Protesting students ‘confident’ blockade will force Trinity to cut Israeli ties

Students taking part in a pro-Palestinian encampment protest on the grounds of Trinity College in Dublin have voiced confidence the action will force the university to cut ties with Israel.

Visitors were unable to access the historic Book of Kells over the weekend due to the action that began on Friday evening when student activists set up tents inside the campus of the prestigious university.

The university authorities have cut off public access to the grounds in response to the protest.

He said they were committed to maintaining the blockade of the Book of Kells until the university severed all ties with Israel.

“The Book of Kells is blocked, there’s absolutely no tourism and we’re staying there,” he said.

“So, I think this is putting a lot of student and staff pressure on them (the university authorities).”

Israel-Hamas conflict
The scenes at Trinity follow a wave of similar student protests at university campuses across the US (Niall Carson/PA)

He said there was a lot of energy in the encampment.

“People are very confident,” he said.

“There is board games and guitar and political discussions and music and food.

“It’s a nice community that’s been built. So people are feeling very confident.”

The scenes at Trinity follow a wave of similar student protests at university campuses across the US.

The encampment was initiated days after it emerged that the university authorities had fined the students’ union more than 200,000 euros (£172,000) over previous protests on campus.

It invoiced the union for 214,285 euros (£184,000) after a series of demonstrations about fees and rent, as well as pro-Palestinian solidarity protests.

A sign at the entrance to Trinity College in Dublin
The university authorities have cut off public access to the grounds in response to the protest (Brian Lawless/PA)

In response to the latest demonstration, the university said that while it supported the right of students to protest, they must be done within the rules of the institution.

“Trinity respects the strong stance expressed by the people participating in the encampment protest and blockade, and we support the right to peaceful protest,” it said in a statement on Saturday.

“There are also, however, many good reasons why the university’s policies, including health and safety, dignity and respect must be followed when doing so.

Protesters gathered outside Trinity College on Saturday where the students had set up camp
Protesters gathered outside Trinity College in Dublin on Saturday (Niall Carson/PA)

The university added: “Trinity shares concerns about the ferocious onslaught in Gaza and the ongoing dire humanitarian crisis. We have taken a number of practical steps in response to the war in Gaza. These range from updating our investment portfolio with a view to excluding UN blacklist companies, to providing supports for students from Gaza coming to study in Trinity.

“Trinity is always open to engaging with staff and students on these issues: in the past week alone, the provost has met with Academics for Palestine and also with the Students’ Union president and Students’ Union officers to discuss these issues. We also continue to engage with our Jewish staff and students who are impacted.”

Trinity said it was responding to the war in Gaza in several ways, including the work to update its investment portfolio in line with a UN blacklist of companies.

In regard to ties with Israeli institutions, Trinity said it was for its academics to make their own decisions about what universities they collaborate with, insisting it would not impinge on that “cornerstone” of academic freedom.

The Irish Labor party has expressed solidarity with those taking part in the protest.

“The students of Trinity College Dublin are rightly protesting against Trinity’s financial investments in Israeli companies and links to Israeli institutions,” Labor senator Annie Hoey said.

Ms Hoey added: “The students have protested these issues consistently, and by Trinity’s rules, for the past number of months but there has been little response or action taken.

“Protest that does not cause an interruption or nuisance for the university have been ignored. It is right for the students to escalate their protest.”