UCD president criticises ‘messages of hatred and violence’ following pro-Palestine protest on campus

Slogans chalked on campus walls include ‘long live the intifada’, ‘Zionism is terrorism’ and ‘death to Zionism’

University College Dublin (UCD) president Prof Orla Feely has written to students and staff to express dismay at what she described as “messages of hatred and violence that are entirely unacceptable”.

Prof Feely was referring to graffiti chalked on the walls on the campus that was highly critical of Israel and Israeli policy in relation to Palestine. The slogans included “long live the intifada”, “Zionism is terrorism”, “death to Zionism” and “up the Ra”.

It followed a protest on campus on Monday, led by UCD Students’ Union and the college’s branch of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) group from an encampment in the university grounds, which was set up last week in solidarity with Palestine.

In her message, Prof Feely said the university supported the right of UCD students and staff to engage in “peaceful protest”.


“Apart from certain unacceptable actions that were highlighted to those in the encampment, the protests last week were largely peaceful.

“On my arrival this morning I was very disturbed to see widespread defacement of our campus, including messages of hatred and violence that are entirely unacceptable.

“I refer again to my email of last week, reinforcing our commitment to dignity, respect and inclusion in our university and pointing to supports for those particularly affected at this time.

“I continue to hope that we can shortly find a resolution to the current situation on our campus. However, in University College Dublin, academic freedom within the law is non-negotiable.”

UCD Students’ Union did not respond to a request for comment.

However, in a video posted online by UCD’s BDS group, a group representative said the “supposed defacement of the campus has been completely in chalk, and other materials that can be easily taken away. And the idea that the university is focusing on this, instead of the genocide in Gaza and Palestine as a whole, is absolutely reprehensible.”

Another member of the group said they were protesting because of the university’s refusal to use the term “genocide” in its description of the conflict in Gaza.

“In terms of the excuse of academic freedom, where is the academic freedom of the Palestinians who are being murdered, the Palestinian students, the Palestinian academics who are being caught in this onslaught by this genocide? And the university won’t even say the word genocide, won’t even the say word Palestine. So that’s why we protested today, because we see through their lies, and through their excuse of academic freedom. It’s not good enough and we won’t stand for it.”

Protesters issued a list of demands which they want UCD to address when they set up the encampment on May 11th last.

They include calls for the university to end all academic ties with Israel; to disclose all academic and financial links with Israeli institutions and enterprises and to commit to divest from any investments in the country; and to remove Israeli goods and supplier contracts from campus.

Prof Feely said UCD had no investments in Israel, or bilateral partnerships with Israeli institutions, so “this issue of divestment does not arise for UCD”.

One academic, who asked not to be identified, said some Jewish students were staying away from campus and found the actions and rhetoric of protesters intimidating.

“Most of our Jewish students are Zionists – they want Israel to exist within the 1967 borders,” the academic said.

The academic said the word “intifada” is often understood as encouraging violence against Israelis, Jews, and institutions supporting Israel.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist