reflects on how the campaign was run, I feel that the concerns that were brought forward early in this campaign had not been dealt with and that’s why we got to the stage of holding a referendum…what I would like people to take from this result is that it’s about democracy, that we voted for representation and transparency.”
Ascough ran a prominent online campaign whilst the momentum of the impeachment campaign dwindled. The announcement on the Monday evening before the referendum that three sabbatical officers would be taking leave to campaign for impeachment pushed students against her. The decision to speak in favour of impeachment was made in response to Ascough labelling the sabbatical officers as sexist, bullying liars.
In a Facebook post that has 4500 reactions at the time of going to print, Campaigns & Communications Officer Barry Murphy announced his reasons for supporting impeachment. This statement reinvigorated the impeachment campaign, and even the ruling that the sabbatical officers were not permitted leave to campaign could not dampen the momentum. The impact had already been felt.
On Thursday evening, with permission, all four sabbatical officers canvassed students to vote yes for impeachment. Welfare Officer Eoghan Mac Domhnaill had originally made a public post on Facebook saying “should a referendum be called I’ll be standing by Katie all the way,” but following comments made against campus media, he publicly announced on Wednesday that he would be endorsing her impeachment.
The drama of the impeachment referendum gained the attention of national media leading to confusion as to how someone could be impeached for refusing to break the law. However, UCDSU has a history of breaking the law to encourage social and legal change.
Scrutiny has fallen on UCD over how this appears to be a case of preventing free speech, and refusing to tolerate alternate viewpoints. It should be noted that for many students this referendum was not pro-life versus pro-choice, but about the trustworthiness of their president, and could they trust her to not let her views influence her work in leading a pro-choice union.
Ascough spoke on the Pat Kenny Show the morning following her impeachment. There is little doubt that more public appearances are to follow and that she will be involved in campaigning against repealing the eighth amendment. Through impeachment, Ascough has become a pro-life martyr and this will strengthen her position for the upcoming national referendum regarding the eighth amendment.