Protestor sent to prison after alleged criminal damage at Trinity

Climate activist Ronan Browne has been sent to prison following his court hearing for trespassing and damage to College property

A protester has been sentenced to serve at least two weeks in prison on charges of trespassing, failure to comply with the directions of a Garda, and a separate case of alleged criminal damage, all based at Trinity.

System Change Ireland activist Ronan Browne was arrested and detained on December 18 following several protests on the grounds of Trinity. 

The group stated that he “acted to apply non violent pressure in order to spread awareness of the university’s complacency in addressing the climate crisis”. 

Browne and the climate activist group have been protesting and encouraging “civil disobedience” among students, calling on College to act in response to climate change. 

Two climate change activists from System Change Ireland, including Browne, were arrested on the afternoon of August 15 following a protest action at Trinity as part of the group’s “Mobilise Peace TCD” campaign.

The student and a former Trinity teacher graffitied the outside of Trinity’s Sports Centre, spray painting messages in black and bright green on the building. The slogans included “Mobilise Peace TCD”, “Break the Vicious Cycle” and “Trinity Knows”.

In October in an open letter to An Garda Síochana, Browne wrote that he has decided he will “not be able to accept this caution”.

Stating his reasons for this, Browne stated despite knowledge of the “severity and urgency” of the climate crisis, Trinity have “remained institutionally silent” and “continues to fail to take peaceful yet proportionate action to overcome” climate change.

Ronan Browne is a BComm Economics past pupil, and is currently a trainee educator. 

In a statement to Trinity News before his hearing, the activist group stated: “After months of trying to communicate by mail​, the Provost of Trinity College had mostly ignored or provided entirely inadequate responses to Ronan’s communications ​regarding the climate and ecological emergency​.”

They continued: “As such, Ronan entered the university grounds with the intention of speaking with the Provost in good faith. There, they could plan to support, encourage and prepare their students, staff and alumni for a peaceful and proportionate stand to protect life on Earth.”

“Mindful of the severity of our environmental emergencies and the gravity of Trinity’s institutional inertia, Mr. Browne intends to deny the charges against him (during his court hearing on Monday 21) that claim that he had ‘no reasonable excuse’ to enter the college,” they added.

Browne revoked his acceptance of bail during the hearing on Monday, given that one of the bail conditions would be to avoid the Trinity college premises, something “his conscience wouldn’t allow”. In doing this, he will be imprisoned at Cloverhill Prison for a minimum of two weeks.

The group stated: “Mobilise Peace are not running from anything and will own up to their actions, because our peaceful acts of disruption are nothing compared to the bitter truth of an ecocide happening around us.”

Speaking to Trinity News just before his sentencing to at least two weeks in prison, Browne stated that he will also revoke his acceptance of existing bail conditions which effectively require that he keep away from the colleges’ grounds. 

“​I cannot, and will not, stand by and watch the university continue in its criminally disproportionate action against climate and ecological genocide that is already devastating the global south​,” he said in his statement. 

“​Mobilise Peace will not shy away from doing what needs to be done, by peaceful means and for peaceful ends,” Browne continued. “​We will hold firm to the truth to bring to rest the climate, ecological, social, economic and racial violences intrinsic to our current system​ of living.”

“Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.”

Browne was sentenced yesterday to serve at least two weeks in prison, with another hearing to take place on 5 January 2021.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.