Trinity Declaration on Academic Freedom Launched in response to “Pernicious Censorial Culture”

A group of leading academics and students have launched the Trinity Declaration on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression. 

The declaration comes amid what the group has called “a pernicious and pervasive

culture of censorship” which it says pervades Irish universities, many of which have pledged allegiance to the Athena Swan protocol which promotes controversial ideas such as critical race theory and transgender ideology

Speaking at the launch at Trinity College Dublin yesterday,  Dean Keating, an M.S.c Student at Trinity College and the student director for Free Speech Ireland, said “For over a year, Free Speech Ireland has campaigned against the Hate Speech Bill. Through our activism we have discovered a pernicious and pervasive culture of censorship.”

“Academic life, in particular, has a particularly pernicious censorial culture, which is having a chilling effect on academia in Ireland and stifling academic freedom in Ireland.” he said. 

Keating said that he has heard “harrowing” stories of students and academics alike about how the “culture of censorship” has affected them in their academic careers.

“We hope that our Trinity Declaration on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression will lay the groundwork for the fight back, to protect academic freedom in Ireland.” he said. 

Speaking in absentia, UCD’s Dr Tim Crowley said that the Trinity Declaration “is a powerful call to Irish universities to respect and promote academic freedom.” 

He added that “it is a sorry state of affairs in which we find ourselves that a declaration such as this is needed.”

He continued, “In the Universities Act we have a bold and strong protection for academic freedom. The duty of our universities towards academic freedom is made very clear: the university has a duty and the responsibility to protect and promote academic freedom.” saying that this duty “is routinely ignored”. 

Crowley said that due to the acceptance of so-called Anti-Racism principles, and also to the Athena Swan scheme by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), “academic freedom is being unacceptably compromised” in Irish universities. 

“In the latter case, of Athena Swan, as is well known, display of commitment is tied to eligibility for funding from all of Ireland’s research funding bodies. This is an outrage that must be ended.” he said. 

“I challenge anyone working or studying at an Irish university to identify a policy that has had the intention or effect of promoting academic freedom; policies are promulgated that don’t even protect academic freedom—indeed, that are at odds with academic freedom.” he said. 

Crowley called for optimism saying that the new president of UCD, Orla Freely,  has made “positive noises” about the importance of free speech and academic freedom.

He noted that although Freely has “had requests from students and faculty to commit the university to a

particular position” on the Israel-Palestine war, “Professor Feely explained that to do so would be to inhibit the ‘freedom of members of our community to express their individual positions and suppressing our ability to sustain and respect a diversity of views’.”

Crowley said that University presidents of Ireland “should follow the path” set by President Orla Feely and expressed hope that the Trinity Declaration would “help to push her further—to be a wind at her back, and lead UCD and the other universities towards the goal of academic freedom.”

The full text of the Trinity Declaration on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression reads:

There are two divergent perspectives on the role of universities in contemporary Ireland. Certain voices posit that universities should function in a nakedly political fashion, irrespective of objections by both academics and the student body. 

They hold that a standardised political outlook should be adopted and enforced in a whip like fashion.

We affirm a different conception of the University, that universities are capable of performing this political function absent from the implementation of ideological conformity and collective University positions. Our view is that in its agnosticism toward ideology, universities create a space wherein open debate and the dissemination of knowledge are placed on a pedestal. In turn, genuine academic innovation and progress are fomented.

 Academic freedom and freedom of expression, values which should be treated as sacrosanct by students and academics alike, are threatened by university politicisation. In practice this stifles debate, engenders conformity, creates a climate of hesitancy with respect to the expression of one’s views, and is detrimental to the morale of the student body. We warn against interference caused by, for example, the pegging of research funding to ideological commitment, and the threat of allowing unrepresentative bodies, student or otherwise, to dictate the ideological direction of the university. 

This will fundamentally chill academic freedom and the culture of free inquiry, dissent and debate on campus. As the Kalven report noted; “[The University] should not, therefore, permit itself to be diverted from its mission into playing the role of a second-rate political force or influence.”

Irish Universities have a long, rich history of producing many of the finest politicians, thinkers, and poets – Oscar Wilde, George Berkeley, Jonathan Swift, and Thomas Davis. Subject to a censorial, ideologically uniform status quo, is it even conceivable that our Universities could produce such figures again ? A zeitgeist of open inquiry was cardinal to the flourishing of their intellects and creativity.

