In SIN 19.6 a couple of weeks ago, a Mary Haskett wrote an article called “Katie Ascough was a victim,” a response to my own piece “Katie Ascough is not a victim” which was in the preceding issue of SIN and can also be found here.
So, I’d like to offer a few counter-points to Haskett.
Her first point is that the petition calling for Ascough’s resignation was not started because she removed information from the ‘Winging It’ handbook but rather because of her views on the abortion. As evidence, Haskett points to Facebook posts made by Amy Crean in which she encouraged her Facebook friends to petition against Katie.
This does not follow because there is an important difference between starting a formal petition and saying “Hey, maybe we should start a petition.” It is also important to note that Amy Crean was the spokesperson for the impeachment campaign rather than a leader or organiser. Essentially, her role was to be the PR person or the face of the campaign on social media.
You might take issue with Crean as an individual wanting to see Ascough impeached before she had even really begun her job to give a reason to be impeached. That’s well and good. It doesn’t change the fact that Ascough, in her actions regarding the handbook, did give a legitimate reason for her impeachment.
Imagine that a woman wearing white is walking down the street and a woman in blue loudly remarks that she ought to be arrested. This seems to be based on no other reason than the woman in blue holding a personal grudge. Then the woman in white robs a bank. The woman in white here should be arrested and any remarks made by the woman in blue don’t really have anything to do with anything. The same principle holds. You can question the purity of Amy Crean’s motives all you like; you can denounce her as the Antichrist if that’s what makes you happy. If your aim is to defend Ascough, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference.
This is a pretty important idea that runs throughout. Haskett writes that it’s “pretty hard to believe that Katie was not impeached because of her personal views when students were literally calling for her impeachment the day of her election.” Well, honestly, believe it. There is empirical evidence all there. You can question the purity of people’s motives all you’d like but there was a legitimate reason. That shouldn’t be disregarded just because some folks started out with a bias; if we applied that principle universally, we’d never get anything done.
Second, I’d like to address the idea that Crean calling Ascough “homophobic” is bullying. Ascough’s campaign against her impeachment really pushed the “she is being bullied” line; as I said in my previous piece, leaked screenshots of a group chat indicate that this was only a campaign tactic with little basis in reality.
Now, I’m going to interpret Haskett’s piece as charitably as possible and assume she has nothing to do with the actual campaign and that she’s just formed these opinions herself based on what she’s observed and thought. So, instead of accusing her of propaganda or anything silly like that, I’d ask her to consider what bullying actually is and whether the word can really be applied here.
Bullying is a sustained attack. Both ‘sustained’ and ‘attack’ are important there. A campaign to impeach someone is not an attack; it’s a normal form of political opposition. This may be small-time student politics but it is politics all the same and Ascough was an elected representative with power and accountability to those who elected her.
Also, a remark made in a Facebook post six months ago can hardly be described as ‘sustained.’ Nor, I think, can calling someone homophobic be considered an attack, at least not necessarily. Cards on the table, I actually don’t know whether or not Katie Ascough is homophobic or a queer rights champion or some grey area because it literally wasn’t talked about during the discourse. That’s how not-sustained this was. Bullying isn’t ‘a negative thing that someone somewhere said once.’ That’s just someone disliking a politician, which is what happens when you’re a politician.
At this point, you might point to some individual instances that seem quite sketchy. One that stood out for me was the alleged case of a lecturer telling her, “I want you gone.” If that did happen, then it wasn’t proper. That sort of thing isn’t okay. But my point was never that nobody in the world was ever cruel to Katie Ascough. My point was that the impeachment campaign was not a bullying campaign. It was an impeachment campaign. It was political and professional and it was run correctly and it brought about more Yes votes.
I don’t know exactly where Haskett has drawn the version of events she presents during her article but it directly contradicts the information set out by new UCDSU President Barry Murphy in a Facebook post. According to Murphy, she was made aware that some of the information was illegal on several occasions and attended several talks which explained in full this aspect of the handbook. If Ascough has claimed otherwise, then I am not exactly going to accuse her of anything but she is incorrect.
The case of potential fines is, upon closer inspection, outright laughable. The most obvious problem is that it would make no sense to spend €8,000 to avoid a €4,000 fine. The alleged possibility that Ascough would earn a black mark on her criminal record is pretty striking emotional reasoning but, when you look closer, also makes no sense as that law has literally never been enforced in the history of the state. This is a narrative that’s been constructed to show Ascough as being backed into a corner where she only acted out of personal bias on the abortion issue in violation of the student mandate.
So, I suppose this comes down to how you choose to interpret those vague allegations of bullying that have been floating around. It depends on whether you take them in good faith or believe that it’s all campaign tactics. Maybe I’m not going to win you over on this point; I would like to but maybe you’re still just not convinced. If that’s the case, I think you can still reconcile “Katie Ascough was bullied” with “Katie Ascough did the wrong thing and deserved to be impeached.”
Since being impeached, Katie Ascough has been interviewed on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio 1 and got an op-ed in the Irish Independent on November 11th. In my original piece, I wrote about her using her position to further her own reputation and set herself up as a careerist political spokesperson. Unfortunately, it seems I was right.
If you still support Ascough, then I must tell you in full sincerity and with only love in my heart that I believe you’ve been conned.