Student demonstrators have blockaded the entrance to the Book of Kells in protest against the 2% fee increase in College accommodation, the maximum legal limit in the Dublin rent pressure zone.
Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), who organised the protest, said in a statement this morning: “Trinity make €10 million a year from their student accommodations, if they take money from the students, then the students will take money from college, by blockading one of Trinity’s most profitable attractions.”
Protestors gathered at 9am and assembled in front of the Long Room entrance carrying signs with messages such as “Students Not Cash Cows” and “Any Gaffs”.
TCDSU President László Molnárfi said students are being “priced out of the market” because of rent increases and “we see students who are dropping out the students who are in insecure housing situations”. “We see students who are deferring their courses” he continued.
“We’re saying enough is enough, and they’re standing up to this neoliberal for profit model of accommodation.”
One student said College are treating students like “cash cows”.
“We don’t want to be here, we want people to see the Book of Kells,” they said. “But this is the only thing that will get College’s attention.”
Dean of Students Dr Richie Porter told Trinity News the protest is “counterproductive”.
“They’re biting the hand that feeds them,” he said.
“If they want a freeze in the next few years, we have many forums to discuss that – I am Chair of the Student Life Committee. [But] they’re giving me nothing, so I’m going to do nothing until they give me something – then I will negotiate and I will bring the top delegates along with me.”
People who had booked tickets to see the Book of Kells and the Old Library were blocked from entering. College’s has released a statement on social media saying the Old Library and Book of Kells “are currently not accessible to the public”. They also said “we will provide further updates as needed” and “all customers with prebooked tickets will be refunded in full”.
College apologised “for the disruption” but did not mention the blockade online.
Nora from Amsterdam said this was the last day of her trip to Dublin, but she “appreciates the problem” students have.
“I want to go in, but I do appreciate the problem because we have the same problem in the Netherlands,” she said. “It’s basically so difficult for students and not only for students to find housing [but] affordable housing.”
She said she thinks many tourists will be frustrated with the blockade but also noted: “I think deep in their hearts, they agree Most of us have kids… I have one who can’t find a home.”
One Canadian tourist told Trinity News he respected the protestors’ “ability to protest and assemble”, but doesn’t think the blockade will have a significant impact on rent. “[Rent freezes are] not going to happen,” he said. “It’s free enterprise, right? But I sympathise with him, for sure.”
Union of Students in Ireland (USI) President Chris Clifford spoke of his “disappointment” on having to attend the protest, saying: “We’re not here to interrupt anyone’s day, but if Trinity are going to ruin students that are going to have to drop out and can’t continue their studies, we are going to have to stand up and have our voice.”