Students file complaints following Burkean racial genetics article

The article argued for the significance of genetics in international development

Students have raised complaints with an article published by The Burkean, a student-led conservative publication, which purports that “not all are born equal”.

Speaking to Trinity News, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Ethnic Minorities Officer, Navika Mehta, confirmed receiving “multiple complaints” from students who found the article to be “extremely racist and xenophobic”.

Mehta stated that the article demonstrates a lack of “comprehension of the impact of imperialism and neo-colonialism” and is “highly demeaning towards those of us ‘not lucky enough to be born in Ireland’”.

The Burkean article claims that genetics should be considered as a factor in persisting socioeconomic differences between sub-Saharan Africa and the West, identifying “intelligence” and “social trust” as key components of a country’s development, ideas which have been criticised by students in the wake of the article’s publication.

The article was written by Michael O’Dwyer Connolly, the current editor of The Burkean, but was published under an Irish spelling of O’Dwyer Connolly’s name. The publication was set up in Trinity in 2017 and has since expanded to other Irish universities.

Responding to the article, Chair of Trinity’s Afro-Caribbean Society, Abdulqadir Abshir, stated: “To suggest that certain ethnic groups are less capable of organising into prosperous societies due to genetic characteristics is baffling – no less through the cherry-picking of facts and the ignoring of complex socio-economic issues.”

“The article was neither academic nor was it an argument capable of withstanding logic and academic inspection,” Abshir continued.

Pharmacy student Temi Adeniran is among students who have made a complaint, outlining that the article left her “lost for words”.

“It hurts to see the growth of this rhetoric amongst developed nations around the world. The descendants of those who hurt people across the continent of Africa, and other parts of the developing world, don’t want to acknowledge the sins of their fathers,” said Adeniran.

Genetics student, David Ola, has made a complaint on the basis that the article was grounded in “assumptions with no data and no references”. Ola noted that “a combination of factors such as Trump and Brexit have allowed people who subscribe to this ideology to feel as though they can spread it as fact”.

Since its publication, The Burkean has issued an author’s note at the beginning of the article, stating that it is “merely an examination of difference, and why those differences should be understood and celebrated”.

Speaking to Trinity News, O’Dwyer Connolly defended the article on the basis that its “central point” it that “only when we understand each other, our abilities, and our limitations, can we work together for a better future”.

“Nowhere in it was race, eugenics, inferiority, or superior[ity] mentioned. I don’t see what is controversial about that,” O’Dwyer continued, noting that he does not feel the criticism is “well-founded”.

The article caused a ripple among high-profile Irish conservatives on social media. Declan Ganley, who gave The Burkean a loan in 2017 to help its establishment, tweeted: “This is a disappointing piece that years from now you’ll regret & I expect will understand was erroneous. I’m 50 years old & have been around the block a few times. My suggestion is you think about deleting it as soon as you can & chalk it up to experience.”

Speaking to Trinity News, founding member of The Burkean and Ganley’s son, Micheál Ganley, called for the article to be removed from The Burkean’s website. “It is outrageous that the editor of The Burkean would argue in favour of racial superiority theory,” stated Ganley. “I hope the editor in question comes to his senses and deletes the article as soon as possible.”

Responding O’Dwyer Connolly on Twitter, former communications director of the Save the Eighth campaign, John McGuirk, called the ideas in the article “utter nonsense” with “no place in a publication named after Burke”. In a second tweet, McGuirk called the article “an explicitly racist argument”.

County councillor Keith Redmond called for O’Dwyer Connolly’s resignation, outlining that The Burkean “needs to remove that guy from a position of influence.” Redmond stated: “This is an all too familiar trap to fall into. Racism and eugenics infiltrates [sic] the right and left. It’s a human failing, an affliction that is cancerous to any movement.”

Complaints made to the Ethnic Minorities Officer are referred to the TCDSU President or officials in College as relevant on a case-by-case basis, although no formal procedure is in place for such complaints.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.