The student protest at the Book of Kells on Wednesday, September 13 has been labeled as "counter-productive" by officials at Trinity College Dublin.
"We've blockaded the Book of Kells and will be here until 5 pm in response to Trinity's unaffordable rents and constant rent increases," László Molnárfi, President of the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), said on social media on Wednesday morning.
Without any mention of the student protest, Trinity College Dublin said a few minutes after Molnárfi's tweet that the Old Library and Book of Kells were "currently not accessible to the public."
Trinity said all customers with rebooked tickets would be refunded and apologized for the "disruption."
The Old Library of Trinity College Dublin and @BookOfKellsTCD are currently not accessible to the public.— Trinity College Dublin (@tcddublin) September 13, 2023
We will provide further updates as needed. All customers with prebooked tickets will be refunded in full.
We apologise for the disruption. pic.twitter.com/MdKbegfsn8
According to Trinity News, the university's student newspaper, TCDSU said in a statement on Wednesday morning: “Trinity make €10 million a year from their student accommodations, if they take money from the students, then the students will take money from college, by blockading one of Trinity’s most profitable attractions.”
On social media, TCDSU said: “Enough is enough.
“Trinity has raised the cost of accommodation by 2%, the maximum allowed as per Rent Pressure Zone legislation.
“If Trinity is going to take money from students, we are going to hit them where it hurts by blockading its largest tourist attraction.”
Videos showed the protesters chanting "Freeze the rent, cut the rent" and “Students united will never be defeated.”
Earlier this year, TCDSU published an open letter calling upon Trinity College to immediately freeze Trinity accommodation rent prices.
Addressing the crowd from the protest, Molnárfi said: “[Trinity] College is continuing its appalling actions to treat students as cash cows and extract every bit of money from us.
“We are here today because we are sick and tired of perpetual rent increases on campus and Trinity’s complete disregard for our ability to afford education.”
🚨TCDSU block access to Long Room in protest of 2% rent hike. pic.twitter.com/QrYrLpFtM0— Trinity News (@Trinity_News) September 13, 2023
Chris Clifford, President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), told the crowd on Wednesday: “The reason that we’re affecting tourists is because Trinity, obviously, are taking your money. But that money is not enough, they have to take the money of these students as well from their accommodation with the full rise in the rent increase of 2%.
“At USI, we’re here in solidarity with Trinity Students Union and Trinity students.
“We’re actually very disappointed to be here, to be honest. It’s not something that we want to do. We don’t want to interrupt anyone’s day," he said, adding "but if students can’t continue their studies then we have to stand up and have our voice.”
The protest was also attended by members of the Institute of Art, Design, and Technology Students’ Union (IADTSU), who noted that since 2015, TCD has increased rents by 25%.
University College Cork Students' Union (UCCSU), National College of Art and Design Students’ Union (NCADSU), and University of Galway Students' Union also offered their solidarity, as did the People Before Profit Society at University of Limerick.
Video shared by Newstalk showed one person telling the protesters that they had "respectfully" listened to them, but still wanted access to the Book of Kells.
“Get a refund from the college," a protester told the person.
View this post on Instagram
Dean of Students Dr. Richie Porter told Trinity News: “They’re biting the hand that feeds them.
“If they want a freeze in the next few years, we have many forums to discuss that – I am Chair of the Student Life Committee. [But] they’re giving me nothing, so I’m going to do nothing until they give me something – then I will negotiate and I will bring the top delegates along with me.”
Later on Wednesday, the College said in a statement to Trinity News: “Students have every right to protest peacefully and we are always willing to listen to their views and engage in dialogue.
"However, blocking the entrance to the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin, which holds the Book of Kells, is counter-productive.
“Income from the Book of Kells exhibition is vital for running the university and for providing services to students. Actions like today’s blockade only worsen the situation for everyone”, they added.
The College also said that the 2% rent increase is part of a three-year plan which is set to expire this year, and will be subject to review.
They also said that utility charges for students have not been increased, despite “significant inflation pressure."
Trinity News earlier reported that the average price for a single bedroom in Dublin city centre was €802 per month in July 2023. All campus accommodation units exceed this city-centre average.