Students at protest camp inside Trinity College vow to stay ‘indefinitely’

Students taking part in an encampment protest over the Gaza conflict on the grounds of Trinity College in Dublin have vowed to maintain the demonstration indefinitely.

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

Organisers say 70 students in 43 tents took part. They have vowed to maintain a “blockade” of the Book of Kells until the university severs all ties with Israel.

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

Trinity College said the encampment was “unauthorised”. The university said it supported the right of students to protest but insisted such action must be taken within the rules of the institution.

Outgoing students’ union president Laszlo Molnarfi said he and fellow protesters were determined to continue the action.

“We plan on staying here indefinitely, our message is there is no business as usual during a genocide,” he told the PA news agency.

“And when our academic institution, Trinity College Dublin, has ties to Israeli companies, entities and universities that are complicit in the war industry, we must speak up.

“And that is why we are doing this. And we must speak up in this disruptive, powerful way. Because when we tried to engage with the authorities, with petitions and letters and meetings, we were met with shameful silence.”

Late on Friday night Mr Molnarfi posted a picture on X showing benches stacked up blocking the entrance to the Book of Kells.

The encampment protest was initiated days after it emerged that the university authorities have fined the students’ union more than 200,000 euro over previous protests on campus.

It invoiced the union for 214,285 euro after a series of demonstrations about fees and rent, as well as pro-Palestinian solidarity protests.

The university cited a loss of revenue due to blockades of the Book of Kells and famous Long Room library among the reasons for the fine.

In response to the latest protest, the university said: “An unauthorised BDS encampment is in place in Trinity.

“While Trinity supports students’ right to protest, protests must be conducted within the rules of the university.”

It added: “To ensure safety, access to campus is restricted to students, staff, residents and Department of Sports Members with college ID cards only.

“As custodians of the Book of Kells, Trinity has an obligation to protect this national treasure at all times. The Old Library and Book of Kells Experience will be closed on Saturday, 4 May. All ticket holders have been refunded.

“As stewards of the Old Library, Trinity has a duty to protect the building and the Long Room. The closure of the Old Library impacts on researchers, whether they are students, staff or visiting international researchers. It also impacts on the staff working there, many of whom are students themselves.”

Trinity said it was responding to the war in Gaza in several ways.

It said the portfolio of companies included in its endowment fund investments are not hand picked by the university, but instead generated by its investment managers.

The university said work was ongoing to update the 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 on what universities they collaborate with, insisting it will not impinge on that “cornerstone” of academic freedom.