Free speech group host event in Trinity, cite “university politicisation” as threat

TCDSU President László Molnárfi has labelled the group a “far right initiative”

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President László Molnárfi has labelled Free Speech Ireland, an “advocacy group championing free speech”, as a “far right initiative that pretends to care about academic freedom”.

Free Speech Ireland (FSI) hosted an event in Trinity last Thursday in which it launched “The Trinity Declaration on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression”.

The declaration has no official affiliation with College. However, the group says that they “would have a strong presence on the campus in terms of student membership”.

The declaration states that on-campus voices claim “that a standardised political outlook should be adopted and enforced in a whip like fashion”, something that they oppose, saying that “genuine academic innovation and progress are fomented”.

“Academic freedom and freedom of expression […] are threatened by university politicisation”, they continued.

Instead, representatives for the group critique anti-hate speech legislation and schemes to promote gender equality in third level institutions.

The group’s declaration name George Berkeley among “the finest politicians, thinkers, and poets” produced by Irish universities, alongside Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and Thomas Davis.

It contains no reference to events in Gaza since October 7 despite the backlash against students and academics who have expressed support for Palestinians internationally.

TCDSU President László Molnárfi said that Free Speech Ireland is “clearly a cover for TERFism, institutional racism, and ‘neutrality’ on genocide in Gaza”.

He continues in saying: “Real threats to academic freedom come from precarious employment, the state and senior management.”

“Academic freedom is under attack from capital, supported by right-wing reactionaries, not from left-wing progressives. Those claiming otherwise are conspiracy theorists”, he concluded.

FSI said in a statement to Trinity News that these “comments are regrettable”, however a debate between Molnárfi and FSI Student Director Dean Keating is in the works.

“We’re committed to protecting academic freedom for all, regardless of their political persuasion […] We’re looking forward to the opportunity to explore the importance of the ideas set out in the declaration in more detail”, they said.

Keating is a current masters student at Trinity. Regarding the declaration singing event, held in the Swift Theatre, “it was harrowing to hear stories [from] students’ and academics’ alike [about] this culture of censorship” on campus.

The group staunchly opposed the Hate Speech Bill, legislation spearheaded by the government in which it aims to make purposeful incitement of violence or hatred towards people of a “protected characteristic” an offence.

The Hate Speech Bill protects people’s right to criticise and discuss matters relating to people of a protected characteristic, such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation, amongst others.

Details regarding a debate between Keating and Molnárfi are yet to be finalised.