HomeForeignIrish Students Fined €214k Over Gaza Camp On Campus

Irish Students Fined €214k Over Gaza Camp On Campus

One of Ireland’s top universities has fined its students’ union €214,000 (£183,000) over campus protests, according to its president.

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) students have demonstrated against the university’s response to the war in Gaza as well as some proposed course fee hikes and increased accommodation costs.

“It represents an ill-fated attempt to intimidate, harass and threaten the student movement,” the students’ union president, László Molnárfi, told BBC News NI.

TCD cited a loss of income as a result of recent protests at the Book of Kells tourist attraction, which is located on the university campus, but said it supported the right to protest.

Mr Molnárfi said the student body intended to “escalate” its campaign.

On Friday night students set up an “encampment for Palestine” on the Trinity College campus.

Mr Molnárfi posted a photo of tents on X, formerly Twitter.

Trinity College said it did not support the “unauthorised BDS encampment”.

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

BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a non-violent pro-Palestinian movement that promotes cultural, academic and economic sanctions against Israel.

Mr Molnárfi said he believed the real reason why the students’ union was being fined was because TCD authorities “are terrified of the wave” of anti-war protests across university campuses.

“Student movements in the US have been absolutely inspiring and we believe that we need to take further action,” he added.

Police in the US have detained more than 2,000 people nationwide in the past fortnight at college rallies and protest camps.

Demonstrators, who have been calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza war, are also demanding academic institutions financially divest from Israel and companies who stand to make money from the conflict.

Students have also occupied UK campuses in protest against the conflict in Gaza with pro-Palestinian protesters in cities including London, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds setting up tents outside university buildings.

Israel began bombing Gaza after Hamas killed more than 1,400 people in Israel and kidnapped more than 200 others.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said more than 34,000 people had been killed in the Strip since 7 October.

In a statement, TCD said it is a not-for-profit organisation that “cannot survive solely on government funding and depends on other sources of income”.

The student protests have had “a negative financial impact”, according to the university.

“The income generated from the Book of Kells is vital to keep the university going and it supports initiatives such as student services, the student hardship fund etc,” a TCD spokesperson said.

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

The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript which is more than 1,200 years old. It is regarded as one of the greatest treasures of Celtic art.

The book has been in the hands of TCD since the 17th century and now attracts more than half a million tourists a year with admission starting at €19 (£16).

The matter was first reported on Thursday by college newspaper Trinity News.

Mr Molnárfi said: “We do not intend on paying this fine, we must not give in, we will not be intimidated and we will not be silenced.”

According to Trinity News, the fine equates to about 20 percent of the Students’ Union total annual income.

The newspaper based this estimate on financial reports for the year ended 30 June 2021.

The union has been given until 30 May to pay the invoice.

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