‘The sacrifice is worth it’: Students continue pro-Palestine encampment on grounds of UCD

Organisers issue list of demands to university, including the end of all academic ties with Israel and removal of Israeli goods from campus

The pro-Palestine encampment at University College Dublin, set up by students on Saturday. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

About 60 students were continuing an encampment at University College Dublin’s (UCD) Belfield campus on Sunday.

The camp was established on Saturday evening at the main lake at the south Dublin campus by UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) and the college’s Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) group, in protest at the college’s stance on Palestine.

In a statement, the organisers issued a list of demands, and said that the peaceful encampment would continue until these are met.

These include calls for the university to end all academic ties with Israel; to disclose all ties, academic and financial, with Israeli institutions and enterprises and to commit to divest from any investments in the country; to provide scholarships for Palestinian students and pathways for Palestinian academics to work within UCD; and to remove Israeli goods and supplier contracts from campus.


UCD said in a statement to students and staff on Sunday afternoon that it has no investments in Israel, or any bilateral partnerships with Israeli institutions.

The protest organisers also called on the university to issue a public statement calling for “an end to the genocide of the Palestinian people by the settler state of Israel”.

Other demands include flying the Palestinian flag on campus until a permanent ceasefire is agreed; and the naming of the Centre of Future Learning building, which is under construction, after Palestinian writer and poet Refaat Alareer, who was killed in an air strike in Gaza last December.

Students Josi Collins and Éabha Hughes at the encampment. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Eabha Hughes, who helped organise the encampment, said earlier on Sunday that there had been no communication yet from the university.

“I study history and politics and since the beginning of my degree, the majority of my classes have been about genocide, war, apartheid, occupation, the evil that can come in positions of power,” she said.

“It’s really difficult to have belief in my educators when the university refuses to take a stance on something they’re teaching me about.”

Aoife, a final year student in social sciences, was also among those taking part and is in the middle of exams.

“I think the sacrifice is worth it, even if I don’t exactly get the grades that I want, if that means it’s going to push the university to divest, I think that means more,” she said.

“It’s really important to re-centre thinking of yourself as an individual right now, because if we all only care about ourselves, getting our exams done, things like that, change doesn’t happen.

“You see the sacrifices being made by students in the US ... it’s kind of inspired me to think whatever sacrifices I can make to make UCD stand up against genocide, I’m willing to do.”

A masters student in the school of social justice, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We’ve been trying to pressure UCD for a long time now, and UCD have rejected any kind of co-operation in talking about it. We just felt we had to show how much the students care and go a step further to get into negotiations.

The encampment on the grounds of UCD. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

“We are going to stay until UCD meet our demands, we have enough numbers and there are many others who have said they want to join at the end of exams so it will grow. There’s 60 in there now, but we expect maybe 100 in the next few days and many more once exams are over at the end of next week.”

In a statement issued on Sunday afternoon, UCD president Prof Orla Feely said it supports the rights of staff and students to peaceful protest within the law and in compliance with university policies.

“The Bursar has confirmed to me that UCD has no investments in Israel, so this issue of divestment does not arise for UCD,” Prof Feely added.

“As an internationally engaged university, UCD has many formal bilateral partnerships with international institutions, underpinned by memoranda of understanding between the partners. We have no such partnerships with Israeli institutions.

“The University participates in EU research projects as a member of a number of multi-partner networks. We currently have eleven active projects that have Israeli partners within these large networks. We fully respect the academic freedom of UCD researchers to continue these research collaborations, most of which are in the areas of health and sustainability.”

It is the second such encampment at an Irish university in recent weeks. Trinity College students last Wednesday ended a six-day encampment, which had resulted in public access to the Book of Kells being blocked, after the university committed to divest from three Israeli companies in which it held investments as part of its endowment funds.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times