Ciarán O’Rourke, TCD graduate and leader of the recently launched, “Apartheid Free TCD”, campaign wants a campus with a long history of taking a stance against apartheid to take the final step.
Highlighting the work of several activists associated with Trinity (including Nelson Mandela, whom our Student Union offices are named after), O'Rourke hopes to push for an end to TCD’s links with Israel. Speaking to Campus.ie, Ciarán O’Rourke shared with me his motivations and hopes for the campaign.
The campaign is two-pronged. Firstly, he desires Trinity to acknowledge the work done in the past by several illustrious TCD associates; people like Kadar Asmal and Mary Robinson ought to be honoured for, “their inspirational work in supporting international human rights and ethical standards of education”.
This campaign runs on optimism; Mary Robinson is Chancellor of the University. Kader Asmal was co-founder of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement in 1963 and a former Law lecturer in TCD. He went on to be Minister for Education and Minister for water affairs in post-apartheid South Africa. With a record like this, it’s all the more sinister that TCD are so deeply involved in Israeli affairs, and that’s what the campaign aims to highlight.
TCD academics collaborated with Israeli academics, “cultivating links with security firms and research institutions which actively contribute to Israeli apartheid rule in Palestine.” This story was broken by a TCD newspaper last year, but almost a year on, the campaign aims to take things a step further. His petition to end TCD’s links with an apartheid regime centre on the graduate end of the college, but he told me that actually, “the campaign is relevant to definitely undergraduates …but also, and perhaps even more pertinently, to lecturers and graduate students.”
The overseas reputation of TCD is something that is pertinent to the campaign; academics who support the withdrawal of Israel from Palestine will see a complicity in Trinity, which could ultimately effect university links across the globe.
Response on social media has been strong, according to O’Rourke. While the numbers on Facebook, Twitter and Avaaz may be small at the moment, however it is worth noting that the campaign is less than a week old.
O’Rourke is confident in his ability to change the college for the better. He’s confident in the power of the petition; “The Apartheid-Free Campus Campaign taps into everything that this university stands for”, O’Rourke explains. “If enough people sign the petition, support the campaign, and speak out for ethical standards of education, as I think they will, then TCD will get back on track as a university of global standing and pioneering example”, he adds.