Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) voted tonight against a motion which called for a “college wide boycott of the state of Israel”, to create a “student led Palestinian solidarity campaign” and to lobby for “the divestment of university funds from Israel”.
The motion also called for affiliation with the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and to lobby College to terminate any existing contracts with companies “complicit in the occupation of Palestinian territories and violation of Palestinian human rights more broadly”.
Proposed by Conor Reddy, Science Class Rep, the motion says that “College set a precedent by supporting the boycott of Apartheid South Africa and that the SU acknowledged this precedent by renaming House Six, Mandela House in 2013”.
The motion also mentioned that the Russell Group submitted that Israel were guilty of apartheid in 2011 and 2014, and that Israeli settlements have been condemned by the UN Security Council.
Ciarán O’Rourke, founder of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) said he was “doubly shocked and ashamed” when he discovered Trinity’s links to Israel. He continued: “If you care about academic freedom, many freedoms and human rights of Palestinians are violated on a daily basis.”
TCDSU Welfare Officer Aoibhinn Loughlin, speaking against the motion, described it as a “drastic stance”, saying that “we need to think about the impact of this”.
William Walsh, speaking in favour of the motion said: “Let us not be on the wrong side of history.” Meanwhile, Eoin Dowling described the motion as “an insult to students who voted to be neutral on Irish unity”.
TCDSU Communications and Marketing Officer, Glen Byrne, speaking against the motion, said that “this is a motion which the Students’ Union has negligible impact on”, and added that it would bring negative publicity for the Union, as reflected by the comments on articles published on the issue previously. He argued it would break down trust between the Union and its members.
Before the final vote, the Council also voted down a motion to move the discussion of the motion to the first Council next year, to give class reps time to discuss the issue with their students. Council also voted against a motion to sum up and vote. TCDSU president, Kieran McNulty spoke against the motion, saying that, as the matter was very important for the union, the students who wished to speak should be allowed to do so.
This result also comes after the news that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) were fined for protesting a talk with the Israeli ambassador to Ireland organised by the Society for International Affairs (SoFIA). SJP argue that it was a peaceful protest, but SoFIA and college administration argue that it represented an attempt to shut down the event.
Additional reporting by Rory O’Sullivan