Today, activist group Students4Change (S4C) called on College to rename the Berkeley Library to Thomas Sankara Library.
Thomas Sankara was a politician, revolutionary, and military officer from Burkina Faso. Commonly nicknamed “Africa’s Che Guevara”, he is often viewed as a socialist, anti-imperialist icon. He served as Burkina Faso’s first president, as well as the nation’s fifth Prime Minister – when it was under the name of Upper Volta.
Sankara is credited with majorly improving his country’s education and health systems, as well as leading the charge for the cultural decolonisation of West Africa. He was assassinated on October 15, 1987. A political rival of his, Blaise Compaoré, was last year found guilty of complicity in his murder.
Currently, Trinity’s law library is named in recognition of George Berkeley – a renowned philosopher and theologian who served as Church of Ireland Bishop of Cloyne. Berkeley attended Trinity, where he was elected scholar, earned both a BA and MA, as well as working as a tutor and lecturer. He specialised in theology, philosophy, and relativity.
Upon moving to America in 1728, he purchased both a plantation and several African people who had been enslaved. In 2001 an investigation by Yale University discovered that in 1730 Berkeley bought “a negro man named Phillip aged 14 or thereabouts”, the names of other enslaved people who were forced to work on the plantation included Edward, Anthony, and Agnes.
Sankara is credited with improving his country’s education and health systems, as well as leading the charge for the cultural decolonisation of West Africa. He was assassinated on October 15, 1987. A political rival of his, Blaise Compaoré, was last year found guilty of complicity in his murder.
Described by S4C as “a Marxist-Leninist and Pan-African revolutionary”, they believe that his morals and ideals warrant a library in Trinity to be named in his honour. These include climate action, gender equality, anti-imperialism, and other “left-wing principles”.
Sankara has no links to Trinity, and never visited Ireland. He has been accused of operations “show trials” in the name of legal justice for politicians on trial for “corruption, tax evasion or counter-revolutionary activity”. He further limited freedom of the press and banned trade unions.
S4C’s statement follows years of controversy regarding the Berkeley Library’s name. Current Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President, Gabi Fullam, campaigned on the promise of renaming the library. In all official TCDSU correspondence with the student body, they choose to refer to the library as “the X Library”.
This renewed effort to rename the Berkeley Library comes after many high profile student-led protests and boycotts organised by S4C. Last Thursday, S4C along with other groups, were removed by security from an address by Eamon Ryan.
College is not opposed to the change of name for the library, however in a statement to Trinity News, they stated that “the Trinity Legacies Review Working Group […] is considering a proposal to dename the Berkeley Library, not to rename”. They added that “a separate process will be needed to determine the new name, should a denaming occur”.
A previous version of this article incorrectly said that College is considering a proposal to rename the library in question. College is in fact considering a proposal to dename the library. This typo has been fixed.