Trinity College Dublin agrees to divest from Israeli firms after student protest

Five-day encampment in university grounds that caused the college major loss of income ended in victory for campaigners

Students at Trinity College Dublin have ended a five-day encampment after the university pledged to cut ties with Israeli companies.

Student leaders claimed victory on Wednesday night for a US-style campaign that had disrupted the campus and blocked access to the Book of Kells.

Senior management made a deal with protesters, the university said in a statement. “Trinity will complete a divestment from investments in Israeli companies that have activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and appear on the UN blacklist,” it said. “Trinity will endeavour to divest from investments in other Israeli companies.”

Trinity’s supplier list contains just one Israeli company, which will remain until March 2025 for contractual reasons, said the statement.

The encampment began on 3 May when pro-Palestinian protesters set up dozens of tents in Fellows’ Square, similar to actions in the US, Europe and India in response to Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

In contrast to confrontations in the US where police forcibly evicted demonstrators at several universities, there was no attempt to remove the protest. Eoin O’Sullivan, a senior dean who led talks with the students, thanked them for their “engagement”.

In the UK, vice-chancellors from some of the leading universities will meet at No 10 on Thursday to discuss action to address the rise in antisemitic abuse on campuses and disruption to students’ learning.

Ahead of the meeting, Rishi Sunak said: “Universities should be places of rigorous debate but also bastions of tolerance and respect for every member of their community.

“A vocal minority on our campuses are disrupting the lives and studies of their fellow students and, in some cases, propagating outright harassment and antisemitic abuse. That has to stop.”

The prime minister, along with Gillian Keegan, the education secretary; Michael Gove, the communities secretary; and Tom Tugendhat, security minister; will call for a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitic abuse at universities.

The Dublin campus, which is in the heart of Ireland’s capital, closed to the public, costing the college an estimated €350,000 (£300,000) in forfeited revenue because visitors could not view the Book of Kells, a medieval manuscript and tourist magnet.

“I think the loss of revenue was key,” said Ruby Topalian, features editor of Trinity News, a student paper. Students welcomed a deal that went further than other universities, she said. “I think it’s unprecedented. The campus seems very happy.”

Laszlo Molnarfi, the outgoing students’ union president, said the group Trinity Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions had prevailed. “It shows the power of grassroots student and staff fighting for a just cause of Palestinian liberation and to end complicity with Israeli genocide, apartheid and settler colonialism.”

The Trinity statement said it understood the encampment’s rationale and expressed horror at events in Gaza. “We abhor and condemn all violence and war, including the atrocities of October 7th, the taking of hostages and the continuing ferocious and disproportionate onslaught in Gaza. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the dehumanisation of its people is obscene.”

Trinity said it would give places to six postgraduate and two undergraduate scholars from Gaza. “All fees have been waived for these scholars and Trinity will use its Sanctuary Fund to provide accommodation.” A new taskforce with student and staff representatives is to review Trinity’s student exchanges with Israel.

The deal came amid international condemnation of the Israeli assault on Rafah and an RTE report that Ireland, Spain and other EU member states were considering recognising the state of Palestine on 21 May.