We do not subscribe to indifference toward political and social causes, but we do proclaim our firm opposition to the adoption of a dogmatic attitude toward them from the University as an institution.

Our Belief is that universities are a unique instrument for the betterment and enrichment of society. In order for a university to protect its capacity to carry out this role, it must be a space for open inquiry, rigorous debate and scrutiny. The University must not marry itself to the political convictions of the day at the expense of this mission.

The Declaration was signed by:

 Dr. Sarah Alyn Stacey, Trinity College Dublin

Dr. Tim Crowley, University College Dublin

Dr. Colette Colfer, South East Technological University

Dr. Gerard Casey, University College Dublin (Former.)

Dr. Finbarr Bradley, University College Dublin (Former.)

Dr. Mark Humphrys, Dublin City University

Dr. John Murray, Dublin City University

Dr. Catherine Kavanagh, Mary Immaculate College

This article is a repost from


Restrictions on Freedom of Expression will Kill Democracy say Free Speech Campaigners

Free Speech Ireland held a public event after the launch of their ‘Bin the Bill’ campaign to combat Minister for Justice Helen McEntee’s Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022, which is expected to make its return to the Seanad in March. 

The event featured contributions from Denis Hayes of Academics for Academic Freedom, Senator Rónán Mullen, UCD Lecturer/Assistant Professor School of Philosophy Tim Crowley, Laoise de Brún of The Countess, journalist Theo McDonald. 


 Denis Hayes kicked off the speeches saying how he is often asked to comment on the state of free speech to which he said he usually replies that it’s “dire”

Commenting on creeping encroachments on the right to free speech and expression he said that there existed a bad faith argument that if one stands up to defend this right they are doing so simply because they wish to ‘spread hate’ and not because they are motivated by a desire to defend freedom. 

He pointed to academic arguments in support of the protection of free expression saying that if one wished to fight against “so-called hate speech” the best way to do that was by using more and “better” speech to combat it.

There is afterall, he said, ‘No free society without freedom of speech.’ 

Denis Hayes

He said that the “ bottom line” of the argument is that any infringement on that freedom of speech “is always worse and more dangerous to our society than the most egregious abuse of freedom might be.”

‘Hate’, he said, should be resisted with free speech and not censorship,’ adding, “The very concept of hate speech is irreducibly riddled with ambiguity, conflicts and confusion” he said, adding that if you restrict free speech, “you’re doing away with democracy.”


Senator Rónán Mullen commented on the atmosphere within the Irish government saying that his fellow senator, Michael McDowell had said  that two referenda were being “rushed” through.

Mullen said that four stages of one referendum had passed through the senate in one day and that much of current law making was simply “the politics of gesture and symbol” over “substance and rationality most of the time.” 

He said it was “profoundly dangerous” how hate speech bill “will feed into European legislation” as a form of test legislation in order to see how freedoms could be restricted in this area.

Referring to the importance of freedom of speech he said, “There are also laws inbuilt in our nature that require the utmost respect,” he remarked, adding that, “one of these is freedom of expression.”

He said that since public debate had largely moved online, political discourse was no longer in the control of the mainstream media and that any law that attempts to limit online discourse could only be welcomed by legacy media outlets. 

Mullen pointed to the importance of the “right to offend” and how preported attempts to protect the feelings of certain people were in no way comparable to the importance of freedom of speech. 

He said that people had a duty to engage in discourse with each other and that in the absence of the ability to express oneself freely, this could not take place. 

Referring to government attempts to curtail freedom of expression he said, “It is a tactic of progressive politics, be they right or left, to seek to silence opposing voices,”

“Communism did that effectively, modern ‘woke’ communism seeks to wield similar power to deplatform the ‘oppressor’,” he added. 

Now “free speech is seen as an unwelcome obstacle,” he said. 

Mullen pointed to a 2022 “extensive campaign to promote awareness of hate crime” by the Gardaí which had only managed to collect  72 reports despite the campaign providing a very low-bar criteria for so-called ‘non-crime hate incidents; meanwhile in the same year there were 57,000 thefts and 22,000 assaults recorded. 


UCD lecturer Tim Crowley spoke of the bill’s possible effects on academic freedom citing cases from abroad such as Perinçek v. Switzerland which is related to the contested issue of the Armenian Genocide. 

He said that the bill could lead to academics being forced to accept “state mandated” versions of historical events. 

