Katie Ascough messed up. She really, unequivocally did. If you want further clarification of how badly she messed up, then just read the words of Eoghan MacDomhnaill, the Welfare Officer of University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU): “She fucked up”.
There’s little left unsaid by such a statement. What she did was bad, impeachment worthy, 7.8-on-the-Richter-scale disaster. I won’t defend it, you can’t really, so let me just reiterate that I am not defending Ascough or her mess.
However, what I can defend is someone’s right to privacy, someone’s right to be forgotten. I’ve heard friends say it and the thought has crossed my mind too, “God she’ll never get a job after this”, or “People will look at her in 10 years and say ‘you’re that Katie Ascough…’” .
If you have read this and are tutting away to yourself furiously, if you’re thinking I am some closeted pro-lifer who wants sympathy for “Poor Katie, doing what she thinks is right”, then let me put those thoughts to rest.
Let me attempt to convey what I mean with a simple hypothetical or two. The crux of the argument against Ascough, and perhaps the most blatant failure on her part, was the misspending of €8,000.
I’ve heard friends say it and the thought has crossed my mind too, “God she’ll never get a job after this”, or “People will look at her in 10 years and say ‘you’re that Katie Ascough…’”
Whatever you may say about denying fellow students under her care information on an important medical procedure and the moral failings of that decision, the cold, capitalistic facts are, that for most people, money is what matters.
Imagine, for the sake of argument, that Ascough had spent €8,000, as an executive order, on a cardboard cutout of her face. An enormous, grinning, laminated replica of the UCDSU president greeting every UCD fresher as they arrive at the pearly, concrete gates. It would be a disaster, a gross misspending, a significant error, you could say.
You’d assume she’d be impeached and I’d say you’d probably be dead right. Now let’s imagine something a little less abstract. Imagine she had defaulted or revoked on a campaign promise.
The headlines would read “Impeachment petition launched after UCDSU President Katie Ascough spends €8,000 on microwaves that only have defrost setting”. There’s uproar, the petition collects 10,000 signatures and she is out. All is plausible and in each scenario, Ascough misspends €8,000 due to her own mistake and is impeached.
However, in neither scenario, no matter how ludicrous or bizarre the “fuck up” may be, is it foreseeable that Ascough’s name would enter the national media. Ascough’s name has been catapulted into the public sphere due to the link between this fiasco and the campaign to repeal the eighth amendment.
Ascough’s opinions on the matter are widely known and have rightly been brought to public attention, as they do indeed clash with the mandate she must uphold. Though I, for one, am struck by the thought that perhaps anger is being channeled through streams that are neither wide nor deep enough to contain it. Is this truly phase one of Ascough’s supposed plans to undermine the UCD pro-choice movement or was this a gross error of judgement coupled with a misdirection of executive power?
Is this truly phase one of Ascough’s supposed plans to undermine the UCD pro-choice movement or was this a gross error of judgement coupled with a misdirection of executive power?
In March, people were angered by the election of a pro-life UCDSU President – that is their right. People were wary her personal thoughts and opinions would trickle through to the union’s campaign. But her impeachment shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to nip in the bud a presidency you disagreed with from the beginning.
The first petition was rejected, the second accepted, a referendum is to follow – view it as persistence or harassment, it’s up to you. I personally agree that there are grounds for impeachment, though there are not grounds for celebration. At the heart of this is the issue of whether an individual in their early 20s will be fired from their first professional job.
If it were me, I would at this moment be stressed, exceedingly anxious and if impeached, mortified. That may sound patronising and you could argue that Ascough is a grown-up, accepted a title and role which she did not fulfill and is simply being held to account. And while this may be true, at some point it must be acknowledged that this debacle is taking place within the realm of student politics. This does not invalidate the gravity of the situation, but it does place the scale of the reaction in context.
This is a reaction that has cast every detail of the situation, every action or inaction of Ascough, into the public eye. It has brought her family into the fold, as well as her friendships and her beliefs. When does the line of journalism and gossip begin to blur? Is this simply the impeachment of Ascough or are we putting her in the “burn book” with pink Pritt Stick?
When does the line of journalism and gossip begin to blur? Is this simply the impeachment of Ascough or are we putting her in the “burn book” with pink Pritt Stick?
I ask you to refrain from the statuses, the sharing of results if they are in favour of impeachment, the basking that can often happen when popular opinion is validated. Like people around the world, I’ll soon be able to find out everything about Ascough and her future from one search online. Midway through this “scandal”, it’s clear that from the outset, the dispersal of information, this petition and the tone of these proceedings has been crude.
When the date of the referendum arrives and the UCD students exercise their right to vote on this matter, a decision will be made. But while that decision may anger or jubilate, what it will not do is erase the lasting, public record of what has happened. As one who feels sympathetic towards the future of a person I have never met, I ask you to have your say, share your opinions and in due course, move on.
It’s a simple favour to all those affected, a small act on your part that may one day allow them to do the same.