Comment & Analysis
May 14, 2024

Key Takeaways from the UCD Encampment

While the UCD encampment is ambitious in its goals, the protest's lack of financial and academic disruption may impact the group's ability to bargain with university management, writes Fionn Bowes-Fitzpatrick.

Fionn Bowes-FItzpatrickContributing Writer
Photo by Fionn Bowes-Fitzpatrick for The University Times

The tide of change that began in the United States, and has spread across the globe, continues to sweep Irish universities. Following the relative success of Trinity College Dublin’s BDS encampment, University College Dublin (UCD) has become the latest Irish University to see an encampment spring up on campus.

On Saturday 11th, under the cover of darkness, students and supporters of UCD’s BDS movement, set up camp on the grassy bank between the O’Reilly Hall and the University’s iconic lake. Over the following days, a group of approximately 100 campers settled into the routine of encampment life. Each camper volunteered to undertake certain essential jobs, such as cooking, supply-running, and expanding the camp for newcomers. In an amusing anecdote, one camper recalled how security requested they remove a Palestinian flag from the large UCD sign beside the camp. In a stroke of strategic genius, the camp’s perimeters were simply expanded to envelop the sign. 

The worsening weather conditions on Sunday night were compensated for by an acoustic pop-up concert event, featuring live performances from local artists, activists, and poets. Compared to the Trinity encampment, the UCD camp has an altogether more relaxed vibe. The University is still open and running as normal, and it is far easier for supporters to come and go at will. The concert evening, against the backdrop of UCD’s more spacious campus, made it feel almost like a festival. Albeit a festival with a very pressing human rights agenda at its beating heart.


As with BDS societies and groups the world over, the UCD protesters have clear demands; They want their university to boycott Israeli goods and services and divest all financial and academic ties to Israeli institutions, in protest of Israel’s continued genocidal bombardment of the Gaza Strip. What is somewhat less clear, is the encampment’s greater strategy.

Trinity’s BDS encampment had a key strategic advantage. The Old Library and Book of Kells Experience comprise one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions, and a significant revenue source for the college. By blockading entry to it, Trinity’s BDS movement held significant bargaining power when it came to negotiations. While a popular conference centre, the O’Reilly Hall is hardly as vital to UCD’s operations. One might also suggest that TCD BDS’ timing was fortuitous. Less than a week prior, the controversy surrounding the Students’ Union fine, was a PR disaster for the college authorities, and may have increased student and public support for the encampment.

UCD’s encampment is comparatively more relaxed. It is backed by a dedicated and organised Students Union and BDS committee, and its demands are arguably more ambitious than those of Trinity BDS. However, without the same clear strategic negotiation tactics, it remains to be seen how UCD’s BDS encampment will pan out.

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