Crowley pointed out how differences in laws surrounding speech meant that an academic discussing issues related to the Armenian Genocide had landed him in court in Switzerland while in Turkey and Azerbaijan it is both states’ position that there was no genocide. 

Tim Crowley

Pointing to the ‘mistaken belief’ that restrictions on speech could have prevented the Holocaust, – saying this was a view recently expressed by Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford Lee – 

Crowley spoke about how pre-Nazi Germany had laws restricting free speech and that the opposite was more likely true when historical evidence was taken into account.   

He said that Clifford Lee had claimed that “hate speech” had contributed to the Holocaust and by that token that the atrocity could have been avoided if restrictions on speech had been in force. 

He said this idea was an example of the ‘Weimar fallacy’ which is the idea that the growth of the Nazi party was enabled by a lack of laws restricting speech. 

“This is just not backed up by historical evidence he said,” adding that the Weimar Republic were “hardly sitting on their hands during the 1920s,” 

Crowley argued that historical laws restricting free speech had only served to allow the Nazis to appear as victims of state oppression and had fed into narratives that communists and Jews were somehow oppressing the “real” German people.

He pointed to Adolf Hitler ‘having been banned from speaking in public for two years in the 1920s’. 


CEO and founder of The Countess, Laoise de Brún BL, spoke of how the law was intended to instil fear and lead the public to self-sensor for fear of Gardaí showing up at their homes to search them and seize personal devices. 

Speaking of how online discourse was vital in efforts to speak truth to power she said that “cosy relationship” between journalism and source or power were shown to have grave consequences such as in the case of the reporting on the Bloody Sunday massacre. 

Pointing to the work of UK journalist Simon Winchester, de Brún said he was the only journalist who reported on Bloody Sunday “what he saw with his own eyes.”

Laoise de Brún

“Writing for The Guardian, he said that the British Army opened fire first, every other journalist went to their sources in the British military and said what they were told to say,”

She added that journalists “were censored top down, but there was also a self-censorship which is insidious, and which is often unconscious.” she said.

She spoke about how political establishments use control of narratives surrounding events to influence public opinion pointing to the 2018 example of when a group of lesbians held a peaceful protest of a London gay pride event. 

She said the Mayor of London has accused the women of ‘hateful conduct’ but that no questions had been asked as to why they were protesting or in what way their protest was ‘hateful’. 

She said that the introduction of the new hate speech laws was nothing more than a political “agenda being furnished” and spoke of the far reaching consequences of making it an offence to have “certain tweets on one’s phone” or “certain pamphlets” in one’s possession, even where neither have been made public. 

de Brún pointed to the media’s acquiescence to the belief that “trans-women are women”, saying anyone who understands that humans cannot change sex and questions this line is simply dismissed as being entirely motivated by “hatred”.

She said equality for women and girls is predicated on their having single sex provision in certain areas of life, “from intimate spaces, to sports, to shelters, to prisons.” and that the inability to enjoy freedom of speech would greatly impede on women and girl’s ability to defend themselves from the harmful effects of gender ideology. 

de Brún said that once the presence of trans-identified males was permitted these rights are erased because previously single-sex spaces became “de facto mixed sex.” 


Journalist Theo McDonald who has had articles published in The Hill, the Irish Mirror,The Sunday Independent  and The New York Post spoke of the bill having a “chilling effect” on free speech.

Giving the of example of the Wuhan lab leak theory for the origins of corona virus, he pointed to the writings of John Stuart Mill saying that because ‘nobody knows the truth there is a danger that censoring freedom of speech is censoring the truth,’

McDonald said that many narratives that were called ‘false’ during the covid era are now being accepted as being based in fact. 

“Recently the FBI and US Energy Department did confirm that covid did perhaps emerge from a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, yet individuals who proffered this theory were silenced and called conspiracy nuts,” he said adding that “the idea anyone knows with absolutely certainly what the truth is and as such should be allowed to dictate the discourse is a fallacy,”

He added that this was “exactly” what the Irish state “feels the need to do”. 

He said that as a journalist it was his job ‘to engage in free speech’ and a situation where he had to worry about offending “woke overlords or other special interests” he would be rendered “literally” unable to do his job properly. 

“A lie today may be the truth tomorrow,” he said, 

Saying that “every journalist in Ireland should attend events like this,” he remarked that “the spectre of media commentators actually defending this bill baffles and enrages,” him.

He added,“It’s like chickens advocating for more KFC restaurants,”

This article is a repost from