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Protest blocking access to Book of Kells in February TCDSU President László Molnárfi
Student Protests

Trinity College hits students' union with €214k fine over protests blocking access to Book of Kells

The Students’ Union described the fine as an ‘off the wall’ decision by Trinity.

TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN has fined its Students’ Union €214,000 for protests that have blocked access to the Book of Kells.

Aiesha Wong, communications officer for the students’ union, told The Journal that an email was sent to the union this morning informing them of the fine and that it has to be paid by the end of the month.

In a statement to The Journal, a Trinity College spokesperson said the college “cannot survive solely on Government funding and depends on other sources of income”.

The spokesperson added that the “student protests involving blockades of the Book of Kells Experience has had a negative financial impact as visitors could not enter”.

“Trinity has an obligation to protect the Book of Kells which is a national treasure,” added the spokesperson.

“The university supports students’ right to protest within the rules of the university.”

Wong told The Journal that the union blockaded the Book of Kells during the current academic year because Trinity has “refused to acknowledge our pleas over raising Masters fees and on cutting ties to Israel”.

She added that the union had been “politely asking for meetings, advocating at advisory boards and writing petitions” before the decision to protest.

“The main source of actual direct action we can do is to target their finances, which is through the Book of Kells,” said Wong.

“We’ve stated very explicitly to the college that if they don’t raise the Masters fees and openly condemn the genocide happening in Gaza, we will happily let the Book of Kells be.”

The incident was first reported in Trinity News, and in a statement issued to it, Trinity College said “any loss of income at the Book of Kells directly affects our ability to deliver services for our students”.

However, Wong told The Journal that the fine will “directly impact the welfare and the needs of students because we work closely with the College to provide for students”.

Wong explained that funding for the students’ union comes via student enrolment fees.

“Part of that fee goes to us because every student that comes into the college is automatically enrolled into the union, so we are funded by the students.”

She said the fine would amount to around a third of the union’s annual budget.

Wong said the students’ union is “definitely open to having dialogue with the provost and with the senior management”.

“The last thing we’d like to do is take over €200,000 raised from students away from their services and from our ability to help them,” said Wong.

“If we can at any point work with them to have some sort of resolution that doesn’t involve taking all this money away from students that would be in our best interest.”

However, Wong told The Journal that the fine “only validates our cause”.

“When students come together, they can elicit change.

“There is a rise in the student movement, which we haven’t seen before until recently this year.

“Part of that is Gaza and also the cost-of-living crisis that is impacting students,” said Wong.

“As much as it is a very stressful situation for students involved, it’s also just very telling that we can elicit change if we bond together.”

Wong described the fine as an “off the wall move for Trinity, especially when we have been so keen on speaking to and working with them”.

She added: “There have been so many chances to have dialogue with us and for them to suddenly bring up this demonisation of the student movement just for protesting, it’s unacceptable.

“It’s also a moral question, and it’s whether Trinity prioritise revenue and tourists, or do they prioritise their students and staff who make up the lifeblood of the college.”

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