Students who have taken refuge on campus tonight have described feelings of relief, as well as their initial shock, after violent unrest on the streets of Dublin city prevented them from heading home.
The escalation of violence in reaction to a stabbing earlier today resulted in the majority of public transport being cancelled and roads closed. Students quickly set up refuge spaces on campus, with beds placed in the Graduate Memorial Building (GMB) and food provided in the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) kitchen in House 6.
While provisions were made, many students have been left unsure about where they will spend the night. While those on campus were permitted to leave at any point, College and student representatives urged students to remain as they came to terms with events and prepared for a long night ahead.
Speaking to Trinity News in the SU kitchen, one student settling in for the night said she had been working in a shop on Henry Street when the riots first began.
“We didn’t realise how bad it was,” she said. “We knew we were closing the store, but we didn’t think it was that bad.
“We were like, ‘Okay, we’ll let this pass a bit’ and then at one point we saw people sprinting down Henry Street.”
The girl’s older sister, a student in Trinity, said she was in the Arts Building when her sister texted her about the chaos unfolding on the streets outside the shop.
Accompanied by two friends, she “ran over” to the shop on Henry Street, planning to bring her younger sister back to campus, until they realised larger groups had formed and further violence developed outside and they chose to stay put.
The group stayed in the store for 20 minutes, unsure what to do.
“We were in the store, and we saw guys going past in the store and there was one guy trying to break in through the door,” the younger sister explained.
“This guy starts bashing on the doors and we all run upstairs and we suddenly realise we’re in the middle of all this.”
When they had the chance, the group left the store, where they soon happened upon a group of rioters breaking into Arnott’s on Abbey Street.
“If they hadn’t picked me up or if they weren’t in town, I don’t know what I would have done,” the younger sister said.
One of the friends said she was surprised that people were still “running around and terrorising” hours after unrest began.
“It’s scary for people to be able to move throughout the whole city and to be breaking down shops,” she said.
“We just started running at one point because we hadn’t realised how close we were to everything.”
The group also realised that the bus that was set on fire on O’Connell Street was the bus that the sisters would typically take to get home, and they realised living the city was not an option.
After making their way down Liffey Street and walking across Temple Bar, the students arrived at campus after learning students in House 6 and the GMB had set up a refuge for those who did not feel safe.
“We got in, thankfully,” the elder sister said. “The security guards let [my sister] in even though she’s not a Trinity student and didn’t have an ID.
“We all showed our cards… it took them maybe 10 seconds and then one of [the security guard’s] coworkers told him to let her in.”
A student in the GMB who commutes to college from Co. Meath described being “stuck for the night” as far as she currently knows, but remained in good humour as she settled with friends on a couch in the Phil Conversation Room.
Another, who lives on Parnell Street, where much of the rioting took place earlier this evening, said that her initial feelings of shock have since subsided now that she is with friends in a secure place.
“It was really bad for me at first, I was super nervous, but now I’m here, I know I’m safe”.
This echoed the general sentiment of students in the building, who were laughing and conversing, as well as making phone calls to loved ones.Photo by Jimena Alvarez for Trinity News
The Phil had been hosting its maidens debate competition final, which Steward (Ents Officer) Kelly Millikan said the society were glad to be able to see through to the end.
Millikan described the situation as “really scary and frightening for people”, especially those from minority communities, but that “we’ve all done our best to keep people informed and updated as best as we could”.
Hist Treasurer Malika Maniar expressed admiration for students supporting each other amidst fear and uncertainty.
“I think that like it there was a lot of initial panic when people didn’t really know what was happening.”
“But honestly, it’s been kind of great to see the College community [come together], we have people bringing over sleeping bags, some people went and cooked like crazy in their flats and made pasta [to bring over].
“It was initially stressful it’s kind of calmed down now but people are really keeping it together.”
The societies are screening Bridget Jones’ Diary in the GMB chamber.
Mary McCarthy, a member of the Phil committee, added: “To me, there’s no there’s no better place to be than here at the GMB.”
She praised Provost Linda Doyle who was talking to students outside the building, as well as other members of College staff who were visible around campus.
Millikan added: “In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the fact that we have the GMB and that its able to be open, I’m grateful for the Hist and Phil committees working together, I’m grateful that when it really comes down to it, people come together and we work together and make things alright.”
Students also flocked to House 6 where the students’ union was providing food and additional support.
Education Officer Catherine Arnold and two other students began cooking dishes from their kitchen, walking back and forth to House 6 to provide food for students staying overnight.
Speaking to Trinity News from the SU kitchen as students began eating homemade dishes from paper plates leftover from Freshers Week, Arnold said, as the riots escalated, they “basically immediately” began organising food to be brought to House 6.
“There were jokes being made that my kitchen was becoming the second SU café,” they said.
“I immediately realised that there are fundamental needs that people need to be contributing to in terms of food, but also safety.”
“These spaces can provide a safe haven for people.
A hot plate had been put in TCDSU President László Molnárfi’s office, effectively turning it into a “second kitchen”.
“It’s a beautiful sign of solidarity among the student population,” Arnold said.
“It’s the solidarity that is directly grassroots. It’s a time of crisis and students recognised that.”