UCD pro-Palestine encampment aiming to build on momentum of Trinity demonstrations

Ucd Pro-Palestine Encampment Aiming To Build On Momentum Of Trinity Demonstrations
Israel-Hamas conflict, © PA Wire/PA Images
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Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Around 100 people are said to have gathered at a pro-Palestine encampment set up over the weekend at University College Dublin (UCD).

Since Saturday, students have set up tents and banners around the lake at the Belfield campus in solidarity with Palestinians who are being displaced from their homes in Gaza.


The encampment is organised by a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) group set up by UCD students last autumn, which claims to have between 200–250 members.

It follows the end of a student encampment at Trinity College Dublin on Wednesday after the university said it would divest from investments in Israeli companies that have activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and “endeavour” to divest in other Israeli companies.

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An encampment protest over the Gaza conflict on the grounds of University College Dublin (UCD) (Niall Carson/PA)


Eabha Hughes, a third-year student of history and politics who co-founded the BDS group, said the outcome of the Trinity students’ encampment “definitely helped build the momentum” for their own.

“We just have to work on the momentum that they built,” she added.

She said “a lot” of the tents were brought along by students, but some were lent by Trinity students after their protest ended.

“After our encampment finishes, whenever that may be, whenever they divest, we’ll donate the tents to charities,” she said.


The UCD encampment has 11 demands, Ms Hughes said, including asking the university to divest from any business, academic or research ties with Israeli institutions.

They are also asking for an “anti-apartheid” policy and campus to be implemented by UCD.

“(It) means that no institutions or companies or any relationship between UCD and any institution in the future that has ties to occupation, a genocide, a regime of any kind, we’re really pushing for that policy.”

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Students have set up tents in the grounds of University College Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Ms Hughes said the reaction to the encampment has been “pretty good”.

“We’re very welcoming, and I say to everyone who’s walking by – and we’re in the middle of exams so the campus is pretty busy – to come on in and we do have various activities organised if people want to come down on their lunch break.

“Today, for example, we have a Q&A session with some Palestinian students who are going to flesh out people’s knowledge.”


Ms Hughes, who has exams on Wednesday, said: “I can take my exams again, but people are losing their lives”.

“I study history and politics and so my degree is so heavily based on occupation, a lot of the classes I’ve taken have been about the British occupation in Ireland, imperialism, genocide and war.

“I guess we’re essentially practising what our educators preach in my classes. I study history and politics, because I think it’s really important to learn about what’s happened in the world so it doesn’t happen again, and we’re watching a genocide livestreamed through our phones.

“It’s important to be there because of my degree. That’s not to say that I’m not studying, I was in the library earlier today, but that’s because we have people holding down the camp.

“We have students here who have finished their exams or their assignments, and they’re still sticking around in UCD to help out with the encampment.”


Asked if the encampments could spread to other Irish universities, she said: “100 per cent. Trinity, Queen’s (University Belfast), it’s just the start.”

She added: “We want to work diplomatically with the university, we’re open to conversation, it’s a completely peaceful protest … but just because it’s a peaceful protest doesn’t mean we’re not making demands.

“We have to escalate, we tried to contact them diplomatically in the past.

“We want to work with the university, not against them, we just want to show them that we’re not messing around, we care about Palestine.”

UCD president Orla Feely sent a message to students and staff on Sunday acknowledging the “shock and deep distress” that the “suffering and deaths in Gaza and Israel” have caused people at UCD.

Emphasising the university’s support of peaceful protest and the importance of students’ safety, Ms Feely said that all members of the university “have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, including freedom from harassment”.

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Students in Ireland have set up tents outside university buildings, replicating the nationwide campus demonstrations which began in the US last month (Niall Carson/PA)

Addressing the demands of the protesters, she said the bursar “has confirmed to me that UCD has no investments in Israel, so this issue of divestment does not arise for UCD”.

She also said that there are no formal bilateral partnerships with Israeli institutions, but they do have 11 EU research projects that have “Israeli partners”.

“The university participates in EU research projects as a member of a number of multi-partner networks. We currently have 11 active projects that have Israeli partners within these large networks.

“We fully respect the academic freedom of UCD researchers to continue these research collaborations, most of which are in the areas of health and sustainability.”

Ms Hughes said “justifying academic research with Israeli institutions in the name of health and sustainability, whilst those same institutions are providing technologies for the Israeli Defence Forces, is just reprehensible and unjustifiable in my opinion”.

“We’re asking for no relationship with Israeli institutions, no matter what the work is.”

Ms Feely concluded her message to staff and students: “It remains my hope, as I indicated in an email last week, that even through very difficult times, UCD can continue to be a place that supports open and constructive debate in an environment of inclusivity and respect, modelling the behaviour and environment that we wish to see in the wider world.”

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