General News / May 3, 2024

Trinity Are Fining Its Student Union €214,000 For Peacefully Protesting

Credits: Rory Chinn
General News / May 3, 2024

Trinity Are Fining Its Student Union €214,000 For Peacefully Protesting

Text: Izzy Copestake

“Trinity has seen what is happening at US Universities, and they’re terrified. We will not be paying the fine.”

Trinity College Dublin has issued its Student’s Union with a fine of €214,000 for holding protests on campus over the last year, a number of which were pro-Palestinian protests.

The college cites loss of income, from 5 dates when the SU blockaded the Book of Kells from being accessed by tourists, as the reason behind the fine. As well as peacefully protesting for the College to cut their ties with Israel, the SU have also used the blockades to protest fee and rent increases.

In an interview with District, SU President László Molnárfi stated: “Trinity has seen what is happening at U.S. Universities, and they’re terrified. We will not be paying the fine. This bill is an ill-fated attempt at intimidation.” Molnárfi told District that he, along with other organisers, have been threatened with expulsion in disciplinary meetings about the protests.

“They are taking a leaf out of U.S. Universitys’ book and attacking our right to peacefully protest. They’ve declared war on their own students and staff members. We will not give in, or be intimidated on the issue of the occupation, settler colonisation and genocide.”

Tensions between the Students Union and the College have been building over the last few months, and there have been a large number of protests over the college year, putting pressure on Trinity to boycott Israel.

Just hours after Trinity slammed the SU with the hefty fine, Trinity BDS revealed that Trinity had moved a US army event off campus in February to avoid student protests. It was also revealed that the College spent €2,000 on hosting the event.

“This year has seen one of the largest anti-war movements spring up across University campuses and beyond”, Molnárfi tells District. “Trinity College is scared, and they are acting out: they are intimidating, threatening, and trying to silence the voices calling for an end to the college’s complicity in the Israeli war machine. The fine is an attack on the right to protest, to protest for Palestine.”

In a statement, the college has defended its decision to fine the Student’s Union, saying: “Trinity has an obligation to protect the Book of Kells which is a national treasure,” and said they support the student’s right to protest “within the rules of the university”. Today, the college released it’s first official statement on Israel’s campaign in Gaza, six months after the assault started. The provost Linda Doyle stated “I condemn and all violence and war, including the atrocities on October 7 and the continuing and ferocious onslaught in Gaza.” The statement said that the college’s investment portfolio will be “updated” in light of revelations that it currently holds shares in Israeli companies which have been blacklisted by the UN. Yet Doyle confirmed that the college would not be cutting ties with Israeli institutions, because “I do not want the erosion of academic freedom in Ireland.” Full statement here.

Last night, Trinity College’s SU took home the “President’s Award”. Accepting the award, Molnárfi highlighted the award to “every single Palestinian activist” and accused the college of “union busting”.