BREAKING: UCDSU and UCD BDS Start encampment across UCD Main Lake to Pressure College to Divest from Israel and Call For a Ceasefire

Image Credit: Maria Guilia Molinaro

As part of a “global student-led initiative advocating for the end to the genocide of the Palestinian people”, and on-campus encampment was organised by UCDSU and UCD BDS.

At 6:30 pm on Saturday, 11th May, an encampment in solidarity with Palestine officially started on the UCD campus. In an official statement, UCD Students’ Union and UCD BDS have labelled this action as a part of a “global student-led initiative advocating for the end to the genocide of the Palestinian people”. 

The encampment, an initiative by UCDSU and UCD BDS was set up by the Main Lake and was joined by approximately fifty students.  The encampment was started as a response to UCD’s “refusal to address concerns regarding its stance on the Palestinian crisis, including the absence of a call for a permanent ceasefire and a reluctance to review partnerships with Israeli institutions”

The organisers have reiterated this is a “peaceful expression of empathy and solidarity, aimed at raising awareness and fostering meaningful dialogue within the UCD community” and that it will go ahead with “full awareness of responsibilities and consideration for ongoing exams, assessments, and campus activities.”

The congregation, transporting encampment materials assembled near the UCD hidden lake before they ventured to the Main Lake opposite the O’Reilly Hall where they officially set up the camp. 

The camp, organised in the name of Palestinian solidarity, much like the ones seen in the United States and in cities across Europe, will stay for an undetermined amount of time but its function is, to the Students’ Union proof of their “willingness to engage in good faith and respectful dialogue with the college authorities”. 

In the press release, UCDSU stated that the “encampment will continue until their demands are met.” The demands, presented here in a non-exhaustive and concise fashion, are as follows: sever links academic ties to Israeli institutions in all forms, to disclose all academic, and financial ties to Israeli institutions the college may have; to facilitate the insertion of Palestinian academics into the UCD community and create partnerships between UCD and previously destroyed Palestinian universities, remove Israeli goods as per BDS mandates; 

To release a public statement on the current statement on the ongoing humanitarian crisis with a clear positionality, Strive to create an anti-apartheid campus by expanding decolonial studies and discussions; Fly the Palestinian flag as it happened with Ukraine; rename the Centre of Future Learning the “Refaat Alareer Centre for Learning” after Palestinian poet, Refaat Alareer and give amnesty to students involved in protest movement. The encampment is said to continue until all demands are met. 

This escalation in Palestinian solidarity protesting comes after UCD’s continued refusal to make an official stance on the ongoing crisis in Gaza, while other universities such as the University of Galway and Trinity College Dublin have after student and staff pressure. In official correspondence, UCD president Prof. Orla Feely has expressed that “It is not [her] policy to make official political statements in the name of the university”. She foregrounded her response in the Kalven Report, as previously reported by The University Observer. The most recent show of Palestinian solidarity and attempts to have UCD divest from Israel came on Monday, April 22nd, after Former White House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was due to receive an honorary doctorate. Indeed, as previously reported by The University Observer, students and staff gathered outside of O’Reilly Hall and protested her conferring as they had previously contested Sen. Bernie Sanders In February 2024. In a video that has since gone viral, UCDSU President Martha Ní Riada was forcibly removed from the premises after she addressed the speaker directly and confronted her about her statements on Israel and Palestine. In an exclusive interview with The University Observer, Ní Riada revealed that she was not contacted by any member of UCD’s governing authority following her violent removal from Pelosi’s conferring. 

This is a developing story and will be updated in due course

UCD president Prof. Orla Feely has been contacted for comment.