Highlighting the importance of freedom of speech and democracy the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore said Katie Ascough, who was impeached as SU President of UCD, was given a “hard time”.
At a conference in Waterford this week Bishop Phonsie Cullinan said: “So if you are pro-life and a SU president you will have a hard time in Ireland.”
Ms Ascough was impeached last week following her decision to remove abortion information from the student union handbook ‘Winging It’, which drew fierce criticism from within the union and from students.
Her decision was based on legal advice she received which stated the information could be in breach of the Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Act of 1995. She was told this could lead to SU members receiving criminal convictions.
Bishop Cullinan said at the conference ‘Crisis of Democracy in Ireland’: “I speak to you just two days after students at University College Dublin have voted to impeach Students’ Union president Katie Ascough who is unashamedly pro-life and who refused to have printed by the SU clearly pro-abortion material.
The count on Thursday night showed a clear majority in favour of removing the pro-life supporter.”
The Bishop quotes Ms Ascough, who said after the result: “I have fought the good fight. I have been open and honest. I have respected the law. I feel confident that I’ve done all that I could do for the students that I have been elected to represent. This is a sad day for me.”
Dr Cullinan asked: “Where is freedom of speech? Where is the freedom to speak one’s mind? Is this not a basic element of any democratic society?”
The Bishop continued by saying that repealing Article 40.3.3, or the 8th Amendment, “would serve no purpose other than to withdraw the right to life from some categories of unborn children”.
He said that the State does not concede the right to life to the unborn in the article, but acknowledges that it is a fundamental right.
Adding: “Article 40.3.3 does not guarantee, in all circumstances, to be able to defend and vindicate the right to life of the unborn, any more than it can in the case of people who are born and living in our towns and villages. The State does, however, guarantee to respect the right to life of the unborn in its laws, just as it does in the case of other persons.”