Student politics is a strange fruit. Such passion, and drama over issues that seem specific and insular to students at the institution they are attending. The effects on the wider world appear largely irrelevant.
It tends to be a petri-dish for future politicians though. The youth wing of all the political parties are active in third level institutions. Some of them appear anomalous – student politics tends to be far more left wing than real life politics.
It is widely known that people tend to grow more right wing as they grow older.
More sinister is how extremist right wing, religious hate-groups infiltrate student politics to advocate for single issues.
This brings us conveniently to Katie Ascough – the former president of the Students’ Union in University College Dublin who was yesterday impeached as president of the union, and booted from her position.
The secret plans, clever tricks, and backstabbery of grown-up politics are evident all over this sordid tale.
As everyone knows Ireland has one of the strictest abortion laws of any nation on earth, thanks to how our constitution was hijacked by crazies in 1983, to ban abortion. Next year Ireland will have its fourth referendum on this subject.
Katie Ascough was elected as president of the students’ union as an openly anti-abortion candidate in March of this year. She claimed that this did not define her candidacy.
Her father Tom Ascough is a director of the Iona Institute – a far-right, catholic think-tank, which sued Panti in 2014, for claiming that the ‘institute’ was homophobic because it actively campaigned to limit and reduce civil rights for gay people. That legal action backfired spectacularly on them. Panti was more than a match for those folk.
He also owns the extreme-catholic newspaper ‘Alive!’ – a deranged, free, monthly religious rag that contains articles about the immorality of yoga.
Katie Ascough claimed that her personal beliefs would not influence her behaviour as president of the union – which has a specific mandate, voted on by the students at UCD, to be pro-choice on the subject of abortion.
Well she would say that wouldn’t she?
She then tried to block a page in the fresher’s handbook, providing abortion information – twenty minutes before the print deadline – because it would be upsetting to her family.
Having been ignored, she sought legal advice – paid for by unknown, shadowy, right wing, homophobic ‘institutes’ perhaps?
She tried to block the page because it was ‘illegal’ to provide abortion information. Strangely she had no objection to legality of a page in the handbook which showed how to remove a clamp from a car.
When the rest of the union ignored her instruction, she tried to block the entire print run – which would have cost the union thousands in sponsorship. She then suggested a ‘reprint’ of the handbook, with the page about abortion rewritten by herself.
I wonder what that would have said?
Rumour has it that Ms Ascough is a former member of Youth Defence – an anti-abortion group that hired a display van with images of abortion, and drove up and down the street outside a rape crisis centre some years ago. She has not commented on this.
What is not in doubt is her former membership of catholic virgin, youth group ‘Pure at heart’ which campaigns for sexual abstinence until marriage, because condoms don’t work.
Hushing up these links prior to her election, and her claims that her personal views would not affect her behaviour seems slightly disingenuous.
Perhaps even blatantly dishonest?
Well UCD held another election yesterday. An overwhelming majority (69%) voted to remove her as president.
The abortion referendum is next May.
The battle lines are drawn. It is going to be a long, drawn out, and very ugly fight.
Which is fine.
It is wise however, to acknowledge the Iona Institute and its stooges wherever they appear though.
The anti-choice crowd is the exact same crowd who campaigned against equal civil rights for gay people.
I’m not forgetting that. I am not forgetting their obscenely homophobic posters.
These people fight ugly.