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TCDSU President László Molnárfi at the encampment on the college campus. László Molnárfi
trinity college dublin

Trinity students' union president says Book of Kells protest will continue 'indefinitely'

László Molnárfi told The Journal that students are calling on the college to cut its ties with Israeli institutions and condemn the conflict in Gaza.

THE PRESIDENT OF Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has said that they will “indefinitely” block access to the Book of Kells on the college campus until the university cuts its ties to Israel. 

László Molnárfi told The Journal that students are also calling on the college to condemn Israel’s war on Gaza and to provide scholarships to Palestinians.

Students began a camp-out protest on a square outside the college’s famous Old Library on Friday in protest against Israel’s war on Gaza.

It came after the students’ union was fined €214k by the college for their persistent blockading of the Book of Kells tourist experience over issues such as postgraduate workers’ rights, fee increases and the the college’s ties with Israeli institutions.

The college has said its campus will continue to remain closed to the public amid the ongoing encampment.

Speaking to The Journal, Molnárfi said around 80 people are now taking part in the encampment. 

“Our numbers have grown. Our forces have grown up. It’s a completely peaceful protest, we’re still blocking the Book of Kells indefinitely,” he said.

“People are eating, having conversations, board game nights, political discussions. It’s a community. It’s going really well.”

Molnárfi described the response from the university as “shameful”. 

He said students and staff have called on Trinity to divest from Israeli institutions since the current conflict in Gaza began.

“We’re asking them to make a strong statement condemning a genocide in Gaza. We’re asking them to support Palestinian scholars and provide scholarships. We’ve protested peacefully for the whole year. Now we’re taking more disruptive action,” he said.

He said the €200,000 fine was issued as a way to “intimidate” the students’ union.

“Now they’ve shut down all facilities. Libraries are closed. There’s currently no accessible bathrooms on campus, which poses a huge health and safety issue. They seem to want to turn students against us. This is their way of turning students against each other, which I think is shameful and deeply disappointing.”

When asked what paying the fine would do to the union, Molnárfi said: “It would bankrupt us, so we will not be paying.” However, he acknowledged that a court order could be issued in the matter. 

He said Trinity has committed to looking into divesting from firms that feature on a UN blacklist, but not other Israeli institutions that the college has ties with.

“When the Russian-Ukraine war broke out, rightly so they cut ties with Russia, well they can do the same for Palestine.”

He cited the University of Galway’s decision to commit to reviewing its relationship with Israeli institutions.

“[The University of Galway] condemned what is happening in Gaza and committed to establishing more links to Palestinian universities and supporting Palestinian scholars. If University of Galway can do it, so can Trinity.”

Molnárfi said the protest has received huge support from students, college staff and the general public, adding: “Ireland stands with Palestine. Ireland stands with the students and staff protesting.”

Solidarity

In a statement today, Senator Annie Hoey, Labour’s Further and Higher education spokesperson, expressed support for the student protest and encampment in Trinity.

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

“The Trinity College Dublin Endowment Fund has invested in 13 Israeli companies. Three of these include Bank Leumi, Shapir Engineering, and Energix. All of these companies feature on a UN Blacklist and are involved in the supply of equipment, services or materials for use in the West Bank or Gaza.”

Hoey said Trinity also receives over €2.5 million for research collaboration with Israel from twelve Israeli organisations.

“Trinity collaborates with Tel Aviv University, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and 9 others. From these ties, Trinity receives over €2.5 million but these organisations have been found to be directly involved with Israeli Defence Forces and Israel’s occupation of Palestine,” she continued.

“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.

“Solidarity with the students of Trinity College Dublin. They are doing the heavy lifting on this issue and we need to see our universities divest from being complicit in genocide.”

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Author
Jane Moore and Eimer McAuley