Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) and the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) will both dissent to the construction of a proposed pavilion to be built on College Park at a meeting of College Board on Wednesday.
TCDSU President Leah Keogh and GSU President Gisèle Scanlon both confirmed to this newspaper this evening that the two unions will dissent to the proposal, which is being brought to Board – Trinity’s top decision-making body – for approval.
Students have four representatives on the 27-strong College Board – three from TCDSU and one from the GSU. Decisions are typically made by consensus, so four dissents could slow down the approval of the proposal.
Several sports clubs in Trinity could be denied full access to their campus pitches if a mooted pavilion is constructed on College Park to temporarily replace the Book of Kells.
College is planning to erect a two-storey pavilion on campus to supplement lost income from the closure of the full Book of Kells exhibit while the Old Library is being renovated.
Trinity’s soccer, cricket and athletics clubs use the grounds for training and matches. The clubs are concerned that the structure will reduce the dimensions of their particular pitches, rendering them unusable for matches as they would not be regulation-sized playing grounds.
The pavilion could be in place for as long as four years. Proposals seen by The University Times show that the structure may be built at the west end of College Park, near the Ussher library.
An email sent to affected clubs said that “in order to make this conservation project possible, it is going to cost in excess of €120m, and some really difficult decisions need to be made”.
The clubs were invited to send a representative to meet the Provost to discuss the proposal. The email said: “It’s important we are upfront about why we are seeking to meet. In short, Trinity is in the process of identifying a location to host an interim exhibition during the period of time that the Book of Kells exhibition is closed and the conservation works to the Old Library take place. Based on early discussions Trinity has had with Dublin City Council, the location with the best opportunity to secure planning permission is College Park.”
“We don’t want to alarm you”, the email, which was signed by Provost Linda Doyle and Chair of Dublin University Central Athletic Club (DUCAC) Chair Matthew Simons said. “The exhibition in terms of proposed size would represent a small portion of College Park. Additional support measures would be introduced for all your clubs and sporting activities, with most being able to proceed without too much interruption.”
“But it is accurate to say that without this interim exhibition, the Old Library project will not be able to proceed as planned, and we do need to discuss this matter with you and receive your input/feedback and hopefully your support.”
In an email statement to this newspaper, Trinity Media Relations Officer Catherine O’Mahony said: “The College is at the beginning stages of the Old Library Redevelopment Project. As part of that project, the Old Library will need to close temporarily from 2023. To replace lost income from the Book of Kells exhibition and help fund the conservation project, we need to create a temporary Interim Exhibition.”
“Estates and Facilities has carried out an extensive survey inside and outside the campus to find a space for this temporary Interim Exhibition during this closure period”, O’Mahony continued. “The location is currently being explored with a wide range of stakeholders and a preferred location, following extensive consultation over the coming weeks, will be presented to Board in early November.”
In a statement to The University Times, Ray O’Malley, the president of Dublin University Association Football Club (DUAFC) said that the current proposal “would prevent the club from playing any home matches in Trinity for four seasons”.
Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Gisèle Scanlon has launched a petition opposing the possibility of the pavilion being built on College Park.
Scanlon wrote in the petition, which currently has 1,615 signatures, that the pavilion will “severely impact the student sport experience”.
She told The University Times in an email statement: “College Park, a very special area, with especially high historic significance is simply not appropriate for a large public gathering on a daily basis, ie an exhibition centre at one end of it.”
In an email statement to The University Times, Trinity’s Head of Sport and Recreation Michelle Tanner said: “Trinity Sport are working with our clubs and users regarding a consultation process linked to the Old Library exhibition redevelopment. Student leaders from DUCAC and some of our clubs have been engaged in discussions on the project for the past week, including directly with the Provost.”
“Trinity Sport remain committed to supporting all forms of sport and physical activity, and will continue to ensure the provision of appropriate facilities and programmes that cater for all groups and clubs into the future”, Tanner said.
O’Mahony added: “The new temporary exhibit is scheduled to open in early 2023 to coincide with the closure of the Book of Kells Exhibition. The business plan for the Old Library conservation project envisages that all profits from the Interim Exhibition will be used to help fund the conservation of the Old Library building and preserve its collections for students and scholars.”
She added: “More engagement with stakeholders across College is ongoing and planned. Our timelines are extremely tight in the context of the overall Old Library conservation project, which is dependent on the interim exhibition proceeding. We are really working as quickly as we can to engage with stakeholders on this matter considering the short lead -n time we are working to.”
“College has made commitments to ensure proper engagements are made throughout the project for impacted clubs and individuals. College is looking to work with the community to ensure the Old Library project proceeds with the support of all stakeholders and for us to minimise the impact of the location for the interim exhibition on sport and recreational activities.”
Trinity’s Bursar Eleanor Denny told The University Times in an email: “The university has embarked on an important project to restore and renew the old Library, which is a centre of scholarship that is used by many students and staff.”
“The project will be transformative in protecting this national treasure and will ensure the conservation of the building and collections for generations to come”, Denny said. “The Interim Exhibition has always been part of the Old Library Redevelopment Project plans in order to generate revenue to help cover the cost of the conservation.”
The redevelopment of the Old Library includes urgent structural and environmental upgrades and will draw on 21st-century design and technology to safeguard the building and improve the museum and library experience. The government has committed to investing €25 million in the project.